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Can somebody explain why it would be necessary to backshift

The parcel was not delivered so it remains the seller's property.

He said the parcel was not delivered, so it remains the seller's property.

Is it possible not to backshift it the situation is still true at the time of writing? I really don't understand why it would be necessary.

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  • 1
    Remains would indicate that the seller still has the parcel. Remained might imply that it was no longer in the seller's possession, although this is ambiguous. Only more context would make it clear. Feb 13, 2022 at 20:31
  • You've asked the same question 3 times. The last one is here: ell.stackexchange.com/questions/309542/…
    – Astralbee
    Feb 13, 2022 at 21:26
  • Yes I know but no one has explained the reason. Why remains would indicate that the seller has the parcel
    – Yves Lefol
    Feb 13, 2022 at 21:34

2 Answers 2

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The two sentences have different meanings, so depending on which meanings you’re trying to convey, it may not be necessary to backshift.

He said the parcel was not delivered, so it remains the seller's property.

This means at some point in the past, e.g. yesterday, the parcel was not delivered, so as of right now, this current moment, it is still the seller’s property.

He said the parcel was not delivered, so it remained the seller's property.

This sentence implies that this is referring to an incident completely in the past. For example, the parcel was not delivered properly two months ago, so back then, it was the seller’s property. This may no longer be true in the present tense— you could follow it up with a sentence such as “However, he retrieved it after a couple of days.”

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The short answer is backshifting is not necessarily required here.

In reported speech, backshifting is always correct, but is only necessary when the situation is no longer true.

In this situation, if the the seller in the situation no longer owns that parcel --for example, if they sold and delivered it to someone else-- then backshifting is required because that parcel is not the seller's property anymore.

But if the seller still has the parcel is still theirs because it hasn't been delivered to anyone, then you don't have to use backshifting, and it's better not to.

So, the context will determine whether backshifting is necessary.

For example, if the context is a current dispute on EBay between a purchaser and a seller, where the purchaser has ordered and paid for a parcel, but the seller has not delivered it yet, then it makes sense not to backshift because the parcel still belongs to the seller.

But if the context is a court case a year later and it's irrelevant whether the seller still has the parcel now, then backshifting makes more sense because the court is determining who owned the parcel at some time in the past.

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  • but the problem is that the seller has really sent the parcel , he sent it 2 months ago now and gave me the tracking number . So as the parcel has not been delivered I asked the post office yesterday and they answered that "even if the parcel has been sent as long as it is not delivered to you it remains the property of the seller" . I think the first solution must be the best (without backshifting ). Am I right here?
    – Yves Lefol
    Feb 14, 2022 at 8:57
  • If this is about a real case, the Post Office is telling you that the seller is responsible for replacing the missing goods. Feb 14, 2022 at 9:09
  • Could you be more explicit , shall I use the solution without backshift or with? The first solution seems the best for me in this example . The post office answered the parcel remains the seller property as long as it was not delivered or has not been delivered to you"
    – Yves Lefol
    Feb 14, 2022 at 10:23
  • Without backshifting is best for this situation
    – gotube
    Feb 14, 2022 at 21:54

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