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Thread: Backshift

  1. #1
    sbrodsky is offline Junior Member
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    Default Backshift

    Dear teacher,
    I know that in indirect speech the tenses are often changed. If the verb in the principal clause is in the past tense, the tenses are changed according to the rule of the sequence of tenses. For example The Present Indefinite is replaced by the Past Indefinite.
    I want to give you three examples where such replacements sound weird for me.
    1. Our math teacher explained us that the most important thing in mathematics was (is) proof. And she would tell us what it was (is).

    2. My brother explained me that sea was (is) not the same as river.

    The third example is not indirect speech but looks as something like that.

    3. When I was five, my mom once told me something about symphony orchestra. I did not ask her what symphony orchestra was (is), because I already knew what it was (is).

    What do you think?
    Thank you.

  2. #2
    emsr2d2's Avatar
    emsr2d2 is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: Backshift

    With number 3:

    3. When I was five, my mom once told me something about symphony orchestra. I did not ask her what symphony orchestra was (is), because I already knew what it was (is).

    I would say:

    When I was five, my mum told me something about symphony orchestras. I didn't ask her what a symphony orchestra was because I already knew (what it was).

    I wouldn't backshift anything in that sentence. See my slight amendments in red also.

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