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    #1

    Past Simple and Past Continuous in Reported Speech

    If the reported sentence is out of date the tenses change.
    I've read that the tenses change as follows:
    past simple -> past perfect or past simple
    past continuous -> past perfect continuous or past continuous


    I don't understand when they can stay the same and when they should change.
    Is it usually optional to change or not?
    Are there situations in which not changing is a mistake?

    I've got a sentence:
    'I was locking the car when a traffic warden turned up,' she said.
    1. She said that she was locking the car when a traffic warden turned up.
    2. She said she had been locking the car when a traffic warden turned up.
    3. She said she had been locking the car when a traffic warden had turned up.


    Are they all correct?

    I've also read that in time clauses they don't change. But is changing them in time clauses a mistake?
    'The car broke down while I was driving to work,' he said.
    Are 1, 2 and 3 correct?
    1. He said that the car had broken down while he was driving to work.
    2. He said that the car broke down while he was driving to work.
    3. He said that the car had broken down while he had been driving to work.

  1. 5jj's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Past Simple and Past Continuous in Reported Speech

    Quote Originally Posted by angelene001 View Post
    If the reported sentence is out of date the tenses change.
    I've read that the tenses change as follows:
    past simple -> past perfect or past simple
    past continuous -> past perfect continuous or past continuous
    Backshifting a past (simple or continuous) to a past perfect is always correct.
    I don't understand when they can stay the same and when they should change.
    Is it usually optional to change or not?
    Are there situations in which not changing is a mistake?
    When the sequence of events, including the time position of the act of saying, is clear, many native speakers do not backshift as frequently as some student grammars suggest.
    'I was locking the car when a traffic warden turned up,' she said.
    1. She said that she was locking the car when a traffic warden turned up.
    2. She said she had been locking the car when a traffic warden turned up.
    3. She said she had been locking the car when a traffic warden had turned up.
    #1 is fine.
    #2 is OK, though a little odd because of the actions involved. It appears that the relatively short action of locking a car had been interruupted by the arrival of the trffic warden.
    #3 is grammatically correct. Some people would say it; others would prefer #1.

    I've also read that in time clauses they don't change. But is changing them in time clauses a mistake?
    'The car broke down while I was driving to work,' he said.
    Are 1, 2 and 3 correct?
    1. He said that the car had broken down while he was driving to work.
    2. He said that the car broke down while he was driving to work.

    3. He said that the car had broken down while he had been driving to work.
    #1: You will hear this, though it's an odd mixture of tenses. Normally the action in the past perfect precedes the action inthe past.
    #2 is fine.
    #3 is grammatically correct. Some people would say it; others would prefer #1.

    Learner confusion is understandable here, because many native speakers do not follow what some books suggest are 'rules'. If in doubt, learners should backshift. The result will almost always be correct. Don't be surprised, however, if you hear native speakers not backshifting.

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