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On social media, you should only connect to people you know well.

How should the sentence be converted to reported speech? He said that …??

I know very well the rules of reported speech, yet this sentence has really confused me especially the verb "know". Do I have to follow the rules and make it "knew" or can I keep it as it is?? and why?

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Let's suppose Alice said "You should only connect to people you know well", and Bob has to decide how to tell other people about this later. Bob needs to choose between saying...

1: Alice said that you should only connect to people you know well.
OR
2: Alice said that you should only connect to people you knew well.

Both versions are grammatically fine, but in terms of nuanced meaning, the use of Present Tense in #1 implies greater relevance to time of speaking (I mean when Bob is speaking, not Alice). That "greater relevance" would usually be understood to mean that Bob endorses what Alice said, and therefore wants you (whoever he's talking to) to take that advice on board now (it's "current").

Conversely, the use of Past Tense in #2 places the advice more firmly in the past (or in the hypothetical irrealis of If you knew him well you would like him). That's more appropriate if Bob doesn't endorse Alice's advice, because he's introduced a greater "distance" (past => present) in the way he reports what was said.

Arguably one might also be more inclined to use Past Tense if we replace Alice by, say, Plato because the advice was obviously given a very long time ago. But to be honest, I'm not convinced that applies as a justification in and of itself.

  • While I agree with this, I think I would also use "know" when reporting very recent events even if I don't endorse the advice, e.g. "You won't believe what Alice said to me yesterday - she actually said that you should only connect with people you know well on social media." I think that I'd probably use that as long as I think nothing about the advice would have changed since Alice said it. – Paul Oct 6 '16 at 18:58
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    @Paul: Possibly. But when reporting very recent events, I think Bob would be much more likely to say "Alice says that you should only connect to people you know well" anyway. And once he's opted to report what she says rather than what she said, he pretty much has to stick with Present Tense throughout. – FumbleFingers Oct 6 '16 at 20:50

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