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  1. #1
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    Default tenses, indirect speech and Q&A

    Hi

    I really need some advise and help with this one because it seems all my explanations and what my co-worker is reading in the grammar books is not satisfying her!!!

    I want to know if the normal rules for changing direct to indirect speech apply within Q&A format and which is more common of the two I mention below?

    The situation:

    she is making self-study material for non-native learners who will not have access to a native speaker when doing the material.
    The Q&A are written so that the answer is partially written and the students have to fill in the gap with info from the story - exactly as it appears in the story... so the Q&A are all very controlled etc...... (don't ask!)

    so she is using the story Matilda by Roald Dahl. This is an excerpt....


    "So I buy an old dump that's got about a hundred and fifty thousand miles on the clock. I get it cheap. But no one's going to buy it with a mileage like that, are they? And these days you can't just take the speedometer out and fiddle the numbers back like you used to ten years ago. They’ve fixed it so it’s impossible to tamper with it unless you’re a ruddy watchmaker or something....

    First Q&A - options
    1. What kind of car did Matilda’s father say he would buy?
    Matilda’s father said he would buy old cars that have about a hundred andfifty.....

    2. What kind of car did Matild’s father say he buys?
    Matilda’s father said he buys old cars....

    Second Q&A – she doesn’t know if she should use ‘is’ or ‘was’.
    1. What did Matilda’s father say was impossible to do with the speedometer.
    Matilda’s father said that it was impossible to ....


    Some info from the grammar books she has given me:

    1. It is not always necessary to change the verb when you use reported speech. If you report something and it is still true, you do not need to change the verb.
    Note – that it is also correct to change the verb into the past.

    2. Sometimes the present tense is retained even in formal English when the reported sentence deals with a general truth.

    3. Whatever the tense of your reporting verb, you put the verb in the reported clause into a tense that is appropriate at the time that you are speaking.

    However, when the reporting verb is in a past tense, a past tense is also usually used for the verb in the reported clause even if the reported situation still exists. For example, you could say ‘I told him I was eighteen’ even if you are still eighteen. You are concentrating on the situation at the past time that you are talking about.

    A present tense is sometimes used instead, to emphasize that the situation still exists.

    Ok – so all this info form the grammar books supports what I have said to her but she still is not satisfied. She wants to know if it is ok to always put into the past – or when should we keep the present. She seems to want to create her own little rule.

    Is one use more common than the other?
    Can you recommend when you would use on than the other or is it just a preference thing?

    Any help is really appreciated!!!!

    smiles
    riceball

  2. #2
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    Default Re: tenses, indirect speech and Q&A

    Does this help?

    English Grammar - Reported speech

    Statements

    1) If the sentence starts in the present, there is no backshift of tenses in Reported speech.
    Example: Susan: "I work in an office." Susan says that she works in an office.

    2) If the sentence starts in the past, there is often backshift of tenses in Reported speech. (see: Note)
    Example: Susan: "I work in an office." Susan said that she worked in an office.

    Backshift of tenses
    from
    Simple Present to Simple Past
    Simple Past, Present Perfect, Past Perfect to Past Perfect
    will to would
    Progressive forms
    am/are/is to was/were
    was/were has been had been to had been

    Backshift of tenses
    from to
    Peter: "I work in the garden." Peter said that he worked in the garden.
    Peter: "I worked in the garden." Peter said that he had worked in the garden.
    Peter: "I have worked in the garden."
    Peter: "I had worked in the garden."
    Peter: "I will work in the garden." Peter said that he would work in the garden.
    Peter: "I can work in the garden." Peter said that he could work in the garden.
    Peter: "I may work in the garden." Peter said that he might work in the garden.
    Peter: "I would work in the garden."
    (could, might, should, ought to) Peter said that he would work in the garden.
    (could, might, should, ought to)
    Progressive forms
    Peter: "I'm working in the garden." Peter said that he was working in the garden.
    Peter: "I was working in the garden." Peter said that he had been working in the garden.
    Peter: "I have been working in the garden."
    Peter: "I had been working in the garden."
    If the sentence contains an expression of time, you must change it as well.

    Peter: "I worked in the garden yesterday."
    Peter said that he had worked in the garden the day before.

    Shifting of expressions of time

    this (evening) to that (evening)
    today/this day to that day
    these (days) to those (days)
    now to then
    (a week) ago to (a week) before
    last weekend to the weekend before / the previous weekend
    here to there
    next (week) the following (week)
    tomorrow to the next/following day

    Note:
    In some cases the backshift of tenses is not necessary, e.g. when statements are still true.

    John: "My brother is at Leipzig university."
    John said that his brother was at Leipzig university. or
    John said that his brother is at Leipzig university.

    or

    Mandy: "The sun rises in the East."
    Mandy said that the sun rose in the East. or
    Mandy said that the sun rises in the East.
    Last edited by David L.; 29-Mar-2008 at 00:48.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: tenses, indirect speech and Q&A

    Excellent!

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    Default Re: tenses, indirect speech and Q&A

    Say:
    I really need some advice.

    Or:

    I need some help with this one.

    Say:
    My explanations are not satisfying her.

    Say:
    Any help would be appreciated.
    Quote Originally Posted by riceball72 View Post

    1. It is not always necessary to change the verb when you use reported speech. If you report something and it is still true, you do not need to change the verb.
    Quite true.

    Last edited by RonBee; 01-Apr-2008 at 23:16. Reason: spelling (putting the "l" in the first "help")

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    Default Re: tenses, indirect speech and Q&A

    David L
    Thank you for your very detailed reply.

    I have been able to get my co-worker to accept and understand that both are used, but now she wants to know which is more common, so she can decide which one to show in her exercises!!!

    I have sent an email to friends who are teachers, but wondered what your opinon is.

    To me it seems to depend on the kind of emphasize the writer/speaker wants to give???

    smiles
    riceball

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    Default Re: tenses, indirect speech and Q&A

    The direct speech is:
    They’ve fixed it so it’s impossible to tamper with it unless you’re a ruddy watchmaker...

    Second Q&A – she doesn’t know if she should use ‘is’ or ‘was’.
    1. What did Matilda’s father say was impossible to do with the speedometer.
    Matilda’s father said that it is/was impossible to ....

    It's quite clear. He said it was impossible then and we have no information from the passage or common knowledge to say that the information has changed. Therefore, it is as true today as it was when it was said : Matilda’s father said it is impossible to tamper with...

    compare:
    "It is inconceivable that any rational Englishman would allow women to vote."
    He said that it was inconceivable...

    HOWEVER: Note that your friend's wording of the questions is determining the tense:

    1. What kind of car did Matilda’s father say he would buy?
    Matilda’s father said he would buy old cars that have about a hundred andfifty.....

    2. What kind of car did Matild’s father say he buys?
    Matilda’s father said he buys old cars....

    Second Q&A – she doesn’t know if she should use ‘is’ or ‘was’.
    1. What did Matilda’s father say was impossible to do with the speedometer.
    Matilda’s father said that it was impossible to ....
    (the answer to this question is, quite reasonably, "To tamper with it." The question is not changing direct into indirect speech, but one of elementary comprehension! )
    Last edited by David L.; 31-Mar-2008 at 03:37.

  7. #7
    riverkid is offline Banned
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    Default Re: tenses, indirect speech and Q&A

    Quote Originally Posted by riceball72 View Post

    I have been able to get my co-worker to accept and understand that both are used, but now she wants to know which is more common, so she can decide which one to show in her exercises!!!

    I have sent an email to friends who are teachers, but wondered what your opinon is.

    To me it seems to depend on the kind of emphasize the writer/speaker wants to give???

    smiles
    riceball
    You can't possibly hope to create the necessary situations which will give second language learners the opportunity to discern the differences. Let them practice the normal neutral backshift and inform them after that there are circumstances where ENLs have a choice.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: tenses, indirect speech and Q&A

    ENL = English as a Native Language
    ENLs = (Speakers of) English as a Native Language


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    riverkid is offline Banned
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    Default Re: tenses, indirect speech and Q&A

    Thanks, Ron.

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