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He said "I have been working in the garden for 8 hours" - direct speech.

He said that he had been working in the garden for 8 hours. - indirect speech

Is "He said that he was working in the garden for 8 hours" also possible?

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Is "He said that he was working in the garden for 8 hours" also possible?

"was working" is Simple Past Continuous. Generally speaking, that verb tense is a possibility. However, you also included "for 8 hours" which corresponds better with Simple Past. Therefore, the following are grammatically correct:

"He said that he worked in the garden for 8 hours."

"He said that he was working in the garden, when he heard a loud bang."

and

"He said that he had worked in the garden for 8 hours."

It should be noted that each of these choices, as well as the ones mentioned in the original question, have different meanings. They are not exactly synonymous.

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    I don't see He said that he had worked in the garden for 8 hours anywhere. Commented Nov 24, 2020 at 13:07
  • I don't see He said that he will work in the garden for 8 hours.
    – Sam
    Commented Nov 24, 2020 at 13:43
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    But OP gives Present Perfect and Past Perfect Continuous (as well as "Simple Past Continuous"). There's no reason to introduce a future tense, but assuming the aspect being queried is "Do I need a continuous verb form here?", it seems only reasonable that someone should explicitly present the non-continuous Past Perfect form. Commented Nov 24, 2020 at 13:54
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Your query is related to direct and indirect speech. When we change direct speech to indirect, the tense changes according to backshifting rule (also known as the sequence-of-tense rule.) Backshifting is the process of switching from the present to the past tense changing of a present tense to a past tense following a past form of a reporting verb.

The pronoun and tense in your direct speech - I have been working ' (present perfect continuous tense) in direct speech as per the rule will change to - he had been working or occasionally remain the same (present perfect continuous tense) he has been working but cannot change to past continuous - he was working.

He said that he was working in the garden for 8 hours is the correct transformation of - He said,"I am working in the garden for 8 hours,"

The backshifting rules are given below:

  1. Present tenses backshift to past tenses in reported speech.
  2. Perfect tense - Quoted speech in the present perfect become reported speech in the past perfect; present perfect progressive become past perfect progressive.Past Tenses
  3. Past Tenses Verbs in the past tenses backshift to the past perfect, past progressive to past perfect progressive.
  4. Modal Verbs Can, may and will change to could, might and would.
  5. No Backshifting Some English tenses do not backshift in reported speech. These depend on the tense of the main verb in the reported speech. When the main verb in the reported speech is in the present tense, the verb in the reported phrase does not change. This is true no matter what tense is used in the quoted speech.
  6. Optional Backshifting Sometimes, backshifting is optional in reported speech. When the speaker articulating the reported speech uses the past tense in the main verb but the situation in the direct speech is still true, backshifting is optional. This is true when the reported verb is in the simple past, past progressive or past perfect. https://m.busyteacher.org/14657-backshifting-reported-speech-how-to-esl.html

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