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  1. #1
    guzhao67 is offline Junior Member
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    Question backshifting in indirect report speech and verbs of communication

    Hi there: I learn from a grammar book that a small set of verbs of communication such as "tell", "say" and "hear" can be used in simple present tense even though the act of telling, saying or hearing happened in the past. for example, "Bill tells me you are moving to Sydney". according to the book, Bill's telling me was in fact in past time, but we're more concerned with the content of Bill's telling rather than Bill's act of communication. and thus the simple present form "tells" is not ungrammatical here. But in the subsequent part of the book, when dealing with backshifting in indirect reported speech, i found two examples which seem to contradict to the above cited example.(I must be wrong when I'm saying "contradict") The examples are: if Bill's original statement is "the match starts on 2 June", then 2 ways of indirect report are possible, according to the context. the first is "Bill said the march started on 2 June", and the second is "Bill said the march starts on 2 June" (if the report is before 2 June). My question is: why don't we use "Bill says...." here? since, according to the book, "say" is a verb of communication and the focus of the report seems to be the content of the Bill's statement, too. I'm really confused. Or maybe there are some other considerations which I've ignored. could you please help me. Thank you.

  2. #2
    susiedqq is offline Key Member
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    Re: backshifting in indirect report speech and verbs of communication

    You can say:

    Bill said the march started on 2 June"

    but you can't say:

    Bill says the march started on 2 June.

    because Bill is talking about something that started in the past.


    You can say

    Bill said (that) the march starts (will start) on 2 June"

    or

    Bills says (today) (that) the march (will start) starts on 2 June.

  3. #3
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    engee30 is offline Key Member
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    Cool Re: backshifting in indirect report speech and verbs of communication

    Quote Originally Posted by susiedqq View Post
    You can say:

    Bill said the march started on 2 June"

    but you can't say:

    Bill says the march started on 2 June.


    because Bill is talking about something that started in the past.
    ...
    Pardon me, but you can say so, actually.

    Well, I don't wanna use the same sentences to explain something that I think is going to make you change your mind about it, susiedqq.

    Bill says the marathon takes place on 17th March.
    or
    Bill says the marathon will take place on 17th March.

    Bill is before the marathon while saying so; someone reporting his words is also before that event.
    -------------
    Bill said the marathon takes place on 17th March.
    or
    Bill said the marathon will take place on 17th March.

    Bill was still before the marathon while saying so, as well as the person reporting his words.
    -------------
    Bill said the marathon took place on 17th March.
    or
    Bill said the marathon would take place on 17th March.

    The marathon is finished, and so is the reporting of Bill's words by someone.
    -------------
    Bill says the marathon took place on 17th March.

    Here, Bill is reported to have said that the marathon took place on 17h March, as if he was trying to convince someone not beliving his words; it's just stating that an event happened some time in the past, which I absolutely think is possible and correct.


  4. #4
    susiedqq is offline Key Member
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    Re: backshifting in indirect report speech and verbs of communication

    I did think of that, but concluded that it really meant:

    Bill claims that the event took place on March 4.

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