Here are the sentences:

  1. Fred insisted that he would be driving his own car in the rally.

I initially thought the direct speech would be this: Fred insisted, “I will drive my own car in the rally.”

But considering the orginal sentence structure, should it be like this?

Fred insisted, "I will be driving my own car in the rally."

  1. The officer said, “They look like fugitives from Alcatraz.”

For this sentence, I'm not sure I should use past tense or past perfect.

The officer said that they looked like fugitives from Alcatraz. The officer said that they had looked like fugitives from Alcatraz.

Which one would be correct?

Thank you.

  • Check out what I quoted from Practical English Usage by Michael Swan in ell.stackexchange.com/a/19033/3281. Look for 275.2. Shifting tenses mechanically to report what was said in the past in indirect speech is safe enough in almost all cases. Jul 13, 2014 at 13:24
  • English club has a nice step-by-step guide.
    – user6951
    Jul 13, 2014 at 15:10

1 Answer 1


The convention for converting an originally present-tense direct-speech utterance to a past-tense report (indirect speech) is that the present-tense verb in the original is 'backshifted' to past tense.

Fred insisted      "I **will**  be driving my car in the rally.  
Fred insisted that he **would** be driving his car in the rally.

As you correctly discern, a reconversion from indirect to direct speech simply undoes this change.

In your Alcatraz sentence the tensed verb is simple present look; consequently, the indirect-speech version should employ a simple past:

The officer said,     “They **look**  like fugitives from Alcatraz.”  
The officer said that they **looked** like fugitives from Alcatraz. 

You would employ past perfect only if the original employed present perfect.

The officer said,    “They **have** been transported to the hospital”  
The officer said that they **had**  been transported to the hospital. 

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