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    #1

    backshifting of tenses

    I know it's not agreed whether backshifting of tenses is always necessary or not, that is whether it's correct to say, "Ann said that her brother is married." As far as I know, most people find it OK but I read and heard several times that it was a misuse of English syntax. I thought, "OK, it doesn't hurt anybody so I'll try to obey and not to say such things". But I started encountering sentences where backshifting was so strange to me that I just couldn't do that. An example from my recent post somewhere on these forums.

    I think X meant that people are put off by the way you type.

    I started writing it this way, obedient to the syntactical rule:

    I think X meant people were put off by the way you...

    And I simply couldn't put "typed" there... It was too strange to me. I didn't want to talk about the past; I wanted to talk about the general way the person typed at that time. I knew it was "syntactically correct" to use '"typed" there but it was too much against my intuition.

    Of course, it's not a very serious matter. But I'm simply curious. Is there anybody who would, in such circumstances, say:

    I think X meant people were put off by the way you typed?

  1. Raymott's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: backshifting of tenses

    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post
    I know it's not agreed whether backshifting of tenses is always necessary or not, that is whether it's correct to say, "Ann said that her brother is married." As far as I know, most people find it OK but I read and heard several times that it was a misuse of English syntax. I thought, "OK, it doesn't hurt anybody so I'll try to obey and not to say such things". But I started encountering sentences where backshifting was so strange to me that I just couldn't do that. An example from my recent post somewhere on these forums.

    I think X meant that people are put off by the way you type.

    I started writing it this way, obedient to the syntactical rule:

    I think X meant people were put off by the way you...

    And I simply couldn't put "typed" there... It was too strange to me. I didn't want to talk about the past; I wanted to talk about the general way the person typed at that time. I knew it was "syntactically correct" to use '"typed" there but it was too much against my intuition.

    Of course, it's not a very serious matter. But I'm simply curious. Is there anybody who would, in such circumstances, say:

    I think X meant people were put off by the way you typed?
    As I see it, the backshifting refers to "are/were", not to "type/typed"
    A properly backshifted sentence is, "I think X meant that people were put off by the way you type." This is what I'd say. But you could use "are".

    Another example:
    A: "People will be put off by the way she criticizes her family in her book."
    A said that people would be put off by the way she critizes her family in the book.

  2. 5jj's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: backshifting of tenses

    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post
    Of course, it's not a very serious matter. But I'm simply curious. Is there anybody who would, in such circumstances, say:

    I think X meant people were put off by the way you typed?
    I agree with Raymott. However, to answer your question, I feel that I could produce your utterance. I am not sure whether I would .

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