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  1. #1
    ostap77 is offline Key Member
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    Default formal sequencing of tenses

    I'd very much like to get as many comments as I could.

    Here's an extract from a grammar book. Andrea DeCapua "A Guide to American English for native and non-native speakers."

    "Do native speakers always observe this formal sequencing of tenses?
    Most native speakers will observe this rule for changing present tense in direct
    speech to past tense in reported speech; however, many speakers will not observe
    this rule for changing past tense to the past perfect and will use past tense only,
    particularly in spoken and informal written English.
    Moreover, native speakers will not always follow this sequencing of tenses for
    actions, events, or facts that are still current and/or true."

    So according to this the following sentences would be acceptable in conversation and informal writing.

    1)She says,"They went to the movies."

    "She said (that) they went to the movies."

    2)"She says,"I was having a ride on a train for half an hour when it started to slow down."

    "She said (that) she was having a ride on a train for half an hour when it started to slow down."

    There would be no need to change the past progressive to the past perfect progressive and the past simple to the past perfect.?

    3)"She said she is coming to a party tomorrow."

    4)"He said he has been playing hockey since he was 5 years old."

    What about future tense? Would it be optional if someting will still happen in the future?
    Last edited by ostap77; 24-Oct-2010 at 21:50.

  2. #2
    5jj's Avatar
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    Default Re: formal sequencing of tenses

    You and DeCapua are correct, though some books still seem to believe in an absolute rule of backshifting that was never absolute.

    As to your question: What about future tense? Would it be optional if something will still happen in the future?

    Well, if the situation is in the future, nobody but a god can know that it will happen for sure.

    However, expressions indicating futurity, which are in themselves present, behave as others do:

    "I will come/am coming/am going to come on Friday."

    1. He said that he will come/is coming/ is going to come on Friday.
    2. He said that he would come/was coming/was going to come on Friday
    .

    #1 is acceptable only if uttered before the Friday referred to.
    #2 is acceptable regardless of when it is uttered, though if it were uttered after the Friday referred to, some clarification might be added, e.g. the following Friday.

  3. #3
    Raymott's Avatar
    Raymott is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: formal sequencing of tenses

    Quote Originally Posted by ostap77 View Post
    2)"She says,"I was having a ride on a train for half an hour when it started to slow down."

    "She said (that) she was having a ride on a train for half an hour when it started to slow down."

    There would be no need to change the past progressive to the past perfect progressive and the past simple to the past perfect.?

    Both of the red bits are wrong. You need the past perfect progressive. But it's not a matter of changing it; you need it for both.)
    "She had been riding on the train for half an hour when it started to slow down"; "She had been riding ..."
    You could say:
    2)"She says,"I was having a ride on a train when it started to slow down after half an hour."

    What about future tense? Would it be optional if someting will still happen in the future?
    Do you have some examples?
    R

  4. #4
    ostap77 is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: formal sequencing of tenses

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    R
    Rearding the bits in red. That is what is written there.

    "Most native speakers will observe this rule for changing present tense in direct
    speech to past tense in reported speech; however, many speakers will not observe
    this rule for changing past tense to the past perfect and will use past tense only,
    particularly in spoken and informal written English."

    This nfo is not valid than?
    Last edited by ostap77; 25-Oct-2010 at 10:46.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: formal sequencing of tenses

    Quote Originally Posted by ostap77 View Post
    Rearding the bits in red. That is what is written there.

    "Most native speakers will observe this rule for changing present tense in direct
    speech to past tense in reported speech; however, many speakers will not observe
    this rule for changing past tense to the past perfect and will use past tense only,
    particularly in spoken and informal written English."

    This nfo is not valid than?
    The information is right: you don't have to change the simple past to the past perfect. The 'change', that is, no change at all, is correct.
    But your examples (the bits in red) are ungrammatical. They are ungrammatical both before and after the 'change'.
    We don't say, "I was having a ride on a train for half an hour when it stopped" to mean "I was having a ride on a train, and after half an hour it stopped." The problem is with the prepositional phrase.

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