SEQUENCES OF TENSES AND REPORTED SPEECH
The main rule:
When the predicate of the main clause is used in one of the past tenses, the predicates of all the subordinate clauses of the same sentence are also used in one of the past tenses.
1. Mind the changes that happen to tenses if they occur after the past verb in the main clause:
Present Indefinite Past Indefinite
e.g. I think John is in love with me. e.g. I though John was in love with me.
Present Continuous Past Continuous
e.g. I think Mary is cooking. e.g. I though Mary was cooking.
Present Perfect Past Perfect
e.g. I think David has finished his essay. e.g. I though David had finished his essay.
Present Perfect Continuous Past Perfect Continuous
e.g. I think Julia has been working e.g. I though Julia had been working
in the garden since morning. in the garden since morning.
Past Indefinite Past Perfect
e.g. I think Philip knew Mary in the past. e.g. I though Philip had known Mary in the past.
Past Continuous Past Continuous/ Past Perfect Continuous
e.g. I think Laura was sleeping e.g. I though Laura was sleeping/ had been sleeping
when we came. when we came
Future Indefinite Future Indefinite in the Past
e.g. I think Eddie will pass his exam e.g. I thought Eddie would pass his exam
Future Continuous Future Continuous in the Past
e.g. I think Joanne will be sailing e.g. I thought Joanne would be sailing
this time next week. this time next week.
Future Perfect Future Perfect in the Past
e.g. I think Meg will have knitted this e.g. I thought Meg would have knitted this
sweater by Christmas. sweater by Christmas.
Future Perfect Continuous Future Perfect Continuous in the Past
e.g. I think Ted will have been mending e.g. I thought Ted would been mending
his car for 3 hours when I come. his car for 3 hours when I came.
· Past Perfect and Past Perfect Continuous remain unchanged.
· In spoken English all the abovementioned changes may not be observed.
· Sequence of Tenses is not observed when the subordinate clause contains:
a) the so-called “general truths”,
e.g. Looking at the night sky we suddenly realized that our solar system is just a tiny speck in the infinite Universe.
b) the description of a state of affairs which still exists when the speech is reported, the so-called ‘up-to-date reporting’,
e.g. Pat said, “I decided not to buy that house because it was on a main road.” Pat told that she decided not to buy that house because it was on a main road.
c) Modal verbs that have no past tenses like must, need, should, etc,
e.g. Marge phoned me and cried that I must come at once.
d) newspaper, radio and TV reports,
e.g. Before the plane crashed, the pilot told that he can see the lights of the take off.
e) conjunction “since”,
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