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Someone introduced himself to us.

After that, when we look back and say what he said, which is right to say?

What did he say his name is?

What did he say his name was?

I think the first one is plausible because his name is always XX, but I'm not sure. Please tell me which is allowed.

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    You are right. Since his name will almost certainly still be the same, backshifting is optional, so you can retain the present tense "is", or backshift it to "was" if you prefer; it's a free choice. – BillJ Aug 30 '16 at 10:20
  • @BillJ: Therein lies the problem. When I posted a bounty here, the only existing answer baldly asserted that The correct sentence should be [the backshifted one]. And so far the bounty has only attracted another answer saying the same. Perhaps you could post your comment as an answer, so I can upvote the all-important point that backshifting is (always?) optional. – FumbleFingers Mar 23 at 14:34
  • The problem with this particular question is that the Statement and the accompanying two questions negate each other. If you treat the question as reported speech then the accompanying questions are not relevant as you would have to have an unambiguous reported statement. If you try to answer the two accompanying questions then the implication of reported speech cannot be true because part of the conversation has been forgotten. – Brad Mar 26 at 6:19
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The correct sentence should be:

"What did he say his name was?"

Your doubt is pretty reasonable as his name is, was and always will be the same.

Then why is it correct to use 'was'?

Because this is an example of reported speech.

You're involving a third person in the conversation. You're telling him about a conversation you had with another individual, in other words, you're reporting to him.

The thing with reported speech is that the tenses always change.

We don't need to change the tense at all times, though probably we do need to change the 'person' from 'I' to 'she', for example. We also may need to change words like 'my' and 'your', but in general, the tense in reported speech is one tense back in time from the tense in direct speech.

Even though the subject of discussion exists or is valid in the time of reference, we use past tense in reported speech.

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Example:

He told me that he liked chocolate.

Even though 'he' still likes chocolate, the original conversation happened in the past. So this is a reported speech.

This link tells you more about why and how the tenses change in reported speech.

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    I wouldn't go along with that. Since the name will almost certainly still be the same, you have the option to backshift the tense or retain the present tense, cf. "Kim has blue eyes" (original utterance) ~ "I told Ed that Kim had / has blue eyes" (indirect report). Both past tense "had" and present tense "has" are correct. – BillJ Aug 30 '16 at 10:19
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    Interestingly enough, a very similar point came up recently in the context of switching tenses within a single sentence. One reference (which I cannot find now, annoyingly) stated that in a sentence like "The President insisted that his country is/was not biased", it should always be is, because the President was talking about the current state of his country. But in practice, you hear people use both pretty interchangeably. – stangdon Aug 30 '16 at 17:19
  • This cannot be reported speech, it is a question asked in the present, it did not happen in the past. When you cannot remember something in the present time about something that happened in the past how does this shift the present to the past? – Brad Mar 25 at 22:29
  • That's exactly what my English teacher said, and I'm still convinced she's wrong. I doubt people change their names on a regular basis, so I'd think both options work fine. – a2br Mar 27 at 17:25
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Someone introduced himself to us.

After that, when we look back and say what he said, which is right to say?

  1. What did he say his name is?
  1. What did he say his name was?

Q.

I think the first one is plausible because his name is always XX, but I'm not sure. Please tell me which is allowed.


Reported speech Yes or no? - NO,

after that, when we look back and say what he said, which is right to say?

This sentence is the crux of the Question "tense in a sub-clause" and it is incorrect and as such the meaning is very unclear when coupled with the 2 questions.

when we look back and say what he said

presuming "when we look back and say what he said" should be "when we look back and report on what he said" Then neither of the two question listed above can be correct. As in both cases the name of "he" has been forgotten. Both the questions ask if someone can remember the name. Correctly written reported speech would look like this.

I asked what his name was and he said his name was Dan (conversation that happened in the past).

Therefore if we take the above presumption to be true and we are using reported speech there are no questions only an unambiguous statement "he said his name was (x)". But here we would have to use his name because we are using reported speech not forgotten speech.


Using the two Questions

After that, when we look back and say what he said, which is right to say?

In this case we would have to correct this sentence to Later when we try to remember what he said. Which would be the correct sentence

  1. What did he say his name is?
  1. What did he say his name was?

A. The first answer is incorrect because of the context and the second answer is both unambiguous and correct because of the context and tense of the question. Why because we are asking what he stated his name was at that moment in time (The Past). Because in this specific case we are not asking what his name was/is. We are asking what he said.


Incorrect

What did he say his name is?

This is a Question! the speaker cannot remember the name of the person and it may be reasonable to presume that "his name" has not changed, however, in the context of the question, we just simply need to know what his name is not specifically what he said his name was at that time.

the symbol ? used in writing at the end of a phrase or sentence to show that it is a question. Ref CED the symbol ? A Question Mark


Therefore ignoring the misleading reported speech implication. A better question would have been.

Do you remember his name?


Correct

What did he say his name was?

This second answer is an unambiguous question. The lack of context and use of tense gives us no idea about the original conversation, was he introducing himself a few minutes prior or 20 years ago? However I cannot claim that this is not a commonly spoken phrase if used in context and with the correct tense.


Therefore, again, ignoring the misleading reported speech implication. A better question would have been.

Can you remember what he said his name was?

This a defined question with no ambiguity.

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