reported speech back shifting

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ortonn

Banned
India - English
In indirect speech if the reported words are still true at the time of reporting then we do not have to back shift the tenses. This is what every grammar books says.
For example -
John said that Canberra is the capital of Australia. (At the time of reporting it is still true that Canberra is the capital of Australia.)
John said that water boils at 100 degrees. (At the time of reporting it is still true that water boils at 100 degrees.)
John said that he is hungry.(At the time of reporting it is still true that John is hungry.)
John said that he lives in London.(At the time of reporting it is still true that John lives in London.)

In all these above examples tenses are not changed because at the time of reporting, reported words are still true.

Now lets take the case of present perfect tense -
1a) John said that he has finished his work. (Direct speech - John : "I have finished my work")
1b) John said that he has written a letter. (Direct speech - John : "I have written a letter.")

If the reported words are still true at the time of reporting then we do not have to back shift the tenses. So by this logic one can argue that present perfect tenses will never have to back shift because it is and will always be true that John has written a letter and John has finished his work.
A past is always true even a century later.

Please advise me on it.
Thank you.
 
  • ebrahim

    Senior Member
    Persian
    Hi
    What do you mean they are still true when they 'have finished' or 'have written'? They finished. So the reported words would be:
    John said that he had finished his work.
    John said that he had written a letter.
     

    Giordano Bruno

    Senior Member
    English, England
    Your logic is faultless, but we would normally back shift for the last two and back shifting would commonly occur for the other examples although it is not necessary.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    If the reported words are still true at the time of reporting then we do not have to back shift the tenses. So by this logic one can argue that present perfect tenses will never have to back shift because it is and will always be true that John has written a letter and John has finished his work.
    A past is always true even a century later.
    There is a flaw in your logic. Poor John will never work again because his work is always finished.
    The present perfect was used because at the time the words were spoken, they had some effect on the present then. After some time has passed, that effect ends and the verb becomes simple past. The change would affect reported speech as well.
     

    ortonn

    Banned
    India - English
    In indirect speech present perfect tense is back shifted to past perfect tense. But why I see in news articles that the present perfect tense is often not back shifted to past perfect tense ?
    For example - The President said that investigators have conducted hearings on different issues. (Direct speech - President said "The investigators have conducted hearings on different issues"
    Why often I see in news articles that present perfect tense is not back shifted to past perfect tense though in almost every book its written present perfect tense is to be converted to past perfect tense in reported speech ?
     

    ebrahim

    Senior Member
    Persian
    In indirect speech present perfect tense is back shifted to past perfect tense. But why I see in news articles that the present perfect tense is often not back shifted to past perfect tense ?
    For example - The President said that investigators have conducted hearings on different issues. (Direct speech - President said "The investigators have conducted hearings on different issues"
    Why often I see in news articles that present perfect tense is not back shifted to past perfect tense though in almost every book its written present perfect tense is to be converted to past perfect tense in reported speech ?
    It's not surprising that in news articles they don't use past tense for they want to keep the freshness and recency of their news. If they say "the president said that the investigators had conducted hearing on different issues." it would sound outdated and not hot. You probably see that in news headlines they use simple present to express a past event just for showing freshness, e.g. "Indian PM Visits Pakistan" meaning that the Indian Prime Minister has visited Pakistan.
     

    ortonn

    Banned
    India - English
    Ebrahim, Why would it sound outdated and not hot. I mean every grammar book says that in indirect speech present perfect tense is back shifted to past perfect tense ?
    Your reason contradicts the book.
     

    ebrahim

    Senior Member
    Persian
    I brought another example for you. Has any grammar book said that you can use simple present for past events? (Visits=visited) But journalistic writing has its own special style. They don't observe all rules of traditional grammar.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Indirect speech is not an entirely mechanical process. In the case of "John said...", the speaker should, if possible, express the same idea expressed by John but such a speaker will of course have a different viewpoint from John's. Most importantly, if John said "I have", the speaker saying "John said that..." does not use "I have" because he is not John.

    As far as whether "he has" or "he had" is more appropriate, it depends on what the speaker believes John meant. If, for example, the speaker believes John's intention was just to say that the work is complete, then "he has" is appropriate. But if the second speaker beleives John's intention was to point out that the completion of the work came before a certain point, "he had" is appropriate.

    If the speaker wants to point out the fact that John has finished his work, at least according to John himself, then "John said he has finished his work" makes perfect sense.

    Time adverbials can of course have an effect on our choice of tenses. For example, "John said yesterday that he had already written a letter" makes most sense with "had" because "already" in this context has to mean "by yesterday".
     

    ortonn

    Banned
    India - English
    I brought another example for you. Has any grammar book said that you can use simple present for past events? (Visits=visited) But journalistic writing has its own special style. They don't observe all rules of traditional grammar.
    So when it is right to back shift the present perfect tense and when is it right to not back shift the present perfect tense ?
     

    ortonn

    Banned
    India - English
    Hi
    What do you mean they are still true when they 'have finished' or 'have written'? They finished. So the reported words would be:
    John said that he had finished his work.
    John said that he had written a letter.
    You see,"In reported speech, if at the time of reporting the reporting words are still true then we do not back shift the tense."
    For example -
    John said that he is hungry.(At the time of reporting it is still true that John is hungry.)
    John said that he lives in London.(At the time of reporting it is still true that John lives in London.)
    Here the tenses are not changed because at the time of reporting it is still true that John is hungry and John lives in London.

    Many a times I see in news article, blogs, novels, that present perfect tenses are left unchanged.
    For example -
    a) John said that he has finished his work. (Direct speech - John : "I have finished my work")
    b) John said that he has written a letter. (Direct speech - John : "I have written a letter.")

    So in the above examples a) and b), the present perfect tenses are not changed. So is it because at the time of reporting it is till true that John has finished his work and John has written a letter ?

     

    ortonn

    Banned
    India - English
    There is a flaw in your logic. Poor John will never work again because his work is always finished.
    The present perfect was used because at the time the words were spoken, they had some effect on the present then. After some time has passed, that effect ends and the verb becomes simple past. The change would affect reported speech as well.
    1) John said that he is hungry.( The tense is not changed because at the time of reporting it is still true that John is hungry.)
    2) John said that he lives in London.(The tense is not changed because at the time of reporting it is still true that John lives in London.)

    Now take the example of present perfect tense -
    3) John said that he has finished his work. (Direct speech - John : "I have finished my work")
    4) John said that he has written a letter. (Direct speech - John : "I have written a letter.")

    Here also in examples 3 and 4, at the time of reporting, it is still true that John has finished his work and John has written a letter. Is that the reason for not back shifting the tenses in example 3 and 4 ?
    If this reason is wrong then where is the flaw in it ?




     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I talk to John.
    John says, "I have written a letter for you and Susan."
    Prior to receiving the letter, I say to Susan, "John said that he has written a letter." The fact that the letter has not arrived is an effect of the writing on the present. There is an incomplete process ongoing.
    After Susan receives the letter, she finds that it is signed by George. She tells me this.
    I say, "John said that he wrote the letter." The letter has arrived and been read. The writing of letter is no longer incomplete in anyway.
     

    ortonn

    Banned
    India - English
    But the rule of grammar says - In indirect speech present perfect tense is back shifted to past perfect tense.
    So it has to be "John said that he had written a letter."

    One query more, today I read a sentence in a news article - "The President said that investigators have conductedhearings on different issue." (Direct speech would be : President said that "Investigators have conducted hearings on different issues.")

    Here what would you say ? Why did the journalist (person who writes this article) used 'have conducted' instead of 'had conducted' ?
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    But the rule of grammar says - In indirect speech present perfect tense is back shifted to past perfect tense.
    This is not a strict rule of grammar (or it is one with so many exceptions as to be worthless).
    John said that Canberra is the capital of Australia. John said, "Canberra is the capital of Australia."
    If I ask John five years from now, John will say the same thing. I will report his speech in the same way.
    John said he has written a letter. John said, "I have written a letter."
    Five years from nonw, John will say "I wrote you a letter."
    John's perception of the event has changed. My perception of the event will have also changed so I will report his original speech differently.
     

    ortonn

    Banned
    India - English
    Suppose I tell you "I have written a letter."
    A day later, you meet your friend X and he asks "What did Ortonn tell when you asked about the letter ?"
    What would you say - Ortonn said that he has written a letter or Ortonn said that he had written a letter.

    One query more, today I read a sentence in a news article - "The President said that investigators have conductedhearings on different issue." (Direct speech would be : President said that "Investigators have conducted hearings on different issues.")

    Here what would you say ? Why did the journalist (person who writes this article) used 'have conducted' instead of 'had conducted' ?
     

    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    So when it is right to back shift the present perfect tense and when is it right to not back shift the present perfect tense ?
    It is always grammatically correct to backshift. Sometimes, as has been explained in the six (1 2 3 4 5 6) previous threads you have started on this subject, it is acceptable to not backshift. Where this possibility exists, it is the personal choice of the person reporting the speech to backshift or not. The reasons for them choosing to do so have been clearly explained for each example. You will find similar examples which are backshifted, because to do so is always correct.

    Why did the journalist (person who writes this article) used 'have conducted' instead of 'had conducted' ?
    You will have to ask them. But as I have previously explained, if the backshifting is not needed in order for the reader/listener to understand the sequence of events, it is possible to not backshift.

    But the rule of grammar says - In indirect speech present perfect tense is back shifted to past perfect tense.
    So it has to be "John said that he had written a letter."
    As was previously explained to you, this is not a rule, or at least it is a rule which is frequently not adhered to.

    Once again, backshifting always results in a correct result, so if you can't decide whether to backshift, then backshift. We cannot give you an exhaustive list of all the circumstances where it would also be acceptable to not backshift.
     

    ortonn

    Banned
    India - English
    Yes I have talked about this subject before but this thread concerns different issue. It is about the case of present perfect tense.
    I promise this will be my last question regarding back shift. Please do not ignore. Your advises have been great.

    In indirect speech if the reported words are still true at the time of reporting then we do not have to back shift the tenses. This is what every grammar books says.
    For example -
    John said that Canberra is the capital of Australia. (At the time of reporting it is still true that Canberra is the capital of Australia.)
    John said that water boils at 100 degrees. (At the time of reporting it is still true that water boils at 100 degrees.)
    John said that he is hungry.(At the time of reporting it is still true that John is hungry.)
    John said that he lives in London.(At the time of reporting it is still true that John lives in London.)

    In all these above examples tenses are not changed because at the time of reporting, reported words are still true.

    Now lets take the case of present perfect tense -
    1a) John said that he has finished his work. (Direct speech - John : "I have finished my work")
    1b) John said that he has written a letter. (Direct speech - John : "I have written a letter.")

    Since in these two above examples 1a and 1b the present perfect tense is not changed, is it because John has not finished his work yet and John is still writing a letter or is it because of some other reason ?

    Please reply for the last time and I'll let this topic go off my head.
    Thank you.
     

    ortonn

    Banned
    India - English
    The reason I'm asking this question is often I see in news articles that present perfect tense is left unchanged in indirect speech.
    For example - The President said that investigators have conducted hearing on different issues. (Direct speech : President said, "Investigators have conducted hearings on different issues")
    My question is why in indirect speech, in the example given above, present perfect tense is not changed to past perfect tense ?

    Thank You.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    The investigators completed the investigation recently, and people are still discussing it, deciding what action to take, and so on. The investigation was completed in the past but has effect in the present.*

    In indirect speech if the reported words are still true at the time of reporting then we do not have to back shift the tenses. This is what every grammar books says.

    "We do not have to back shift"
    means that we are not required to back shift the tenses. We can choose. This choice applies to any tense that can be back shifted: present simple and present continuous, present perfect, past continuous, and the future tenses.

    People have reasons for choosing not to back shift in specific contexts, but we cannot give you a rule that will enable you to predict when they will do that. In some contexts, some native speakers will make one choice, while other native speakers will make the other.

    There is no need to look for a consistent rule, or reason to expect to find one.
    .

    *
    For a summary of uses of the present perfect, see: Englishpage.com page on the present perfect
     

    ortonn

    Banned
    India - English
    Sir,
    Lets say today Barack Obama in a public meeting says "Government officials have conducted surveys to find the GDP of our nation."

    Two days later I want to tell my friend what Obama said.
    So is it right to say - Barack Obama said that Government officials have conducted surveys to find the GDP of their nation.

    OR do I need to use "had conducted" instead ?
     

    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    You keep asking the same question, and we keep giving you the same answer. Both are correct - you can choose which one you want to use. But since it is always correct to backshift, if you have the slightest doubt you can say "had conducted", and it will definitely be correct.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Please review post #15, which addresses this question.

    If that isn't enough, the post contains links to your previous threads on the subject of back-shifting in reported speech.

    This thread is becoming repetitive and so is closed.

    Cagey.
     
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