I was given homework to transform direct speech into indirect, starting with a phrase “One person maintained that there …” in the following sentence:

“I don’t see the need to recycle anything!”

My version: “One person maintained that there was no need to recycle anything”

Textbook version: “One person maintained that there is no need to recycle anything”

Am I wrong to accuse the textbook of ignoring the sequence of tenses?

  • My version: One person maintained that he saw no need to recycle anything. There could often be a significant difference between what's not seen and what doesn't exist - a distinction which your "textbook version" completely tramples over. Commented Jul 27, 2018 at 12:16

1 Answer 1


Both sentences are correct, although with a slight difference of meaning. When the reported sentence describes something that doesn't pertain to the particular point in time at which the sentence was said, but is a more general observation, you generally shouldn't shift the tense.

"I want to go home!" -> "He said he wanted to go home"

In this case the speaker clearly talks about how he feels at the time of speaking, so it's appropriate to change the tense to Simple Past when reporting on it after the fact.

"The Earth revolves around the Sun" -> "Copernicus said the Earth revolves around the Sun".

In this case the statement is general and still holds true, so you shouldn't change the tense.

So in your case, using "was" would be appropriate when talking about, for example, something particular you wanted to recycle at that moment, and "is" would be appropriate if the speaker generally feels that there's no need to recycle anything, ever (which is probably the intended meaning).

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