backshift / back shift / backshifting / back shifting?

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Tenacious Learner

Senior Member
Spanish
Hello teachers,
I hope the definition is correct. I made it myself from different definitions. That said, if I look at a dictionary it always says "back shift / back shifting" separately, but if I look at grammar webpages they write them together.

Definition:
What happens to direct speech when you turn it into reported speech?
There are some changes, one of them is to backshift which is the change of tenses from present to past. The verb shifts back in time.

Thanks in advance.
 
  • Tenacious Learner

    Senior Member
    Spanish

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    "to backshift which is the change of tenses from present to past." is not a definition, it is more of an explanation - and the explanation is incomplete: you have not said what happens to the future tense.

    He said "I will go to Madrid." -> "He said he would go to Madrid."
     

    Tenacious Learner

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    "to backshift which is the change of tenses from present to past." is not a definition, it is more of an explanation.
    Hi PaulQ,
    Yes, it is more an explanation than a definition. There you have got me.
    ... and the explanation is incomplete: you have not said what happens to the future tense.

    He said "I will go to Madrid." -> "He said he would go to Madrid."
    It should be like this, if I'm not mistaken:
    There are some changes, one of them is to backshift which is the change of tenses from present to past and from future to past as well. The verb shifts back in time.

    TL
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    There is no need to talk about the "future tense" in connection with backshifting. English has no future tense.
    Will (modal present) changes to would (past tense).
     

    Tenacious Learner

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    There is no need to talk about the "future tense" in connection with backshifting. English has no future tense.
    Will (modal present) changes to would (past tense).
    Hi e2efour,
    Thinking that it won't do any harm to say "... which is the change of tenses from present to past and from future to past as well"; you are very right, there is no future tense in English as there is in many European languages. But there are different ways to express the future. One of them is the “will” form.

    TL
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I am one of those people who do not agree that 'English has no future tense', see Wikipedia (I quote):;)


    English grammar provides a number of ways to indicate the future nature of an occurrence. Some argue that English does not have a future tense—that is, a grammatical form that always indicates futurity—nor does it have a mandatory form for the expression of futurity. However, there are several generally accepted ways to indicate futurity in English, and some of them—particularly those that use will or shall—are frequently described as future tense.
     

    Tenacious Learner

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    I am one of those people who do not agree that 'English has no future tense', see Wikipedia (I quote):;)
    Hi lc,
    I'm not an expert at all. That said, you need almost always an auxiliary to have the future, so as future you do need an auxiliary to indicate the tense, don't you?
    Principal verbs indicates actions, except the non-action verbs.
    One of the future tenses in English is formed by adding "will" to the verb; right? If you don't have the auxiliary, to me, there's no tense, is there? Like "do/did" etc.

    TL
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I agree with what Wikipedia states: 'However, there are several generally accepted ways to indicate futurity in English, and some of them—particularly those that use will or shall—are frequently described as future tense'.

    That said I agree that the future in English can be expressed in various ways: future modes (simple future, intentional future, etc. etc.)
     
    Last edited:

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    Oxford Dictionaries (who spell it as all one word) define backshift as: [Grammar] The changing of a present tense in direct speech to a past tense in reported speech (or a past tense to pluperfect).

    They appear to be fudging the issue of backshifting will to would, although it's a generally recognized change mentioned in most decent grammar textbooks.

    I am one of those people who do not agree that 'English has no future tense', see Wikipedia (I quote):;)
    So am I. :)

    I was always taught that the future tense in English is formed by the auxiliary "shall/will" plus the main verb in a broadly similar way to using "have" plus the past participle to form the perfect tense - and that the future tense in English is thus a compound tense whereas in languages such as French and Italian it's a simple tense.

    Simples! :D
     
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