REPORTED SPEECH for questions

Could the back-shifting to the past be optional for these sentences?
PS: I am wondering especially about sentence (3) (past).

(1) "Which dress do you like best?", he said.

(2) "Will the film industry change a lot in the near future?", he said

(3) "Didn't Wendy retire last month?", he said.

  • None of those require the past perfect. The simple past is enough.
    – Lambie
    Oct 19, 2022 at 21:35

1 Answer 1


When you report something you are telling a narrative. If the narrative is in the past, then events at that narrative time take the past tense. But facts that are generally true and are still true at the time of speaking may have the present tense.

When you report speech, events that were in the present when spoken are now in the past and so the past tense is used. But if you are reporting on facts that remain true, you might choose to use the present tense.

So if your opinion of the dress is still current at the time you are reporting the speech, you might choose to use the present tense. Similarly if the question of the change in the film industry is still current, or the fact of Wendy retiring "last month" is still the case, you might not backshift...

  • +1 And to add that not backshifting means you, the person reporting what was said, are asserting that those things are true. In contrast, when you backshift, you're neutrally reporting what was said, without implying any part of it is true or not.
    – gotube
    Oct 19, 2022 at 22:41

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