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Is following sentence in past tense? And if it is, then why we don't use helped?

She said she would help me when she finished her work.

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She said she would help me when she finished her work.

Compare:

I will help you when I finish my work.

That is what she really said.It is called "direct speech". The sentence you are interested in is called "reported" or "indirect speech". When we have a reported verb in past simple (said),we usually do some changes while reporting. Thus, will help should become would help, finish becomes finished and the pronouns are changed respectively.

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You can use "helped", but the meaning of the sentence is different with "helped" and "would help".

She said she would help me when she finished her work.

At some times in the past, she actually said something like "I will help you when I finish my work". She was promising to help you at some time after she said those words. Maybe she forgot the promise and didn't help you, or maybe she has not finished her own work yet and she will help you at some time in the future.

She said she helped me when she finished her work.

This sentence refers to events that are all in the past. The words she actually said were something like "I helped you after I finished my work," or she said to a third person "I helped Vardan after I finished my work". She says that she did help you at some time in the past, after she had finished her work, but presumably, you disagree and think that she did not help you.

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The sentence itself is past tense, as it starts with the phrase 'she said'. However, it is refering to something that hasn't happened yet. Obviously she hasn't finished her work yet, so she can't help. You have to backshift the whole sentence, because it starts with 'she said' (past!). Originally she said: “I will help you when I finish my work.“ Now a different person says that she said that. 'Will' becomes therefore 'would' and 'finish' becomes 'finished'.

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