Questions tagged [backshifting]

The changing of a present tense in direct speech to a past tense in reported speech

Filter by
Sorted by
Tagged with
18
votes
7answers
3k views

“He didn't know where New Jersey was”

I know the past tense carries the past tense in every dependent clause, but referring specifically to places or to things that are eternal, like the Earth, seems a bit weird and therefore we sometimes ...
12
votes
8answers
26k views

“I didn't know you liked her” or “I didn't know you like her”

I have a friend who insists that "I didn't know you like her" is more correct than "I didn't know you liked her" if the liking is still taking place. But to my ear, only the latter sounds ...
11
votes
3answers
4k views

To tell the name of a person I met in the past

I have a basic grammar question about the past tense. If I met a guy yesterday, which tense should I use about his name today? For example, "Yesterday I met a guy, his name is/was John."
8
votes
4answers
1k views

Problem with backshift in reporting clauses

This is the subject that's been bugging me for quite some time now, even though I believe I've managed to grasp the entire reported speech pretty well. If I want to repeat to someone what I ...
8
votes
0answers
7k views

Past tense or present tense to describe something that 'happened in the past' but is still true? [duplicate]

For example: "Last week, I found out that NASA stands for 'National Aeronautics and Space Administration.'" or "Last week, I found out that NASA stood for 'National Aeronautics and Space ...
8
votes
4answers
1k views

Present tense and conditional tense in a stated past tense

I have a question about using past and conditional tenses in a context that refers to something told in the past. I think I’ve seen both forms used in films/books, etc., but I'm not sure about it ...
8
votes
4answers
2k views

Is “I would understand everything you said if you said it in Portuguese” correct?

"I would understand everything you said if you said it in Portuguese." Is it any kind of conditional? And if it is, can you tell me which one? As I wrote this I had the feeling that it should be: ...
7
votes
2answers
5k views

Using past tense when referencing a still-true fact [duplicate]

In the sentence: "I didn't know she had a son," Can I say "I didn't know she has a son" instead, because he is a teenager now? Or are both correct?
7
votes
1answer
4k views

What is “backshifting”, as applied to English grammar?

I saw this term, backshifting, in an answer to another question, that was not endorsed by the community: [T]he process called backshifting...signal[s] that the speech is not direct/quoted but ...
6
votes
3answers
1k views

Is the concept of “backshifted past tense” in reported speech applicable to other types of subordinate clauses?

BACKGROUND Cambridge Grammar of the English Language has this portion regarding backshift on page 154: Backsift not confined to indirect reported speech We introduced a concept of a ...
5
votes
5answers
292 views

Are the tenses used in the sentence correct?

From http://dilbert.com/strip/2015-07-31: I'm going to call you Carlos from now on. And it would help if you grew a beard and walked with a limp. Shouldn't it be grow a beard and walk with a limp ...
5
votes
3answers
887 views

Reported speech: unnecessary past tense?

The following is an excerpt from a textbook in Korea. I'm wondering if this is an unnecessary past tense for the reported speech--or possibly wrong. When I moved to Korea, one of the first things ...
5
votes
3answers
159 views

The old couple told the police that they were watching T.V. at the time of the break in

In the following sentence: The old couple told the police that they were watching T.V. at the time of the break in why aren't we using 'had been': The old couple told the police that they had ...
4
votes
1answer
1k views

Is it necessary sometimes to use past tense in formal writing to mean present

"This could be made a ‘standing item’ on the agenda so that it had to be considered before each time that assessments were considered." Source My question is would it be wrong to write the sentence ...
4
votes
2answers
544 views

What would be the difference between past and present tense here?

1.) I assumed you were the type who kept your promises. vs. 2.) I assumed you were the type who keeps your promises.
4
votes
3answers
4k views

If I were him, I would doubt if she (is/was/were?) serious about this relationship

Which one is correct? If I were him, I would doubt if she is serious about this relationship. If I were him, I would doubt if she was serious about this relationship. If I were him, I would doubt if ...
3
votes
5answers
4k views

Do tenses in a time clause never back-shift in reported speech?

Do tenses in a time clause never back-shift in reported speech? For example, does "I went to Italy when I finished school." become She said she had gone to Spain when she finished school. ...
3
votes
2answers
13k views

'wanted' or 'had wanted'

Should I use wanted or had wanted here? Ukrainians wanted to join the EU even before Russia occupied the Crimea and the Eastern Ukraine. Ukrainians had wanted to join the EU even before ...
3
votes
2answers
932 views

Question about tenses used in Seinfeld show: “what you were doing tomorrow night”

In the sentences "Did she even ask you what you were doing tomorrow night? If you were busy?" occurring at about 0:42 - 0:43 in this clip, why was past tense used in "What you were doing tomorrow ...
3
votes
2answers
708 views

Sequence of tenses missing - not in Reported Speech

SITUATION: A year ago, my friend had some financial problems of which his relatives were aware. Why do we say: They believed he was in debt. but: He was believed to be in debt instead of: He was ...
3
votes
3answers
2k views

Reported Speech with was and were

I set a test with the following direct sentence, which the students were supposed to put into reported speech: Interviewer: "Are you fluent in English?" I expected the students to write: The ...
3
votes
2answers
2k views

Mixing verb tenses involving a Past-Belief/Thought/Attitude about timeless facts

Is the following sentence grammatically correct? 1.) Oscar believed that the sum of two and two is four. In this case it seems to make the most sense to mix the past tense "believed" with the ...
3
votes
5answers
41k views

“While” followed by simple past/past continuous

I'm currently reading "Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue" by Hugh Howey. Here's a short passage with my problem zone and the subsequent question: ...Well, I'm going to go do more Officser sstuff," ...
3
votes
2answers
1k views

Using Past-tense or Present-tense for verbs

I found a perfect example on the internet about what I am trying to ask. Take a look at this: "Mr. Dilger wants to see you." Mr. Bruce went on to say. "It's about the same thing. I thought I'd ...
3
votes
1answer
3k views

“as if she had been” or “as if she were”?

I saw the following sentence in Vanity Fair, and have been wondering whether 'as if she were' is a better choice than 'as if she had been'. The Lady Blanche avoided her as if she had been an ...
3
votes
1answer
765 views

“How could I” and “how could I have” in rhetorical questions

I have a question about using could and could have in rhetorical questions. I was watching a video where a very old man who was talking to a priest about his childhood asked the priest, “How could I ...
3
votes
1answer
2k views

Optional tense back shifting [duplicate]

While changing direct to indirect speech, we generally back shift the tense. Example - "I have finished my work." (Direct speech) He said that he had finished his work. (Indirect speech)...
3
votes
2answers
1k views

Tenses with “until then” - Is past perfect needed or is it optional?

If I understood correctly, "until now" can be "until then" in the past sentences. Would this be correct? 1) It was a new approach that was never successfully performed until then. or should I use ...
3
votes
3answers
627 views

That's the way it worked

Mendoza said that's the way it worked. In this sentence why are we using that's? Why not that was? Wouldn't that was be much better? To clarify my question, Mendoza originally said "That's the ...
3
votes
3answers
165 views

What type of if-conditional is: “A shop offered us a reduction if we paid in cash.”?

What type of if-conditional is this sentence? A shop offered us a reduction if we paid in cash. As far as I know, the only right conditional sentences are these four: Zero Conditional: A shop ...
2
votes
4answers
2k views

Reported speech - questions

In the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language; Huddleston and Pullum 2002, they make the following qualifying comment: ... reported speech covers the reporting of spoken and written text but ...
2
votes
2answers
203 views

Conditional clause

Yo, is this sentence correct? It's hard to find a guide that speaks directly to this use of the subjunctive: I realized that this issue needed more active contemplation, were I to find any closure. ...
2
votes
2answers
831 views

Modal verbs in reporting

'Advanced Grammar In Use' (AGU) by Martin Hewings, UNIT 37 C, says: The verbs could, would, should, might, needn't, ought to, used to, and could have, should have, etc. don't change in the report: ...
2
votes
4answers
726 views

Why “can” not “could” in “She was one of those people who can. . . .”?

The following sentence is from George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, occurring in chapter 5 of part 2: She was one of those people who can go to sleep at any hour and in any position. Why is who ...
2
votes
2answers
573 views

Use of 'would' in place of the past simple

They left the house at 6 and would reach Edinburgh 12 hours later. (= .............. and they reached Edinburgh 12 hours later.) This is from a famous grammar book. I don't understand how 'reached' ...
2
votes
3answers
249 views

Conditional sentences - which is correct?

If I had bought insurance for the trip, I would have got a refund after I got sick and had to cancel. OR If I had bought insurance for the trip, I would have got a refund after I had got sick and (...
2
votes
1answer
128 views

Use of IS and WAS in reported speech [duplicate]

Which one is more correct: Melissa said she was going to the mall. or Melissa said she is going to the mall.
2
votes
2answers
4k views

I received an email saying documents are /were [duplicate]

I received an email saying that the documents are/were being processed. Which is correct? Are or were?
2
votes
1answer
474 views

Reported speech of future time clauses

How should we report sentences including "future time clause?" We will have dinner when your father gets home. Do we have to change the tense of 'future time clause' or leave it in the original ...
2
votes
1answer
539 views

“He is a hero” or “He was a hero”?

Talking to someone who says What if my son is a hero! would someone respond It would not surprise me if he is Or would they respond It would not surprise me if he was
2
votes
1answer
2k views

Past-tense verb + that clause: clause has to use past tense?

I am writing a subordinate clause in the "Related Work" section of my academic paper. Which is correct? In [1], Smith et al. pointed out that the solution is feasible. OR In [1], Smith et al. ...
2
votes
2answers
4k views

Should I use present tense in reporting speech?

Should I use present tense in reported speech? I have both sentences and not sure which one is correct: (1) Peter mentioned that the formula A is based on formula B. (2) Peter mentioned that the ...
2
votes
3answers
230 views

Which tense is correct? “Bob wanted to know if he is/was a father”

Bob wants to know if he is a father or not. A day later, Bob learns that he's a father. Then three years pass. Now which of the following is correct and why? Three years ago, Bob wanted to ...
2
votes
3answers
457 views

Indirect speech, tense shift in clauses of second degree

I'm reading Hunger Games. Katniss and Peeta are being prepared for the Arena by special instructors. The plant instructor says: Avoid berries unless you are 100 percent sure they aren't toxic. How ...
2
votes
3answers
555 views

present perfect vs past perfect [closed]

What's the difference between the following examples: I noticed that the clock had stopped. I noticed that the clock has stopped. Some of them say that if the emphasis is laid on the ...
2
votes
2answers
331 views

It was unclear that she has/had painted the door

The grammar rule says that if the verb in the main clause is in the past tense then the verbs in the subordinate clauses will also be in the corresponding past tense. According to the grammar rule ...
2
votes
1answer
237 views

verb tense in reported speech

I told Cindy we would not be able to eat American Chinese food again for a couple of years, once we moved to Shanghai. I told Cindy we would not be able to eat American Chinese food again for a ...
2
votes
1answer
119 views

“Does our process cause users to abandon tasks they WERE/ARE about to perform?”

I have written the following sentence as part of the conclusion to my thesis. This represents one of the future research questions, i.e., it is not part of my research questions, it is something that ...
2
votes
2answers
3k views

Backshifting in the that-clause of 'make sure'

Do you normally backshift a verb in the that-clause of 'make sure' when the 'make' is 'made,' 'could make,' 'would make,' etc.? Please take a look at the examples below. Are my thoughts on the right ...
2
votes
0answers
249 views

Does the tense in that clause need to agree with the main clause? [duplicate]

I don't know if the title of this question is accurate or not. My vacabulary of grammar is very limited. May you could understand me by the following example: She told me that the earth is ...