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  1. #1
    Navin Guest

    Default Reported Speech Clarification

    I would like a clarification into the grammatical rules behind Reported Speech. As far as I understand, both cases - with a backshift in tense and without a backshift in tense - are acceptable; so long the writer remains consistent in his sentence, choosing only one of the above mentioned forms.

    When I do use Reported Speech, I tend to deploy the backshift in tense. Is this the more preferred/commonly used method?

    For the Backshift in Tense Method - how far does that rule apply? Is it only applicable to sentences that begin with "(Proper Noun) said that...." or can it also be used when the writer omits the "said that" part.

    The above question is especially pertinent to written paragraphs of summarised news. Take the following paragraph (a summary of a news article) as an example:

    On 23 Aug, Jack said that the he had enjoyed watching the 4x400m relay at the Beijing Olympics. He added that the atmosphere at the National Stadium was exuberant, with both the supporters and competitors pumped up with energy. He would be attending the closing ceremony on 24 Aug.

    If I were to be strict about using Reported Speech, then my last sentence would have read "He also said that he would be would be attending the closing ceremony on 24 Aug". However, for the sake of brevity and to make the summary flow, I have decided to omit the first part. My colleague then pointed out that I ought not have deployed the backshift of tense, and should have instead written "He will be attending the closing ceremony on 24 Aug."

    I argued that I had to write "would be" as that is the form of reported speech which I had deployed for the entire paragraph. If I were to write "will be" then I would be inconsistent, and furthermore, by using "he will be", it would seem that I have verified that Jack would indeed be attending the ceremony, when he actually may not turn up.

    What is your take on this?

  2. #2
    Raymott's Avatar
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    Default Re: Reported Speech Clarification

    Quote Originally Posted by Navin View Post
    I would like a clarification into the grammatical rules behind Reported Speech. As far as I understand, both cases - with a backshift in tense and without a backshift in tense - are acceptable; so long the writer remains consistent in his sentence, choosing only one of the above mentioned forms.

    When I do use Reported Speech, I tend to deploy the backshift in tense. Is this the more preferred/commonly used method?

    For the Backshift in Tense Method - how far does that rule apply? Is it only applicable to sentences that begin with "(Proper Noun) said that...." or can it also be used when the writer omits the "said that" part.

    The above question is especially pertinent to written paragraphs of summarised news. Take the following paragraph (a summary of a news article) as an example:

    On 23 Aug, Jack said that the he had enjoyed watching the 4x400m relay at the Beijing Olympics. He added that the atmosphere at the National Stadium was exuberant, with both the supporters and competitors pumped up with energy. He would be attending the closing ceremony on 24 Aug.

    If I were to be strict about using Reported Speech, then my last sentence would have read "He also said that he would be would be attending the closing ceremony on 24 Aug". However, for the sake of brevity and to make the summary flow, I have decided to omit the first part. My colleague then pointed out that I ought not have deployed the backshift of tense, and should have instead written "He will be attending the closing ceremony on 24 Aug."

    I argued that I had to write "would be" as that is the form of reported speech which I had deployed for the entire paragraph. If I were to write "will be" then I would be inconsistent, and furthermore, by using "he will be", it would seem that I have verified that Jack would indeed be attending the ceremony, when he actually may not turn up.

    What is your take on this?
    Well, you're obviously writing this on the 23 August.
    You've omitted the first part so all you have is a guy called Jack who has said that he will be attending the ceremony on the following day. (I think - you haven't told us what he actually said, so that makes it difficult to decide how it should be reported. We only have your reported speech to infer what he said, and then tell you how it should be reported!)
    If he said "I will be attending the ceremony", and the ceremony hasn't already been held, I'd write "He said he will be attending the ceremony".
    If the ceremony has already been held, I'd write "He said he would be attending the ceremony".
    I agree with your colleague. In general it's OK to write "He said he will be/would be ..." but to assert "He will be attending..." is a different thing.
    If it was someone important, or if you're reporting officially, it's necessary to write such things as "The Queen will attend the performance". But if it's just Jack who might show up, and might not, "He said he would.." is better.

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