Direct speech:

In 1917 she said: "The other half of the sum will be granted when he finishes (has finished) to instruct the three students he had committed (himself) to train."

Reported speech:

According to that 100 years old document the other half of the sum was to be granted (would be granted) when he had finished to instruct the three students he had committed (himself) to train.

What would be the right form for both cases?

I am not sure whether "himself" has to be added or not and also whether "when he had finished" can end in a future in the past like "would be granted" or "was to be granted". There are also other things like whether "finishes" and "has finished" can be both transformed in reported speech in "had finished" or "finishes" turns in "finished" and "has finished" in "had finished"?

  • Is this from a test? Where is the direct speech version coming from?
    – Catija
    Jan 12, 2017 at 23:59
  • The direct speech is coming from me. It can be wrong. Jan 13, 2017 at 0:00
  • The first sentence is not a quote. That's the easiest way to know if something is direct speech or not... She said, "I'm happy to meet you." vs. She said that she was happy to meet me. So, what you need to start with telling us is, what is the text you're quoting? What does it say? Even if you're making it up, tell us what the base statement you want to quote is and then give us your direct speech version and your reported speech version.
    – Catija
    Jan 13, 2017 at 0:02
  • You can help me a lot if you tell me whether what is marked as reported speech does make sense in English or not. You can consider it as a standalone statement, making abstraction of any direct speech. Jan 13, 2017 at 0:11
  • 1
    "finishes to instruct" is incorrect; You want to say "finishes instructing." That is unrelated to whether it's reported speech, however. Jan 13, 2017 at 0:37

1 Answer 1


You want to report:

According to that 100-year-old document the other half of the sum would be granted when he finished instructing the three students he had committed (himself) to train.

Notice: 100-year-old, not years old.

The past tense of will is would.

You backshift simple present finishes to finished. And in today's English we say finished instructing, not finished to instruct.

Alternatively, if you have has finished in direct speech, you backshift that to had finished.

The use of the reflexive himself is optional when to commit means to pledge or to promise.

Also, was to be granted is the backshift of is to be granted.

  • OK. Now, regarding that "finished instructing", are there rules that tell when a VERB can be combined with either a GERUND or TO plus an INFINITIVE like: "He started speaking"; "He started to speak" and when only the GERUND or TO plus INFINITIVE is the right form and the other version is incorrect? Jan 13, 2017 at 3:15
  • @RobertWerner If you have another question ASK IT. This question is about reported speech, not about verbs with gerunds vs verbs with infinitives.
    – Catija
    Jan 13, 2017 at 4:24
  • Robert, see ell.stackexchange.com/questions/35156/… but basically you just have to memorize which verbs take the infinitive, which the gerund and which can take both. Jan 13, 2017 at 4:38

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