In the following sentence, both “spoke” and “was” are in past simple.

  • The first language I spoke was Japanese”

The solution I came up with is:

  • She said that the first language she had spoken was Japanese”

However I am not sure if that is correct as I not changing “was” into past perfect.

2 Answers 2


That is possible, but the past perfect form of the main verb "was" is "had been", so backshifting would give

She said that the first language she spoke had been Japanese.

As the backshifting is a little awkward in this case, I'd probably not do it here

She said that the first language she spoke was Japanese.


In speech, the past perfect is usually optional, even in reported speech. If the temporal relations are clear in other ways, then people often substitute the simple past.

So both "spoke" and "had spoken" are possible.

"Had been Japanese" is also possible, but most people would say "was Japanese".

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