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  1. #1
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    Default use of present tense in indirect speech

    It is said that in indirect speech present tense can be use if what was said still holds true.

    e.g. A few days ago I met John, I told him that Julie is skinny and needs to eat more.

    However in this case below, is the present tense appropriate?

    A few years ago I met John, I told him that Julie is/was skinny and needs/needed to eat more. (Juilie is still skinny)

    Thanks.

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    Default Re: use of present tense in indirect speech

    With any conversation that was years ago, I would back-shift the tense. Even if Julie is still skinny, it doesn't reach the level of "universal truth" such as "the earth is round."
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

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    Default Re: use of present tense in indirect speech

    Quote Originally Posted by Barb_D View Post
    With any conversation that was years ago, I would back-shift the tense. Even if Julie is still skinny, it doesn't reach the level of "universal truth" such as "the earth is round."
    Would you say "Way back then, I told them that the Earth is round"?
    Last edited by lycen; 28-Nov-2009 at 23:18.

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    Default Re: use of present tense in indirect speech

    Yes, probably. I may say "was" because of the back shift in reported speech, but depending on the context, I may say "is."

    I told them -- way back when -- that the Earth is round, and now, finally, they believe me.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

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    Default Re: use of present tense in indirect speech

    In your sentence, if you are merely reporting your conversation with John to the listener (say, Peter), then use the Past tense.

    If you are reporting that you told John/made this observation to John, with the idea (for example) that you expect John to take some action, and are now reporting the conversation to Peter with the expectation that Peter check up and see that John is doing something about it/he is taking action to help Julie, then use the Present tense.

    At least - at the very least - the Present tense would be used to indicate the speaker's ongoing concern/worry about Julie's condition (e.g. she's become anorexic), as expressed previously to John, and now to Peter, because it is a present/current 'truth' in the speaker's reality, NOT a past observation/fact that's over and done with.
    Last edited by Excalibur; 29-Nov-2009 at 07:55.

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