Unit 8.1

Changes of Tenses in Reported Speech

Syntax

When we want to report one person’s speech to another person we usually don’t use the exact words because we focus on the message rather than the exact words. That is why we transform the sentences. It is called reported speech.

While using reported speech, we shift the sentence’s tense back.

In reported speech, the original time of the clause goes one tense back in time:

  • Simple present → simple past;
  • Simple past → simple perfect;
  • Present continuous → past continuous;
  • Past continuous → past perfect continuous;
  • Present perfect continuous → past perfect continuous;
  • Present perfect → past perfect;
  • Future → present conditional;
  • Future continuous → conditional continuous.
Simple presentSimple past
“We love street art “, they said.They said that they loved street art.
Simple pastPast perfect
“I paid in cash”, he stated.He stated that he had paid in cash.
Present continuousPast continuous
“Suzan is buying souvenir”, her husband said.Her husband said that Suzan was buying souvenir.
Present perfectPast perfect
“I have been to my old neighbourhood a couple times”, she told me.She told me that she had been to her old neighbourhood a couple times.
Present perfect continuousPast perfect continuous
“We have been studying for hours in the farm”, students stated.The students stated that they had been studying for hours in the farm.
Past continuousPast perfect continuous
“I was living in Spain as a paper collector”, Antonio told me.Antonio told me that he had been living in Spain as a paper collector.
FuturePresent conditional
“I will pay the electricity bill”, he said.He said that he would pay the electricity bill.
Future continuousConditional continuous
My father said, “You will be using the customer card 2 days later”.My father said that I would be using the card 2 days later.

We use reported speech, to convey the meaning of a conversation that took place in another time, turning the verb tenses into previous ones.

So, for example, when we report a speech that happened in the present we transform it in the past tense; while, if it already happened in the past, it is transformed in the past perfect.

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