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GENERAL POINTS OF GRAMMAR AND USAGE 1




 

 

Direct and indirect speech

There are two major ways of giving someones words which are said or only thought.

First, we can repeat the exact words of the speaker. These words are usually introduced by verbs like say, ask, think, which can come at the beginning, in the middle or at the end of the sentence. In writing the words are put between quotation marks.

John said, Ive never seen this man.

Ive never seen this man, John said/said John/he said.

Ive never seen this man, John said, and I dont want to meet him at all.

This way of relating what a person says is called direct speech.

The other way of presenting ones utterance is to use your own words to report what someone says. It means that you convey only the idea expressed by the speaker without necessarily resorting to exactly the same words. The words rendering the speakers idea are not given in quotes.

John said (that) he had never seen the man.

This way of relating what a person says is referred to as indirect (or reported) speech.

 

Indirect statements

A statement may be reported in one of the following two ways.

First, a statement can be turned in indirect speech into an object clause, in which case the reporting verb is made part of the main clause. The object clause may be a that-clause, a wh-clause or an if-clause. The that-clause is used to give a close reporting of what the speaker says. In this case exactly the same words may be employed.

John said, Ill go there by train.

John said (that) he would go there by train.

The conjunction that is often omitted, especially in informal use. Most readily this word is left out after the more common reporting verbs such as say, tell, think, suppose, suggest, answer, agree, admit, inform, learn. After the less common and more formal verbs that is retained.

He protested that he had never seen the man.

He telegraphed them that the goods had been sent off.

The wh-clause and the if-clause are used when the reporter does not know the speakers exact words or does not want to report precisely what is said.

John explained why he hadnt phoned the day before.

John told Peter how he was going to deal with the situation.

Second, a statement can be expressed in indirect speech by a main clause, in which case the reporting verb is placed in a comment clause. The comment clause may occur either in the middle or at the end of the sentence.

While Peter was doing his homework, she said, John was reading a book.

The house was going to be pulled down, he said.

 

The use of tenses

The tense of a verb in indirect speech is coordinated with that of the reporting verb according to the rule for the sequence of tenses. That is why in some cases there is no tense change from direct speech, whereas in others such a change takes place.

No change of the tense of a verb in indirect speech occurs in the following cases.

1. The reporting verb is in the present, the present perfect or the future tense.

Can I watch television? → Peter asks/has just asked/ will ask if he can watch television.

I did it yesterday. → He says/has just said/will say (that) he did it yesterday.

I want to have a drink. → He says/has just said/will say (that) he wants to have a drink.

2. The verb in direct speech is in the past perfect, the past perfect progressive or the future-in-the-past tense.

1. Id already finished my job when suddenly the phone rang. → He says/said (that) he had already finished his job when suddenly the telephone rang.

2. Id been living there for two years when Peter arrived. → He says/said (that) he had been living there for two years when Peter arrived.

3. John told me he wouldnt come. → He says (that) John told him that he wouldnt come.

4. John told me he would be writing his essay the next day. → He says (that) John told him that he would be writing his essay the next day.

In other cases the tense of a verb in indirect speech is generally different from that of the same verb in direct speech. Here is a pattern of tense correspondences.

 

Direct speech   Indirect speech  
1. Present simple He said, I like sport. Past simple He said he liked sport.  
2. Present progressive He said, Im reading a book. Past progressive He said he was reading a book.  
3. Present perfect He said, Ive done everything. Past perfect He said he had done everything.  
4. Present perfect progressive He said, Ive been living here for ten years. Past perfect progressive He said he had been living there for ten years.  
5. Future simple He said, Ill go there tomorrow. Future simple in the past He said he would go there the next day.  
6. Future progressive He said, Ill be writing the report tomorrow. Future progressive in the past He said he would be writing the report the next day.
7. Past simple He said, I saw John yesterday. Past perfect He said he had seen John the day before.  
8. Past progressive   He said, I was playing chess yesterday evening. Past progressive/past perfect progressive He said he was playing/had been playing chess the previous evening.  

 

However, there are a number of exceptions to the regular tense shift in indirect speech.

i.The past progressive tense is expected to become the past perfect progressive in indirect speech, but normally it remains unchanged, except when it indicates a completed action. The possible reason for this is that perfect progressive tenses are associated with the idea of precedence in time, whereas progressive tenses are used to convey the notion of temporal simultaneity. As a result, the change to the past perfect progressive tense in this case may misrepresent the original temporal relationship expressed in direct speech.

He said, We were playing chess when our friends came. → He said they were playing chess when their friends came.

When a completed action is referred to, the change to the past perfect progressive does occur, otherwise there would be confusion as to the relative times of the corresponding actions.

He said, I was planning to go into business but Ive made up my mind not to. → He said he had been planning to go into business but he had made up his mind not to do so.

 

ii.Usually the past simple is changed to the past perfect, but in spoken English it is often left unchanged provided this does not create confusion about the relative times of the actions. No confusion generally arises if the reported verb is a terminative one, i.e. a verb denoting a completed action (e.g. break, open, close, kick). In this case the change to the past perfect is optional.

He said, I got up at eight, had breakfast and left for work. → He said he got up/had got up at eight, had/had had breakfast and left/had left for work.

Confusion is possible if the reported verb is a durative one, i.e. a verb indicating an action of indefinite duration (e.g. love, live, grow, sleep). In this case the change to the past perfect is obligatory.

He said, John did not love her. → He said John had not loved her.

iii.The past simple and the past progressive, when used in time clauses and conditional clauses, do not normally change in indirect speech to the past perfect and the past perfect progressive respectively.

He said, When Peter dropped in I was reading a book. → He said that when Peter dropped in he was reading a book.

He said, While John was watching television I was reading a book. → He said that while John was watching television he was reading a book.

If the verb in the main clause is in the past simple, then it either remains unchanged or becomes the past perfect.

He said, When I was living in London I often called at that museum. → He said that when he was living in London he had often called/he often called at that museum.

iv.When the present simple is used to describe a state of affairs which applies to the time of reporting as well as to the time of speaking, it may remain unchanged. It is generally left unchanged if a truth of science is talked about.

The earth revolves around the sun. → Galileo proved that the earth revolves around the sun.

If a statement relating to everyday life is still relevant (e.g., when it is made and reported on the same day), the tense shift is optional.

Peter: Im wrong.

John: What did you say?

Peter: I said I am/was wrong.

Usually the decision whether or not to change the tense in indirect speech from present to past depends on the reporters assessment of the available information. The tense shift tends to occur if the speaker is not sure about the truth of the reported statement.

He said, Jacks arriving on Tuesday. → He told me that Jack was arriving on Tuesday. (The implication is that it may be true as well as may not.)

In contrast, there is no tense change if the speaker is quite certain that he is reporting a fact but not a mere supposition.

He said, Jacks arriving on Tuesday. → He told me that Jack is arriving on Tuesday. (The implication is that I believe him.)

v.The tense of a verb in a sentence or clause indicating an unreal (i.e. improbable or imaginary) situation is never changed in indirect speech.

John said, I wish I had more money. → John said he wished he had more money. | John wished he had more money.

John said, I wish Id never come here. → John said he wished he had never come there. | John wished he had never come there.

John said, I wish Peter would mind his manners. → John said he wished Peter would mind his manners. | John wished Peter would mind his manners.

John said, Its time we started off. → John said it was time they started off.

John said, If I had a helicopter Id never be late for work. → John said that if he had a helicopter he would never be late for work.

John said, If I were you Id have congratulated her. → John said that if he were in his place he would have congratulated her.

vi.Normally the past simple remains unchanged in indirect speech if the exact time of the action is specified in the context.

John said, She arrived in the city in 1985. → John said she (had) arrived in the city in 1985.

vii.If the direct speech consists of a number of sentences all of which refer to actions prior to the moment of speaking, only the verb/verbs in the first sentence is/are put into the past perfect tense in indirect speech, whereas the verbs in the subsequent sentences usually remain unchanged. This takes place on condition that there is only one reporting verb in the whole of the indirect speech and it introduces the first sentence.

John said, I met Peter in the hotel. We had lunch together and talked about our university days. We arranged to meet the next day but he never turned up. → John said that he had met Peter in the hotel. They had lunch together and talked about their university days. Then they arranged to meet the next day but Peter never turned up.

If other reporting verbs are used in the same indirect speech the rule for the sequence of tenses is to be applied to each of such sentences.

John said that he had met Peter in the hotel. They had lunch together and talked about their university days. Then John added that they had arranged to meet the next day but Peter had never turned up.

 

The overall pattern of tense correspondences between direct and indirect speech is as follows.

 

Tense of reporting verb Tense of verb in direct speech Tense of verb in indirect speech
Present simple Present perfect Future simple     All present tenses All future tenses All past tenses     No change No change No change  
  Past simple   9. Present simple 10. Present progressive 11. Present perfect 12. Present perfect progressive 13. Future simple   14. Future progressive   15. Past simple   16. Past progressive     17. Past perfect 18. Past perfect progressive 19. Future simple in the past 20. Future progressive in the past   21. Past simple 22. Past progressive 23. Past perfect 24. Past perfect progressive 25. Future simple in the past 26. Future progressive in the past 27. Past perfect / Past simple 28. Past progressive/ Past perfect progressive 29. Past perfect 30. Past perfect progressive 31. Future simple in the past 32. Future progressive in the past

 

The use of modal verbs and expressions

 

There are two major cases to distinguish between.

First, if the reporting verb is in the present simple, the present perfect or the future simple tense, modal verbs always remain unchanged.

Second, if the reporting verb is in the past simple tense, modal verbs follow one of two patterns.

 

(1) Some of them change their form. Here belong the following words.

 

Can (present ability)   John said, I can do it efficiently. Could/was capable of/was able to John said he could do it efficiently.
Can (future ability) John said, We can talk about it later. Could/would be able to John said they could talk/would be able to talk about it later.
Can (permission)   John said, Can I smoke here? Could/was allowed to/was permitted to John asked if he could smoke there.
Can (possibility) John said, It can be cold there in winter. John said, Peter cant have gone there alone! Could John said it could be cold there in winter. John said Peter couldnt have gone there alone.
May (permission) John said, You may borrow my car. Might John said he might borrow his car.
May (possibility) John said, You may be right. Might John said she might be right.
Will (intention) John said, Ill drive you home. Would John said he would drive him home.
Will (insistence) John said, Peter will keep on doing it. Would John said Peter would keep on doing it.
Shall (request for instructions or advice) John said, What shall we do next? Should   John asked what they should do next.
Is to John said, Peter, you are to meet Mr Brown at the airport. Was to John said that Peter was to meet Mr Brown at the airport.
Has (got) to John said, Weve got to start the engine. John said, Ive got to see my doctor tomorrow. Had to/would have to John said they had to start the engine. John said he had/would have to see his doctor the following day.

 

Note that there may be a difference of meaning between could/ was capable of on the one hand and was able to on the other. The former denote potential ability, i.e. ability which can be displayed any time.

John said, She can sing beautifully. → John said she could sing/was capable of singing beautifully.

The latter is generally used to indicate realised ability, i.e. ability which is actually displayed on a particular occasion.

John said, I can beat him at tennis whenever I want to. → John said he was able to beat him at tennis whenever he wanted to.

However, sometimes was able to can also be used to convey the same meaning as could/was capable of.

John said she could sing/was able to sing beautifully.

 

(2) Other modal verbs do not change their form, but in a number of cases they can be replaced by alternative modal verbs or expressions.

 

Might (possibility) John said, She might be very old. John said, Peter mightve missed the train. Might John said/supposed that she might be very old. John said/supposed that Peter might have missed the train.
Used to (past habit) John said, Peter used to play tennis pretty well. Used to John said Peter used to play tennis pretty well.
Would (probability) John said, That would be the postman at the door, I expect. John said, You would have heard the news yesterday. Would John said/supposed that it would the postman at the door. John said/supposed that they would have heard the news the previous day.
Should John said, You should do it regularly. John said, You shouldve done it yesterday. Should John said she should do it regularly. John said she should have done it the day before.
Ought to John said, Peter, you ought to know how to handle a situation like this. John said, Harry ought to have gone there at once. Ought to John told Peter that he ought to know how to handle a situation like that. John said that Harry ought to have gone there at once.
Was to John said, We were to attack them in the morning. Was to John said they were to attack them in the morning.
Had to John said, I had to do it promptly. Had to John said he had to do it promptly.
Neednt   John said, You neednt be in a hurry. John said, You neednt come to the office tomorrow. Neednt/didnt have to/didnt need to/wouldnt have to John said she neednt be/didnt have to be in a hurry. John said they neednt come/ wouldnt have to come to the office the next day.
Could (past ability) John said, I could swim when I was four years old. Could/had been able to John said he could swim/had been able to swim when he was four years old.
Could (future ability in the past)/would be able to John said, Peter told me we could talk/would be able to talk about it later. Could/would be able to   John said Peter had told him that they could talk/would be able to talk about it later.
  Could (possibility) John said, The pub could still be open. John said, You couldve come and seen me last week. John said, Peter couldnt have done it!   Could John said/supposed that the pub could still be open. John said Peter could have come and seen him the previous week. John said Peter couldnt have done it.
Must (command) John said, You must stay indoors all the time. John said, You mustnt open the door to anyone. Must/was to John said they must stay/were to stay indoors all the time. John said they mustnt open/ were not to open the door to anyone.
Must (obligation)   John said, We must go there immediately. Must/had to/was obliged to/ would have to John said they must go/had to go/were obliged to go there immediately.
Must (intention) John said, We must go somewhere for our holidays. Must John said they must go somewhere for their holidays.
Must (deduction) John said, Peter must be happy. John said, Peter mustve done pretty well in his exams. Must John said/supposed that Peter must be happy. John said/supposed that Peter must have done pretty well in his exams.

 

Note that there may be a slight difference in meaning between would have to and had to. The former is used to indicate that the obligation depends on some future action and therefore there is a kind of uncertainty about its fulfilment. By contrast, the latter is used to refer to a situation in which there is no doubt about the possibility of fulfilling the obligation without delay.

John said, If Peter gets worse he must go/will have to go to hospital. → John said that if Peter got worse he would have to go to hospital.

John said, We must build a new house next year. → John said they would have to build a new house the following year.

John said, I must phone Peter right away. → John said he had to phone Peter right away.

 

The use of pronouns

Direct speech can be reported by the speaker himself or herself or by some other person. In the former case personal, possessive and reflexive pronouns remain unchanged in indirect speech.

I said, Ill bring my own racket. → I said I would bring my own racket.

In the latter case first and second person pronouns are replaced by third person pronouns.

John said, Ill bring my own racket. → John said he would bring his own racket.

The demonstrative pronouns this and these, when used in time expressions, become that and those in indirect speech.

John said, Im sending off the spare parts this week. → John said he was sending off the spare parts that week.

In other cases this/that and these/those undergo the following changes in indirect speech.

1. When used as adjectives, they are usually replaced by the definite article.

John said, I found this/that book (these/those books) under your bed. → John said he had found the book (the books) under his bed.

2. When used as nouns, they become it, they/them or are replaced by noun phrases.

John said, Well talk about this/that tomorrow. → John said they would talk about it/about the matter the next day.

John said, I found these/those under your bed. → John said he had found them under his bed.

3. When these pronouns are used to distinguish between objects which are close to the speaker and those which are more distant, the statement is reworded and some descriptive phrase is used to refer to the object in question.

John said, Id prefer to have this (cake). → John said he would prefer to have the cake nearer (to) him.

John said, Id prefer to have that (cake). → John said he would prefer to have the cake farther from him. | John pointed to/showed/touched the cake he would prefer to have.

 

Expressions of time and place

In past reported speech adverbs and adverbial phrases of time change as follows.

Direct speech Indirect speech
  now   then | at the time | at that time | at the moment | at that moment
  today   that day
  this evening/week/year   that evening/week/year
  yesterday   the day before | (on) the day before that | (on) the previous day | (on) the preceding day (formal)
  (on) the day before yesterday   two days before/earlier
  last night/week/year   the night/week/year before | the previous night/week/year| (on) the night before that | (on) the preceding night (formal) | the preceding week/year (formal)
  last Sunday   on the Sunday before
  a month/two months ago   a month/two months before (that) | a month/two months earlier| a month/two months previously
Direct speech Indirect speech
  recently | lately | of late   a short/little time before | a short/little while before
  tomorrow   (on) (the) next day | (on) the following day | (on) the day after
  next morning/evening/week   (the) next morning/evening/ week | (on) the following morning/evening/week | the morning/evening/week after
  next weekend   (the) next weekend | (during) the following weekend

 

John said, I saw Peter yesterday. → John said he had seen Peter the day before.

John said, Ill join them tomorrow. → John said he would join them the next day.

 

There are, however, adverbs and adverbial phrases of time that remain unchanged in past indirect speech. Some of them are listed below.

 

already later afterwards
in 1980 | in May in the morning/ evening/daytime at Christmas | on New Years Eve
before/after the war until midnight/10 oclock between 10 and 11 oclock
all (the) day/night/ week during the day | during the holidays (for) three days/ weeks/months
at the weekend (BrE) | over the weekend (esp. AmE) | on the weekend (AmE) throughout the summer from April to/till August |from April through August (AmE)

 

The place adverb here becomes there in indirect speech on condition that there is no doubt about what place is meant. The place adverb there does not change in indirect speech.

At the university John said, Ill meet you here tomorrow. → At the university John said he would meet him there the next day.

John said, Well meet there. → John said they would meet there.

However, very often both the adverbs are replaced by noun phrases.

John said, Come here and tell me everything. → John told his son to come into his study and tell him everything.

John said, The hammer must be somewhere over there. → John said the hammer must be somewhere in the corner of the room.

 

Indirect questions

There are two major types of questions: general questions (Does John go to school?) and special questions (What did John do yesterday?).

General questions have no question words, are characterised by inversion and invite yes or no as an answer. When they are turned into indirect speech, the interrogative form of a verb is changed to the affirmative form, i.e. inversion is replaced by normal word order, and the conjunction if/whether/whether or not is used to introduce a subordinate clause.

John said/asked, Did you go to the concert last week? → John asked Peter if/whether the latter had gone to the concert the previous week.

John said/asked, Do you want to apply for the job or not? → John asked him if/whether he wanted to apply for the job or not. | John asked him whether or not he wanted to apply for the job.

If is more usual than whether. Whether or not is more emphatic than if or whether; it implies that an answer is being demanded.

In the majority of cases if and whether are interchangeable. There are, however, several types of context in which only whether is obligatory or advisable.







: 2015-09-04; : 325.


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