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Reported speech

Statements

1) If the sentence starts in the present, there is no backshift of tenses in Reported speech.
Example: Susan: "I work in an office." Susan says that she works in an office.


2) If the sentence starts in the past, there is often backshift of tenses in Reported speech. (see: Note)
Example: Susan: "I work in an office." Susan said that she worked in an office.

Backshift of tenses

from

to

Simple Present

Simple Past

Simple Past

Past Perfect

Present Perfect

Past Perfect

will

would

Progressive forms

am/are/is

was/were

was/were

had been

has been

had been

 

Backshift of tenses

from

to

Peter: "I work in the garden."

Peter said that he worked in the garden.

Peter: "I worked in the garden."

Peter said that he had worked in the garden.

Peter: "I have worked in the garden."

Peter: "I had worked in the garden."

Peter: "I will work in the garden."

Peter said that he would work in the garden.

Peter: "I can work in the garden."

Peter said that he could work in the garden.

Peter: "I may work in the garden."

Peter said that he might work in the garden.

Peter: "I would work in the garden."
(could, might, should, ought to)

Peter said that he would work in the garden.
(could, might, should, ought to)

Progressive forms

Peter: "I'm working in the garden."

Peter said that he was working in the garden.

Peter: "I was working in the garden."

Peter said that he had been working in the garden.

Peter: "I have been working in the garden."

Peter: "I had been working in the garden."

If the sentence contains an expression of time, you must change it as well.

Peter: "I worked in the garden yesterday."
Peter said that he had worked in the garden the day before.

Shifting of expressions of time

this (evening)

that (evening)

today/this day

that day

these (days)

those (days)

now

then

(a week) ago

(a week) before

last weekend

the weekend before / the previous weekend

here

there

next (week)

the following (week)

tomorrow

the next/following day

Note:

In some cases the backshift of tenses is not necessary, e.g. when statements are still true.

John: "My brother is at Leipzig university."
John said that his brother was at Leipzig university.
or
John said that his brother is at Leipzig university.

or

Mandy: "The sun rises in the East."
Mandy said that the sun rose in the East.
or
Mandy said that the sun rises in the East.

Reported questions

If you put a question into Reported speech there are some steps which are the same like in statements: (changing of the person, backshift of tenses, changing of expressions of time).

In Reported speech there is no question anymore, the sentence becomes a statement.
That's why the word order is: subject - verb

Question without question words (yes/no questions):
Peter: "Do you play football?" - Peter asked me whether (if) I played football.

Question with question words:
Peter: "When do you play football?" - Peter asked me when I played football.

Reported commands

If you put a command into Reported speech there are some steps which are the same like in statements: (changing of the person, backshift of tenses, changing of expressions of time).

The form is mostly: form of to tell + to + infinitive.

Affirmative commands

Negative commands

Father: "Do your homework."

Teacher. "Don't talk to your neighbour."

Father told me to do my homework.

The teacher told me not to talk to my neighbour.

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