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If someone told you '' the guard said we can't play here, so let's move elsewhere " (direct from guard to someone "you can't play here" ) would you understand them? In other words, is it mandatory to change the tense of verbs to past when saying what someone said " the guard said we couldn't play here so let's move elsewhere " for you to understand correctly ?.

If so, should all the verbs be changed ? Assuming the Direct sentence is " We will stop the plane before it lands " Which one is the correct sentence for an indirect sentence:

They said they would stop the plane before it landed ?

or

They said they would stop the plane before it lands ?

  • In short, no it is not mandatory. – green_ideas Jul 31 '17 at 14:51
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Both are correct. The difference in meaning is in whether the statement still applies in the present.

''The guard said we can't play here ..." The guard said it in the past and the rule sill applies - we still can't play here.

"The guard said we couldn't play here ... " We couldn't play here in the past because the guard said so.

In the second example, the use of the perfect verb ('landed') indicated that the action (stopping or landing) has finished.

  • Since the plane hasn't landed yet and applies to present , it's correct to say :They said they will stop the plane before it lands. Right ? – Reported Jul 31 '17 at 7:36
  • @Reported Yes, it's correct. – user178049 Jul 31 '17 at 7:41
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In reported speech, the tense in the subordinate clause usually corresponds with the tense in the main clause. This phenomenon is referred to as "Backshift." However, it's not true that this backshift is always obligatory in reported speech.

It's possible to use the present tense in a subordinate clause if the situation or state is still true or is still occuring at moment of speaking.

However it is also possible to use the natural sequence even if the main verb is past or conditional:

Batman said that he needs a special key for the Batmobile.

This option is more likely to be used when the circumstance being expressed remains equally true now as it did when the speech act took place, and especially if the person reporting the words agrees that they are true or valid.

(Wikipedia)

So it's okay to say the guard said we can't play here so let's move elsewhere if at the moment of speaking you are still not allowed to play there.

For the second case, both are equally correct. But I would prefer the latter if the plane hasn't landed yet.

  • Can you explain the downvote please? – user178049 Jul 31 '17 at 12:20

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