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I have a question concerning reported speach subject.
Here is an example:
When someone (for example John) tells me "Bill speak French", later, according to te rules of reported speach I should say "John told me that Bill spoke French" (yes?). But what happens If I met the Bill later and I talk to him? Should I say "John told me that you spoke French" ? It seems illogical because if he spoke French earlier then he must definitely speak Freanch now. And if I use a phrase "I heard that..." then it seems even more incorrect when I use reported speach rules. For example:
"I heard you spoke French." So what is the correct approach to this subject?
In my opinion, you can back shift in all those cases. It's rarely (if ever) wrong.
A: Bonjour Comment allez vous?
B: I don't understand you.
A: But John told me you spoke French!
Yes, it would sometimes sound illogical to non-natives, but it's correct.
I frequently argue in these threads that it is not essential to backshift if the situatiion reported is still true, but usually add that backshifting is (almost) always correct.
ps. I added the word 'almost' just in case somebody comes up with an example when it's not correct.
Last edited by 5jj; 05-Dec-2012 at 15:17.
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This penny dropped with me during my CELTA, after 50+ years' laboriously backshifting at every opportunity.
I can think of one example where I'd use the present.
I have a letter that I can't understand (it's in French), so I walk up to a person and say, hopefully, "Excuse me. John told me that you speak French...." (Or even, "John tells me ...")
The essential factor in this example might be i) the immediacy, ii) the fact that you are speaking to the subject/object of the index conversation iii) something else that I can't think of right now.
Thank you for all the replies.