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Sequence of tenses (known in Latin as consecutio temporum, and also known

as agreement of tenses, succession of tenses and tense harmony) is a set


ofgrammatical rules of a particular language, governing the agreement between the tenses of
verbs in related clauses or sentences.
A typical context in which rules of sequence of tenses apply is that of indirect speech. If, at
some past time, someone spoke a sentence in a particular tense (say the present tense), and
that act of speaking is now being reported, the tense used in the clause that corresponds to the
words spoken may or may not be the same as the tense that was used by the original speaker.
In some languages the tense tends to be "shifted back", so that what was originally spoken in
the present tense is reported using the past tense (since what was in the present at the time of
the original sentence is in the past relative to the time of reporting). English is one of the
languages in which this often occurs. For example, if someone said "I need a drink", this may
be reported in the form "She said she needed a drink", with the tense of the verb need changed
from present to past.
The "shifting back" of tense as described in the previous paragraph may be
called backshifting or an attracted sequence of tenses. In languages and contexts where
such a shift does not occur, there may be said by contrast to be a natural sequence.

In English, an attracted sequence of tenses (backshifting) is often used in indirect speech and
similar contexts. The attracted sequence can be summarized as follows: If the main verb of a
sentence is in the past tense, then other verbs must also express a past viewpoint, except when
a general truth is being expressed.[1]
For example, if Batman spoke the following words:
I need a special key for the Batmobile.
the speech act may be reported using the following words:
Batman said that he needed a special key for the Batmobile.
with the present tense need replaced by the past tense needed, since the main verb of saying
(said) is in the past tense. Further examples can be found at Uses of English verb forms
§ Indirect speech.
In some cases, though, a natural sequence of tenses is more appropriate. Here the tense of a
verb in a subordinate clause is not determined by the tense of the verb in the superordinate
clause, but is determined simply according to the sense of the clause taken apart from the rest
of the sentence.[2] The rule for writers following the natural sequence of tenses can be
expressed as follows: imagine yourself at the point in time denoted by the main verb, and use
the tense for the subordinate verb that you would have used at that time.[3] Thus the tense used
in the indirect speech remains the same as it was in the words as originally spoken. This is
normal when the main verb is in the present or future tense(as opposed to past tense
or conditional mood). For example:
Batman says that he needs a special key for the Batmobile. (main verb in present tense)
Batman has said that he needs a special key for the Batmobile. (main verb in present perfect,
not past tense, so no backshifting)
However it is also possible to use the natural sequence even if the main verb is past or
conditional:
Batman said that he needs a special key for the Batmobile.
This option is more likely to be used when the circumstance being expressed remains equally
true now as it did when the speech act took place, and especially if the person reporting the
words agrees that they are true or valid.
Debate amongst grammarians over the appropriateness of the two types of sequence of tenses
goes back as far as the 18th century.[2] Use of the attracted sequence sometimes leads to
additional problems when the grammatical construction of indirect speech includes an
incorporated quotation – that is, when an attempt is made (though using indirect rather
than direct speech) to report the words actually spoken. For example, if a minister spoke the
words "Such a policy is not without its drawbacks", then a writer may attempt to report this as
follows:[1]
The minister admitted that "such a policy is not without its drawbacks".
using quotation marks to denote that that portion of the sentence represents the minister's
actual words. This, however, requires use of the natural sequence of tenses, which might not be
felt appropriate in the given situation. There are various possible solutions to this problem:[1]

Indirect speech
Indirect speech is a means of expressing the content of statements, questions or
other utterances, without quoting them explicitly as is done in direct speech. For example, He
said "I'm coming" is direct speech, whereas He said (that) he was coming is indirect speech.
Indirect speech should not be confused with indirect speech acts.
In grammar, indirect speech often makes use of certain syntactic structures such as content
clauses ("that" clauses, such as (that) he was coming), and sometimes infinitive phrases.
References to questions in indirect speech frequently take the form of interrogative content
clauses, also called indirect questions (such as whether he was coming).
In indirect speech certain grammatical categories are changed relative to the words of the
original sentence.[1] For example, person may change as a result of a change of speaker or
listener (as I changes to he in the example above). In some languages, including English,
the tense of verbs is often changed – this is often called sequence of tenses. Some languages
have a change of mood: Latin switches from indicative to the infinitive (for statements) or
the subjunctive (for questions).[2]
When written, indirect speech is not normally enclosed in quotation marks or any similar
typographical devices for indicating that a direct quotation is being made. However such devices
are sometimes used to indicate that the indirect speech is a faithful quotation of someone's
words (with additional devices such as square brackets and ellipses to indicate deviations or
omissions from those words), as in He informed us that "after dinner [he] would like to make an
announcement".

Dependent clauses[edit]
Apart from the special cases referred to in the sections above, many other dependent
clauses use a tense that might not logically be expected – in particular the present tense is used
when the reference is to future time, and the past tense is used when the reference is to a
hypothetical situation (in other words, the form with will is replaced by the present tense, and the
form with would by the past tense). This occurs in condition clauses (as mentioned above), in
clauses of time and place, and in many relative clauses:
If he finds your sweets, he will eat them.
We will report as soon as we receive any information.
The bomb will explode where it lands.
Go up to the first person that you see.
In the above examples, the simple present is used instead of the simple future, even though the
reference is to future time. Examples of similar uses with other tense–aspect combinations are
given below:
We will wash up while you are tidying. (present progressive instead of future
progressive)
Please log off when you have finished working. (present perfect instead of future
perfect)
If we were that hungry, we would go into the first restaurant that we saw. (simple
past instead of simple conditional)
We would be searching the building while you were searching the grounds. (past
progressive instead of conditional progressive)
In that case the dogs would find the scent that you had left. (past perfect instead
of conditional perfect)
This does not apply to all dependent clauses, however; if the future time or hypothetical
reference is expressed in the dependent clause independently of the main clause, then a form
with will or would in a dependent clause is possible:
This is the man who will guide you through the mountains.
We entered a building where cowards would fear to tread.
Definition of Indirect Speech
Indirect speech is also known as Reported Speech, Indirect Narration or Indirect Discourse. In
grammar, when you report someone else’s statement in your own words without any change in the
meaning of the statement is called indirect speech. Quoting a person’s words without using his own
word and bringing about any change in the meaning of the statement is a reported speech. Look at
the following sentences:

Direct Speech: She says, “I am a little bit nervous.”

Indirect Speech: She says that she is a little bit nervous.

In the first sentence, the reporter conveys the message of the girl using her actual words i.e., “I am a
little bit nervous.” In the second sentence, the reporter conveys her message but in his own words
without any change in the meaning. Thus, both direct and indirect speeches are two different ways
of reporting a statement of person. In simple words, quoting a person using your own words is called
an indirect speech.

Basic Rules
Before proceeding ahead, it is mandatory to memorize these rules:

Changes in Person of Pronouns:

 1st Person Pronouns in Reported Speech are always changed according to the SUBJECT of
the Reporting Speech.

 2nd Person Pronouns in Reported Speech are always changed according to the OBJECT of the
Reporting Speech.

 3rd Person Pronouns in Reported Speech are not changed.

Changes in Verbs:

 In case, the Reporting Speech is in PRESENT TENSE or FUTURE TENSE, then no change is
required to be made in the VERB of Reported Speech. This verb could be in any tense i.e.,
Present, Past or Future. For example:

Direct Speech: He says, “I am ill.”

Indirect Speech: He says that he is ill.

Direct Speech: She says, “She sang a song.”

Indirect Speech: She says that she sang a song.

Direct Speech: You say, “I shall visit London.”

Indirect Speech: You say that you will visit London.


 If Reporting Verb is in Past Tense, then Reported Verb will be changed as per following
criterion:

 Present Indefinite Tense is changed into Past Indefinite Tense. For example:

Direct Speech: They said, “They take exercise every day.”

Indirect Speech: They said that they took exercise every day.

 Present Continuous is changed into Past Continuous Tense.

Direct Speech: They said, “They are taking exercise every day.”

Indirect Speech: They said that they were taking exercise every day.

 Present Perfect is changed into Past Perfect Tense.

Direct Speech: They said, “They have taken exercise.”

Indirect Speech: They said that they had taken exercise.

 Present Perfect Continuous Tense is changed into Past Perfect Continuous Tense.

Direct Speech: They said, “They have been taking exercise since morning.”

Indirect Speech: They said that they had been taking exercise since morning.

 Past Indefinite is changed into Past Perfect Tense.

Direct Speech: They said, “They took exercise.”

Indirect Speech: They said that they had taken exercise.

 Past Continuous Tense is changed into Past Perfect Continuous Tense.

Direct Speech: They said, “They were taking exercise.”

Indirect Speech: They said that they had been taking exercise.

No changes are required to be made into Past Perfect and Past Perfect Continuous Tenses.

Direct Speech: They said, “They had taken exercise.”

Indirect Speech: They said that they had taken exercise.

 In Future Tense, while no changes are made except SHALL and WILL are changed
into WOULD.

Direct Speech: They said, “They will take exercise.”

Indirect Speech: They said that they would take exercise.


Changes in Tense | Source

Important Words Changes


Words Changed Into Direct Speech Indirect Speech

He says, “He He says that he


This That wants to buy this wants to buy that
book.” book.

He says, “He He says that he


These Those wants to buy wants to buy
these books.” those books.

She says, She says that


Here There “Everybody was everybody was
here.” there.

They say, “It’s ten They say that it’s


Now Then
o’clock now.” ten o’clock then.

They said
They said, “Sir, respectfully that
Sir Respectfully
the time is over.” the time was
over.

Madam Respecfully They said, They said


"Madam, the time respectfully that
Words Changed Into Direct Speech Indirect Speech

is over." the time was


over.

She said, “I am She said that she


Today That Day going to London was going to
today.” London that day.

She said, “I She said that she


visited Oxford had visited
Yesterday The Previous Day
University Oxford University
yesterday.” the previous day.

She said that she


She said, “I am
Following Day or was going to
Tomorrow going to London
Next Day London the next
tomorrow.”
day.

She said, “I am She said that she


Tonigh That Night going to see him was going to see
tonight.” him that night.

Good Morning, She said, “Good


She greeted Sir
Good Evening, Greeted morning, Sir
David.
Good Day David.”

The above-mentioned rules are mandatory for converting a Direct Speech into an Indirect Speech.
Hence, they should be memorized thoroughly. The following examples cover all the afore-mentioned
rules. So, focus on every sentence to know how the above-mentioned rules have been used here.
Examples of Indirect Speech
Direct Speech Indirect Speech

She says that she eats an apple a


She says, “I eat an apple a day.”
day.

He will say that his brother will help


He will say, “My brother will help her.”
her.

We said, “We go for a walk every We said that went for a walk every
day.” day.

You say, “I went to London You say that you went to London the
yesterday.” previous day.

He said, “My father is playing cricket He said that his father was playing
with me.” cricket with him.

They said, “We have completed our They said that they had completed
homework.” their homework.

She said, “I have been waiting for him She said that she had been waiting
since last morning.” for him since last morning.

She said, “I bought a book.” She said that she had bought a book.

They said, “We were celebrating Eid They said that they had been
yesterday.” celebrating Eid the previous day.

We said, “We had been waiting since We said that we had been waiting
morning.” since morning.

He said to me, “I will not give you any He said to me that he would not give
medicine without prescription.” me any medicine without prescription.

Rafiq said, “I shall leave for London Rafiq said that he would leave for
tomorrow.” London the next day.
Direct Speech Indirect Speech

She said, “I shall be visiting my She said that she would be visiting
college tomorrow.” her college the following day.

They said, “It will have been snowing They said that it would have been
since morning.” snowing since morning.

Assertive Sentences
Those sentences, which make a statement, are called assertive sentences. These sentences may
be positive, negative, false or true statements. To convert such like sentences into indirect narration,
use the rules as mentioned above except SAID is sometimes replaced with TOLD. Look at the
following examples:

Direct Speech: She says, “I am writing a letter to my brother.”

Indirect Speech: She says that she is writing a letter to her brother.

Direct Speech: She says, “I was not writing a letter to my brother.”

Indirect Speech: She says that she was not writing a letter to her brother.

Direct Speech: She said to me, “I am writing a letter to my brother.”

Indirect Speech: She told me that she was writing a letter to her brother.

Imperative Sentences
Imperative sentences are those sentences, which give an order or a direct command. These
sentences may be in the shape of advice, entreaty, request, or order. Mostly, it depends upon the
forcefulness of the speaker. Thus, full stop or sign of exclamation is used at the end of the sentence.
For example:

 Shut the door!

 Please shut the door.

 Repair the door by tomorrow!

To convert such like sentences into indirect speech, follow the following rules along with the above-
mentioned rules:
 Reporting Verb is changed according to Reported Speech into ORDER in case the sentence
gives a direct command. For example:

Direct Speech: The teacher said to me, “Shut the door.”

Indirect Speech: The teacher ordered me to shut the door.

 Reporting Verb is changed according to Reported Speech into REQUEST in case the sentence
makes a request. For example:

Direct Speech: He said to me, “Shut the door.”

Indirect Speech: He requested me to shut the door.

 Reporting Verb is changed according to Reported Speech into ADVISE in case the sentence
gives an advice. For example:

Direct Speech: He said to me, “You should work hard to pass the exam.”

Indirect Speech: He advised me that I should work hard to pass the exam.

 Reporting Verb is changed according to Reported Speech into FORBADE in case the sentence
prevents someone from doing something. For example:

Direct Speech: He said to me, “Not to smoke.”

Indirect Speech: He forbade me to smoke.

Examples
Direct Speech Indirect Speech

We said to him, “Mind your own We urged him to mind his own
business.” business.

She suggested him to consult a


She said to him, “Consult a doctor.”
doctor.

He said to me, “Write it again.” He asked me to write it again.

You said to your father, “Please grant You requested your father to grant
him leave for some time.” him leave for some time.

My mother said to me, “Never tell a


My mother forbade me to tell a lie.
lie.”
Interrogative Sentences
Those sentences, which ask questions, are called interrogative sentences. Every interrogative
sentence ends at a sign of interrogation. For example:

 Do you live here?

 Have you ever watched Terminator III movie?

 Is it raining?

To convert interrogative sentences into Indirect Speech, follow the following rules along with the
above-mentioned rules:

 Reporting Verb SAID To is changed into ASKED.

 If Reporting Speech is having Reporting Verb at it its start, then IF is used in place of THAT.

 If the Reporting Speech is having interrogative words like who, when, how, why, when then
neither IF is used nor any other word is added.

 Full Stop is placed at the end of the sentence instead of mark of interrogation.

Examples:
Direct Speech Indirect Speech

I said to her, “When do you do your I asked her when she did her
homework?” homework.

We said to him, “Are you ill?” We asked him if he was ill.

You said to me, “Have you read the You asked me if I had read the
article?” article.

He said to her, “Will you go to the He asked her if she would go to the
Peshawar Radio Station?” Peshawar Radio Station.

She says, “Who is he?” She says who he was.

Rashid says to me, “Why have you


Rashid says to me why I had got late.
got late?”
Exclamatory Sentences
Those sentences, which express our feelings and emotions, are called exclamatory sentences. Mark
of exclamation is used at the end of exclamatory sentence. For example:

 Hurray! We have won the match.

 Alas! He failed in the test.

 How beautiful that dog is!

 What a marvelous personality you are!

To change exclamatory sentences into Indirect Speech, follow the following rules along with the
above-mentioned rules:

 In case, there is an interjection i.e., alas, aha, hurray, aha etc in the Reported Speech, then
they are omitted along with sign of exclamation.

 Reporting verb i.e., said is always replaced with exclaimed with joy, exclaimed with sorrow,
exclaimed joyfully, exclaimed sorrowfully or exclaimed with great wonder or sorrow.

 In case, there is what or how at the beginning of the Reported Speech, then they are replaced
with very or very great.

 In indirect sentence, the exclamatory sentence becomes an assertive sentence.

Examples
Direct Speech Indirect Speech

He said, “Hurray! I have won the He exclaimed with great joy that he
match.” had won the match.

She said, “Alas! My brother failed in She exclaimed with great sorrow that
the test.” her brother had failed in the test.

They said, “What a beautiful house They exclaimed that that that house
this is!” was very beautiful.

I said in great wonder that I was very


I said, “How lucky I am!”
lucky.

You said to him, “What a beautiful You said to him in great wonder that
drama you writing! he was writing a beautiful drama.
Optative Sentences
Those sentences, which express hope, prayer, or wish, are called optative sentences. Usually, there
is a mark of exclamation at the end of optative sentence. For example:

 May you succeed in the test!

 May you get well soon!

 Would that I were rich!

To change optative sentences into indirect speech, follow the following rules along with the above-
mentioned rules:

 In case, the Reported Speech starts with the word may, then the Reporting Verb said is
replaced with the word prayed.

 In case, the Reported Speech starts with the word would, then the Reporting Verb said is
replaced with the word wished.

 May is changed in might.

 Mark of exclamation is omitted.

 In Indirect Speech, the optative sentences become assertive sentences.

Examples
Direct Speech Indirect Speech

He said to me, “May you live long!” He prayed that I might live long.

My mother said to me, “May you My mother prayed that I might


succeed in the test!” succeed in the test.

She said, “Would that I were rich!” She wished she had been rich.

I said to him, “Would that you were I wished he had been there on
here on Sunday!” Sunday.

You said to me, “ May you find your You prayed that I might find my lost
lost camera.” camera.