Is It informal not to back-shift? or is it acceptable in formal situations as well?

Sherri and Dan: “We enjoyed the concert.”
Sherri and Dan told us they enjoyed the concert.

  • 3
    Where did you read this? Personally, I would backshift even in informal speech. "They told us they'd enjoyed the concert." Commented Sep 9, 2022 at 9:50
  • 1
    Please edit your question and cite the source of this example. Is it from a scholastic book, is it off the Internet, did a native speaker write it?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Sep 9, 2022 at 9:56
  • The 1st and the 3rd site tells me that the correct answer is B They told us (that) they had enjoyed the concert. So, unless you show us where it says using the simple past is the correct answer, I'm voting to close the question for lack of detail.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Sep 9, 2022 at 10:01
  • Hello Maria, Sorry for the lack of information. It's an example that I made by myself after following the information provided in this website : busyteacher.org/… . "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." Commented Sep 9, 2022 at 14:04

1 Answer 1


Frequently in American English, the past perfect is not used when context makes the sequence of events clear.

He said he was born in Boston.

Obviously, he had been born before he made any announcement about his place of birth.

In formal writing, it makes meaning clearer if you consistently use the past perfect to introduce a description of an event that preceded a different past event.

  • Understood. thank you! Commented Sep 16, 2022 at 10:44

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .