Questions tagged [backshifting]

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

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3answers
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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 ...
2
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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' ...
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4answers
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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 ...
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1answer
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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 ...
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4answers
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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: ...
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3answers
284 views

Should I use present or past tense in indirect speech?

Suppose a person has told me this: I will go home. I want to report what he told me to someone else, but I don’t know whether the condition is still true — that is, whether he has gone home. Now ...
2
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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 ...
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0answers
52 views

“I didn't know you golf” vs “I didn't know you golfed” [duplicate]

While reading a popular author I came across: "I left my clubs at home, so I can't play." "Oh? I didn't know (that) you golf." This sounds wrong, but presumably it was passed by at least one ...
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2answers
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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 ...
5
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3answers
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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 ...
3
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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 ...
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1answer
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“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 ...
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4answers
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Is “was always with you” or “had always been with you” grammatically correct?

In those days wherever you went I had always been with you like a shadow. In those days wherever you went I was always with you like a shadow. Which one is grammatically correct?
2
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3answers
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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 (...
3
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3answers
628 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 ...
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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 ...
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4answers
727 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 ...
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0answers
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Is back-shifting necessary in speech and writing [duplicate]

Can I say "I told you he is going to the book club" when he has already gone there by now; or is it necessary to back-shift it to past i.e. "I told you he was going to the book club". So will I be ...
2
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1answer
540 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
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2answers
653 views

conditional sentence

If I had to guess I’d say we are looking at the same records. Why not say we were looking at the same records for the present? And yes, the situation is about the present circumstances. So were ...
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2answers
597 views

“Cannot believe what he saw” versus “cannot believe what he was seeing” [duplicate]

Which of the following sentences is grammatical: The boss could not believe what he saw yesterday morning when he entered the office. The boss could not believe what he was seeing yesterday morning ...
2
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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
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1answer
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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.
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2answers
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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?
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0answers
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I thought…WAS vs. I thought …IS? [duplicate]

I read this phrase: "I thought your essay about Internet WAS very accurate" I wonder why the past tense is used in here! Doesn't it have to be: "I thought your essay about Internet IS very accurate"? ...
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2answers
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Is the tense change of the verb “need” to “needed” mandatory?

If the tense change of the verb "need" to "needed" is not mandatory, then if it was changed then how would it affect the meaning in the sentences below? If they asked for help, I would provide ...
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1answer
570 views

Reported speech, question in a conditional sentence

I've been struggling with this exercise: "Let's drive on to the next village and try the hotel there," he said. "But what'll we do if that's full too?" I said. "We'll just have to sleep in the car," ...
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1answer
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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. ...
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2answers
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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 ...
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2answers
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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 ...
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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.
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1answer
206 views

Confused by “you came in here knowing what you had to do”

This is a caption taken from an episode from a tv series. To set the scene, a lady comes into Frank's place seeking his help in making a decision. After conversing with her, Frank realizes she might ...
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0answers
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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 ...
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1answer
941 views

Indirect Speech Backshifting in Commands & Requests with Time Clauses

I know that backshifting can used when reporting statements and questions. This is clearly stated in many grammar books. Aside from a mere example on some webpage, I haven't found any reference in the ...
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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 ...
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8answers
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“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 ...
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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 ...
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3answers
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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
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5answers
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“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," ...
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5answers
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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. ...
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2answers
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Changing present tense to past tense

I read the quote below in a book and wondered how it would read if I were to change the verbs to simple past. I want to find something nice for them when I meet them later today. I can't seem to ...
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2answers
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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 ...
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1answer
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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 ...
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7answers
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“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 ...