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    #1

    ago vs before

    "She said that he had been taken to the asylum a long time ago."

    I was told that when there is a sequence of tenses I'm supposed to change ago to before. Is this information accurate?

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    #2

    Re: ago vs before

    She said that he had been taken to the asylum a long time ago.
    She said that he had been taken to the asylum a long time before.

    I was told that when there is a sequence of tenses I'm supposed to change ago to before.

  1. riquecohen's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: ago vs before

    Quote Originally Posted by ostap77 View Post
    "She said that he had been taken to the asylum a long time ago."

    I was told that when there is a sequence of tenses I'm supposed to change ago to before. Is this information accurate?
    "Do not confuse the adverbs ago and before. Ago is used when the 'point of reference' is the present; it means 'before now'. Before is used when the point of reference is not the present: it means 'before then', 'earlier'. ( Practical English Usage, Michael Swan.)
    As for sequence of tenses in reported speech, we don't always shift tenses. If we are reporting something that is still true now, we use the same tense as the original speaker.

  2. 5jj's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: ago vs before

    Quote Originally Posted by riquecohen View Post
    "Do not confuse the adverbs ago and before. Ago is used when the 'point of reference' is the present; it means 'before now'. Before is used when the point of reference is not the present: it means 'before then', 'earlier'. ( Practical English Usage, Michael Swan.)
    As for sequence of tenses in reported speech, we don't always shift tenses. If we are reporting something that is still true now, we use the same tense as the original speaker.
    I agree. Both of the following are therefore possible.

    She said that he had been taken to the asylum a long time ago. [=before now]
    She said that he had been taken to the asylum a long time before. [=before a time-point already mentioned, or a back-shifting of 'ago'.]

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    #5

    Re: ago vs before

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    I agree. Both of the following are therefore possible.

    She said that he had been taken to the asylum a long time ago. [=before now]
    She said that he had been taken to the asylum a long time before. [=before a time-point already mentioned, or a back-shifting of 'ago'.]
    So if there is the sequence of tenses, "ago" needs a back-shifting, doesn't it?
    If I were doing the listening and comprehension part of my test and had to render what I heard on the tape, I would have to use "before" instead of "ago"?

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    #6

    Re: ago vs before

    Quote Originally Posted by ostap77 View Post
    So if there is the sequence of tenses, "ago" needs a back-shifting, doesn't it?
    If the verb is backshifted, we might well change 'ago' to 'before', but we might not. We don't worry about such things in normal conversation.
    If I were doing the listening and comprehension part of my test and had to render what I heard on the tape, I would have to use "before" instead of "ago"?
    That would depend on how pedantic the marker was.

    Some non-native teachers of English are far more concerned about fiddly little bits of grammar than most native speakers.

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    #7

    Re: ago vs before

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    If the verb is backshifted, we might well change 'ago' to 'before', but we might not. We don't worry about such things in normal conversation.
    That would depend on how pedantic the marker was.

    Some non-native teachers of English are far more concerned about fiddly little bits of grammar than most native speakers.
    Thanks!You've been a lot of help!

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