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    #1

    Question Reported speech backshift, since/from

    Hello, could a native speaker help me, please? I am not sure about some details of reported speech in the past (backshift).

    Is 1 or 2 below correct, or both? (Normally, based on the strict appliance of the grammar rules, I would expect only number 1 to be correct, because both things had happened before he talked about them. But my "gut feeling" tells me number 2 sounds more natural.)

    John: "The event had started when we came there."
    1) John said that the event had started when they had come there.
    2) John said that the event had started when they came there.



    Another question, if I may -- is the following reported speech correct, or does the preposition since have to be changed to from?
    Peter: "I lived in this house since 2010 but now I live somewhere else."
    Peter said that he had lived there since 2010 but that then he lived somewhere else.



    And a final question -- is 1 or 2 correct, or both?
    Malcolm: "I have lived there since I was 10 years old."
    1) Malcolm said that he had lived there since he had been 10 years old.
    2) Malcolm said that he had lived there since he was 10 years old.

    Thanks a lot!

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    #2

    Re: Reported speech backshift, since/from

    In the first pair, 1) is not correct. 2) is correct (but change came to got). There's no need to backshift anything. In fact, if you were to apply the rule of backshift, it would be to the clause that is already in past perfect, and this is not in possible.

    In the Peter example, Peter should originally say I lived in this house from 2010 (to 2015) but now I live somewhere else. In this case, you could report it with Peter said that he had lived in the house from 2010 (to 2015) and that then he had lived somewhere else.

    In the second pair, 2) is correct. There's no need to backshift the 'since' clause, only the first clause.

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    #3

    Re: Reported speech backshift, since/from

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    In the first pair, 1) is not correct. 2) is correct (but change came to got). There's no need to backshift anything. In fact, if you were to apply the rule of backshift, it would be to the clause that is already in past perfect, and this is not in possible.

    In the Peter example, Peter should originally say I lived in this house from 2010 (to 2015) but now I live somewhere else. In this case, you could report it with Peter said that he had lived in the house from 2010 (to 2015) and that then he had lived somewhere else.

    In the second pair, 2) is correct. There's no need to backshift the 'since' clause, only the first clause.
    Thanks for the answer. May I ask -- why do you think there is "no need to backshift the 'since' clause"? Could you explain this please? I have never seen any rule in any grammar books giving reason for that.

    Also, why would one need to use got instead of came? Thanks.

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    #4

    Re: Reported speech backshift, since/from

    Quote Originally Posted by Enchanter View Post
    Normally, based on the strict application appliance of the grammar rules, I would expect only number 1 to be correct, because both things had happened before he talked about them.
    See correction above. An appliance is a device like a toaster or a washing machine.
    I am not a teacher.

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    #5

    Re: Reported speech backshift, since/from

    Quote Originally Posted by Enchanter View Post
    May I ask -- why do you think there is "no need to backshift the 'since' clause"? Could you explain this please?

    The reason for backshifting when we report is to make the sequence of events clear.

    In the 'since' clause, the phrase (since) he was 12 refers to a point in time. (It is similar to saying since 1998). The word since marks the earliest point in time in the whole sequence of events, and its role (even in the original unreported statement) is one of sequencing. The reported, backshifted phrase he had lived there clearly still comes after this point, and now clearly before Peter said. Thus we have made a nice, clearly-marked sequence of events.

    Also, why would one need to use got instead of came? Thanks.
    The verb come is a strange one and can be very hard to master. Its meaning is deictic. This means that the use of it depends on the point of view of the speaker. Without getting too complicated, in short, the phrase came there does not really work in English. We usually say came here or got there. Note that it's not quite as simple as this, though!

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    #6

    Re: Reported speech backshift, since/from

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    The reason for backshifting when we report is to make the sequence of events clear.

    In the 'since' clause, the phrase (since) he was 12 refers to a point in time. (It is similar to saying since 1998). The word since marks the earliest point in time in the whole sequence of events, and its role (even in the original unreported statement) is one of sequencing. The reported, backshifted phrase he had lived there clearly still comes after this point, and now clearly before Peter said. Thus we have made a nice, clearly-marked sequence of events.



    The verb come is a strange one and can be very hard to master. Its meaning is deictic. This means that the use of it depends on the point of view of the speaker. Without getting too complicated, in short, the phrase came there does not really work in English. We usually say came here or got there. Note that it's not quite as simple as this, though!
    Thank you so much! No wonder the textbooks are silent on that issue. It's obviously hard to define in simple rules.

    Would you be so kind as to confirm another thing about backshifted reported speech?

    Are both of the below reported statements correct? And if so, are they both correct in informal and formal styles? Spoken and written English?

    Alex: "I finished writing the opera yesterday."
    A week later someone reports:
    1) Alex said that he had finished writing the opera the day before.
    2) Alex said that he finished writing the opera the day before.

    I believe bother are correct, because they can be interpreted the same way. I'm not sure about their naturalness in the formal/informal styles, though.


    And one last question -- is it correct to change the word tomorrow to the phrase the next day when reporting? (I know the following day is correct.)
    Last edited by Enchanter; 17-May-2017 at 19:57.

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    #7

    Re: Reported speech backshift, since/from

    Quote Originally Posted by Enchanter View Post
    Are both of the below reported statements correct? And if so, are they both correct in informal and formal styles? Spoken and written English?

    Alex: "I finished writing the opera yesterday."
    A week later someone reports:
    1) Alex said that he had finished writing the opera the day before.
    2) Alex said that he finished writing the opera the day before.

    I believe bother are correct, because they can be interpreted the same way. I'm not sure about their naturalness in the formal/informal styles, though.


    And one last question -- is it correct to change the word tomorrow to the phrase the next day when reporting? (I know the following day is correct.)
    Firstly, I don't think the level of formality is really an issue here. Similarly, there is no significant difference between written and spoken forms. The choice of grammar is the same.

    Technically, your sentence 1) is the more correct version only in that it applies the rules of backshifting. However, many native-speakers might not bother to do this, for one reason or another. I personally do not consider 2) to be incorrect. At worst, I might say that it is slightly less effective. That is, if the desired effect of backshifting is to clarify the sequence of events.

    In terms of naturalness, I'd say the time phrase the day before would be fairly unlikely, albeit 'correct'. If the time that Alex finished writing was a matter of particular concern, we would probably use a more precise alternative, such as on Tuesday. If the time was not important, we would probably not mention a time phrase at all.

    Words like yesterday and tomorrow also have the deictic meanings that I mentioned before. They only make sense in relation to the point in time that the speaker finds himself in. This relativity is complicated when reporting. So again, to avoid this, it could well be more effective to use a non-deictic, more precise time phrase, such as on Tuesday instead of the following/next day in natural speech.

    Finally, if the time phrase is precise in the way that on Tuesday is, then I would argue that there would be less motivation for the speaker to bother backshifting the verb, as the sequential order of events would be made clear without doing so.

    To summarise, I usually say that as a rule of thumb, we only backshift when there is a good reason to do so. Very few textbooks will tell you this.

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    #8

    Re: Reported speech backshift, since/from

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    many native-speakers might not bother

    it could well be more effective to use a non-deictic, more precise time phrase
    It's no use to tell anybody that they should avoid yesterday in favour of on Tuesday. Learners need to learn to understand what is meant by the day before when somebody says it. They also need to be able to report someone's speech when that someone says tomorrow or yesterday.

    And finally, BTW, I don't think it's correct to write "native-speakers" with a hyphen in that sentence. You have a noun (speaker) modified by a single-word adjective (native). ;)

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    #9

    Re: Reported speech backshift, since/from

    Quote Originally Posted by Enchanter View Post
    It's no use to tell anybody that they should avoid yesterday in favour of on Tuesday.
    True, but I didn't say that.

    Learners need to learn to understand what is meant by the day before when somebody says it.
    True but irrelevant.

    They also need to be able to report someone's speech when that someone says tomorrow or yesterday.
    That's what I was trying to help you with.

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    #10

    Re: Reported speech backshift, since/from

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    However, many native-speakers might not bother to do this, for one reason or another.
    Quote Originally Posted by Enchanter View Post
    I don't think it's correct to write "native-speakers" with a hyphen in that sentence. You have a noun (speaker) modified by a single-word adjective (native).
    You're right, Enchanter.
    I am not a teacher.

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