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  1. "Can you see a woman seated at a table?" he asked.
    A) He asked her if she could see a woman seated at a table.

Since the reported speech is in past tense, the tense of the indirect speech should be in past perfect. But there is no had in it.

Please clarify my doubt. I guess it is in past since the word seated is used.

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  • The reported speech isn't in the past tense.
    – KillingTime
    Jul 1, 2022 at 12:05
  • The word seated is used right
    – Arjun
    Jul 1, 2022 at 12:06
  • The question being asked is "Can you see...?" which is present tense.
    – KillingTime
    Jul 1, 2022 at 12:15
  • If he had said "Can you see the woman who has just sat down at the table?", THEN the reported speech would be He asked her if she could see the woman who had just sat down at the table. Jul 1, 2022 at 13:49
  • Seated is not past here: it is an adjective, and has no tense.
    – Colin Fine
    Aug 28, 2022 at 18:15

1 Answer 1

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Let's say that these sentences are written at 9:00 and that the actions that they describe occurred at 8:00. In that case, both sentences are correct. In the second sentence, both verbs are in the past tense1:

He asked her if she could see a woman seated at a table.

If her action happened at 7:00, then it would be better to put the verb describing her action into the perfect aspect:

He asked her if she could have seen a woman seated at a table.

However, modal verbs can be tricky and are often ambiguous. (In this case, "could have" might mean the same as "might have".) Therefore, this would be clearer:

He asked her if she had been able to see a woman seated at a table.


1I actually prefer to use the term "preterite" for modal auxiliaries, but that's a different issue.

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