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    • Join Date: Aug 2005
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    Reported Speech Strikes Back - Episode I - Advanced Help Needed

    I know this is a really big post but I hope that some of you will take a look at it...

    While doing some reported/indirect speech stuff (again!) lots of questions has come to my mind. Here are some of them.

    1/ 'I never eat meat', (Bill said/explained) -> turns into -> Bill said/explained (that) he never ate meat. - This is the normal way in which most of us would transform the sentence, isn't it?


    a) Is there a change of meaning between the direct and indirect form? To my liking, the second one, the transformed one, implies that Bill never ate meat before but nowdays maybe he likes it... My impression is, that after we transform the sentence, it somehow represents THE PAST, not the present or general truth. Thus... point b)

    b)Thus, I guess, that it would be wiser to say "Bill said that he never EATS meat" because he probably doesn't eat meat to this day, it's a permanent truth, general one... but I don't know whether I'm right or wrong, that's why I'm asking. Is it possible ? Is it grammatically correct?

    I guess it's pretty similar like in the following sentence : "Jack said he loves Mary" and the explanation taken from G. Leech A-Z Grammar says that he probably still loves her, it's like a general truth...

    c)Is this sentence "Bill said he never ate meat" translated as : "Bill never eats meat" or "Bill never ate it (in the past!) ?

    2/ A very similar problem emerges with 'I'm waiting for Ann' (said Jack). And, again, the normal way of transforming this sentence would be : "Jack said (that) he was waiting for Ann".

    a) I'm wondering... Does this sentence imply that Jack was waiting for Ann some day in the past or does it imply that he was waiting for her "in the present" I don't know if you guys know what I mean... The thing is that I'd rather say something like "Jack said he is waiting for Ann" IF, is have to stress it, IF the situation still takes place in the present tense.


    b) But if, for instance, on the next day, Bill, who is a friend of Jack, would report what Jack has told him, he would say "Jack said he was waiting for Ann". Am I right? If yes, why. If no, why?

    3/ What's the difference between :

    I would like to see it VS I should like to see it.

    4/ According to Thomson & Martinet's Practical English Grammar the following sentece would have a different meaning if we change the tense from simple past to past perfect in reported speech :

    I'm quoting form T&M :

    He said, 'I loved her' must become "He said he had loved her" as otherwise there would be a change of meaning. But - He said, 'Ann arrived on Monday' could be reported "He said Ann arrived (<had> is optional here) on Monday"
    This is presented in the point 309 "Past tenses sometimes remain unchanged"

    a) I don't understand why there would be a change of meaning in the first sentence. Why do I HAVE to use past perfect? And why in the second one it's optional?

    b) When past tenses remain past tenses without changing into past perfect? T&M gives examples but no explanmation :/

    c) And, again, could we say "He said he loves her" instead of "He said he loved her" ? Why? Why not?

    d) Does "He said he loved her" imply that he, possibly, doesn't love her anymore?

    5/ Which ones are correct? And which ones are TOTALLY incorrect?
    • He says he knows her. VS
    • He said he knows her. VS
    • He said he knew her. VS
    • He says he knew her.

    I guess that :

    a) is ok, such a sentence may be heared when a person reads a letter from somebody outloud.

    b) seems fine to me... implies that he knew her, he knows her and will know her...

    c) ok? seems to imply that he used to know her but now he doesn't because maybe she's abroad or something...

    d) correct? Again, a person reading a letter from somebody could say "Jack says/writes that he knew Jany... (bla bla bla... when they were at school, for instance) ?

    6/ 'Who lives next door' ->

    a) He asked who lived next door
    b) He asked who lives next door

    Again, a) sounds to me like, somebody who lived next door doesn't live there anymore... But maybe I'm wrong...I don't know.

    When I was younger, I used to have no problems with reported speech, I just adhered to the rules of tense shifts and things seemed to be ok. But nowdays after years of learning and studying English, I'm having lots of doubts...

    Help me please :- )

    PS. Let me know whether I did some mistakes or not in this post, it's essential to me, not just the reported speech, but other things too.
    PS2. I will have more questions concerning (THE ???) reported speech
    Last edited by forum_mail; 30-May-2006 at 19:16.

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    Re: Reported Speech Strikes Back - Episode I - Advanced Help Needed

    Hello FM

    I'll answer your first question, and then perhaps someone else will look at the others.

    With reported speech, there is indeed room for ambiguity, as you imply.

    1. Bill says: "I never eat meat".
    2. Bill said he never eats meat.
    3. Bill said he never ate meat.

    #3 is the standard reported form of #1. The "pastness" of the reporting clause doesn't reflect the "pastness" of the action ("never eating meat"); it reflects the "pastness" of the time of utterance. The verb in the reporting clause ("ate") is simply in accord with the verb ("said") in the main clause. Therefore it isn't possible for the listener to know whether Bill now eats meat or not. However, if it does relate to the literal past, it's common to add clarification, e.g.

    4. Bill said he never ate meat in those days.

    (At other times, context will make all clear. For instance, #4 might continue: "Though now, of course, you rarely find him without a beefburger in his hand.")

    The #2 form is also very common, where the action in the reporting clause is still current, or where it relates to a general truth. Indeed, some native speakers are very uncomfortable with a past-tense verb in the reporting clause, in such cases. You will even sometimes come across a native speaker (or grammarian) who insists that this kind of sentence is ungrammatical:

    5. When I was a child, I didn't believe that the earth moved round the sun.

    and should be changed to this:

    6. When I was a child, I didn't believe that the earth moves round the sun.

    on the grounds that the earth still moves round the sun.

    However, if we are to judge by the practice of significant writers of English, both forms are perfectly acceptable.

    Let me know if any of the above is unclear!

    All the best,

    • Join Date: Aug 2005
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    Re: Reported Speech Strikes Back - Episode I - Advanced Help Needed

    Thank you so much MrPedantic!!! Thanks for your clear answer. Could you do me a favour? I would very much appreciate if you could take a look at my other questions... Thanks in advance

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