Using The Correct Tense In Indirect Speech

When the reporting verb is in the past tense, the verbs used in the direct speech are usually moved one tense back. That means the simple present tense in the direct speech will become simple past tense in the indirect speech. In the same way, the present perfect tense will become past perfect tense. Other tenses, too, undergo similar changes.

This happens because when we report events there is usually a change of place and time.

Study the examples given below.

Note the use of would in the reported speech. Should is not possible in this case because it shows obligation.

The same idea can also be expressed using a to-infinitive.

Note that the modals would, should, could and might do not have past forms.

Note that to report questions we use if or whether.

However, the modals can, will, shall and may have past tense forms. In indirect speech, can changes to could; will/shall changes to would and may changes to might.

Ongoing situations

Sometimes a present tense in the direct speech does not change to past tense in the indirect speech. This usually happens when the present tense refers to an ongoing situation.

Study the example given below.

Here the fact that the paths are not marked is still true, so we can retain the present tense in this case. Note that a past tense is also possible here. It is essentially a matter of choice.

Past perfect remains past perfect

The past perfect tense in the direct speech remains past perfect tense in the indirect speech.

When we use present or future reporting verbs, the situation we are talking about has not changed and hence there is no change of tense.


Sections in this article

Synthesis of sentences - I
Synthesis of sentences - II
Synthesis of sentences - III
Synthesis of sentences - IV

See also

Adverb clauses
Adjective clauses
Noun clauses
Transformation of sentences

See also

Common mistakes in the use of nouns
Common mistakes in the use of nouns | Exercise 1
Common mistakes in the use of nouns | Exercise 2
Common mistakes in the use of nouns | Exercise 3

More CBSE English Grammar worksheets

Passive voice worksheet | Simple past tense
Passive voice worksheet | Past continuous tense
Passive voice worksheet | Simple future tense
Passive voice worksheet | Future perfect tense


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