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How to backshift the following sentence:

As a child he would get up early and go fishing.

I think it should be:

He said when he had been a child he would/would have get up early and go fishing.

But I am not sure if it should be would or would have, since would on its own can serve as a past marker.

3

It doesn't really make sense to shift this particular sentence into the past in this way. If you're going to use the past perfect here, you need to mention a period of time, such as "when he had been a child for ten years". Suppose we change the sentence a bit:

He said that after he had been out of school for five years he would get up early and go fishing every morning.

That makes more sense. Now, you can see that the tense of the "fishing" clause doesn't change, just because the context in which the fishing is done does. This sentence is also correct:

He said that after he had been out of school for five years he used to [not "had used to"] get up early and go fishing every morning.

However:

He said that after he had been out of school for five years he had gotten up early and gone fishing every morning.

Exactly why this is so, perhaps someone else can explain.

  • What about this one: He said as a child he would get up early and go fishing? – Kinzle B May 8 '14 at 6:43
  • That's fine, but "He said that as a child he would get up early and go fishing" is more precise. If you leave out the word "that", you could be saying "He said as a child that he would get up early and go fishing," which would mean that he said this when he was a child. – BobRodes May 25 '14 at 20:47
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Your first example

As a child he would get up early and go fishing.

is perfect as it is.

One of your proposed alternatives

He said when he had been a child he would have get up early and go fishing.

is erroneous. The phrase "would have get" is not grammatical in English. The other:

He said when he had been a child he would get up early and go fishing.

is fine.

Also fine would be:

He said when he had been a child he would have gotten up early and gone fishing.

That means something different. That makes it a hypothetical as opposed to a description of the past. Maybe he didn't get up early to go fishing as a child. Maybe he didn't fish at all. But if he had, he would have gotten up early to do it. Consider this context:

My dad invited me out to go fishing at the crack of dawn. I really wanted to spend time with him, but I just don't have it in me to get up that early, and at this point, I guess it's just not that important to me to make the effort. I wish he'd asked when I'd been a kid. When I was a child, I would have gotten up and gone fishing. Today... I'm going to sleep in.

  • In your conditional sentence, I would probably use "if" instead of "when", just as you have in your explanation. Your context sentence, which of course works, still deconstructs into "When I was a child, I would have gotten up and gone fishing if he had asked me." In other words, the condition isn't that of being a child, the condition is that of dad's having asked him when he was a child. I'm mentioning this not to correct your example, but to make a clarification for the OP's benefit. – BobRodes May 7 '14 at 18:26
  • Thx, That's not a problem for me.('◡') @BobRodes – Kinzle B May 7 '14 at 23:36

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