He thought, 'Ben might be at school now.'

Now I want to change this sentence into an indirect form. Which of the following is correct?

  1. He thought that Ben might be at school at that time.
  2. He thought that Ben might have been at school at that time.

1 Answer 1


The first version is correct.

(2) would only be correct if the subject was thinking back to an earlier time, not about what was happening 'now'.

  • Thanks a lot. Then here's a part from the Harry Potter series "Come to think of it, he wasn't even sure his nephew was called Harry. He'd never even seen the boy. It might have been Harvey, Or Harold." Can I say that "might have been" here is the author's comment rather than Mr Dursley's thought in an indirect form? Dec 9, 2021 at 9:33
  • 1
    This isn't an exact science. I made the distinction with your first sentence because it includes now - the subject was thinking about what was, for him, the present moment. We know that, in the story, Harry is still alive, but I suppose it could be argued that Mr D is thinking back to when Harry was born and given his name. Dec 9, 2021 at 9:53
  • Thank you for your reply. Then if I am making a comment now about something uncertain at an earlier time, can I just say "I think he might be at school yesterday afternoon."? Or should I use "I think he might have been at school yesterday afternoon."? Dec 10, 2021 at 7:10
  • 1
    If you are referring to something that happened yesterday you have to use the past tense. Dec 10, 2021 at 10:07

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