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    #1

    He told me that it is/was going to rain this weekend

    Hi all,

    I have been struggling with sequence of tenses.

    Just wonder if there are any exceptions to the rule.

    If somebody just told me something that is still true or the thing that hasn't happened yet
    Do i still need to follow the rule?

    Ex: He told me that it is / was going to rain this weekend.
    He said he doesn't/ didn't like her anymore.

    I just realized that we are / were not allowed to eat here.
    I just realized that they are / were twins.
    I didn't notice that it is / was midnight already.

    When the subordinate tells something that's general truth we can choose present tense
    How if its something that's not general truth but something that's still true?


    Many thanks in advance
    Last edited by teddy111; 05-Mar-2014 at 20:32.

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    #2

    Re: He told me that it is/was going to rain this weekend

    Your post is not very clear but if I understand you correctly, the answer is yes, you can use a present tense (in fact it's better) if the thing is still true (ie. if nothing has changed) when you're reporting. Try understanding your example like this:

    'He told me that it is going to rain this weekend.'

    [He made a prediction and it remains as a prediction, so stay with the present tense because nothing has changed]



    'He told me that it was going to rain this weekend.'

    [He made a prediction but the prediction has been confirmed (positively or negatively - for example, you can see that it's raining or there's clear evidence that it's definitely not going to rain) and so is no longer a prediction, so change the tense to past to suggest that the prediction is now in the past]

    There's no need to 'backshift' the tense when reporting unless there's a reason to do so. Does that make sense?

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    #3

    Re: He told me that it is/was going to rain this weekend

    Welcome to the forum, teddy.

    Please remember to use a capital letter for the first letter of a sentence and for the personal pronoun 'I'. Remember, too, to use an appropriate punctuation mark at the end of a sentence.

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    #4

    Re: He told me that it is/was going to rain this weekend

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    There's no need to 'backshift' the tense when reporting unless there's a reason to do so.
    That's true, but it is almost always possible to backshift so, as far as learners are concerned, backshifting is always the safe option.

    If the situation referred to in the reported speech is no longer valid, then backshifting is obligatory.

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    #5

    Re: He told me that it is/was going to rain this weekend

    Thank you for your answers and I have already corrected the mistakes that I made.

    I'm sorry but I don't really understand it. I thought backshifting was necessary.
    So in reported speech we can choose present tense if that makes sense and use past tense might be ambiguous but a rather safe way. Is it correct?

    What about the other examples?

    I just realized that we are not allowed to eat here.
    I just realized that they are twins.
    I didn't notice that it is midnight already.

    Are these also correct even though they are not reported speech?

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    #6

    Re: He told me that it is/was going to rain this weekend

    Quote Originally Posted by teddy111 View Post
    I just realized that we are not allowed to eat here. - Suitable if you are eating right now, OR if you have already eaten but may have had plans to eat here in the future. Using "were" would be odd if you have already eaten and you never plan to eat here again. I just realized that they are twins. - Okay either way - very much okay if they are visible right now.
    I didn't notice that it is midnight already. If it's midnight NOW, use "is." If it's no longer midnight, then don't use this one. (It's no longer true.)

    Are these also correct even though they are not reported speech?
    .
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

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    #7

    Re: He told me that it is/was going to rain this weekend

    Thank you very much for you help.

    So are there any rules that I can follow?
    Like if the verbs in the main clauses ( just realized, didn't notice) happen not long ago, we don't need to follow the tense agreement.

    Is it correct?

    Do all these five sentences correct when the verb tense in subordinate clause is in either past tense or present tense, just different meanings and time frames?
    Last edited by teddy111; 05-Mar-2014 at 22:06.

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    #8

    Re: He told me that it is/was going to rain this weekend

    Quote Originally Posted by teddy111 View Post
    Thank you very much for you help.

    So are there any rules that I can follow?
    Like if the verbs in the main clauses ( just realized, didn't notice) happen not long ago, we don't need to follow the tense agreement. You always need to follow the tense agreement. But you choose the tense based on either when it happened OR your attitude/knowledge about it right now. Sometimes the present tense is the right tense. Sometimes it's not. With reported speech, it's always safe to backshift, but it is not always necessary to backshift.

    Is it correct?

    Do Are all five of these five sentences correct when the verb tense in subordinate clause is in either past tense or present tense, just different meanings and time frames?
    I'm afraid I didn't understand your last question.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

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    #9

    Re: He told me that it is/was going to rain this weekend

    Here's what normally happens.

    A. If the reporting verb is in a present tense (simple, progressive or perfct), then the original tenses are retained:

    "I am happy"
    He says/is saying/has said that he is happy.


    B. If the reporting verb is in a past tense (simple, progressive or perfect), then backshifting is (almost) always acceptable.

    He said/was saying/had said that he was happy.

    C. If the reporting verb is in a past tense and the situation is still true at the moment of speaking, then backshifting is optional.

    "Paris is the capital of France"
    He said that Paris is(/was) the capital of France.
    Backshifting ppssible but non-backshifting more likely, because Paris is still the capital of France.

    "Berlin is the capital of France".
    He said that Berlin was(/is) the capital of France.
    Non back-shifting possible, because the original speaker believes Berlin to be the capital of France, but backshifting more likely, beause the reporter knows that it is not.

    He said that he was/is happy. The more distant in time the reporting is from the original speaking, the more likely the reporter is to backshift, because s/he is increasingly unsure wther the original speaker is still happy. Compare:

    When I saw him yesterday, he said that he was happy to see me.
    When I saw him yesterday, he said that he is happy in his new job.

    D: Apparent problem:

    1.
    I have just realized that we are not allowed to eat here.
    2. I just realized that we are not allowed to eat here.

    #1 (normal BrE) is not a problem. Speakers of BrE normally use a present perfect form with 'just' for an action occuring in the very recent past, so there is no backshifting.
    Speakers of AmE frequently use a past-tense form with 'just'. However, it still indicates a very recent past, as in BrE, so recent that what is reported is still valid. Non back-shifting is the norm here. Despite the past tense of the reporting verb, backshifting is not natural. Compare:

    I thought we were allowed to eat here,

    where the speaker (the reporter of his/her own thought) now knows, or suspects that they cannot eat there.
    Last edited by 5jj; 06-Mar-2014 at 15:36. Reason: typo

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    #10

    Re: He told me that it is/was going to rain this weekend

    Quote Originally Posted by Barb_D View Post
    I'm afraid I didn't understand your last question.
    Sorry for the confusing question.

    But yes, that answer is what I was looking for.
    Backshifting is the safest way.

    Thank you very much for your kind help.

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