2

Which of (1) and (2) is (or are) “correct”, and when and why?

  1. Yesterday Rachel said that she was practicing dancing two days ago.
  2. Yesterday Rachel said that she had been practicing dancing two days ago.

Here if I want to say that he thought his sister was playing with his toys earlier, then which of these is (or are) “correct”?

  1. He thought his sister played with his toys when he wasn’t there.
  2. He thought his sister was playing with his toys when he wasn’t there.
  3. He thought his sister had been playing with his toys when he wasn’t there.
  4. He had thought his sister had played with his toys when he hadn’t been there.

Is the simple past ever ok for this sense?

Does it truly matter whether you use one of these versus the others — will anybody actually notice which one you say?

What do native speakers normally say here?

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  • 1
    These don't have right-vs-wrong answers. Both are valid. The thing is that those do not mean the same thing. That you are asking this implies a confusion derived from a misunderstand of simplified materials used to teach English language learners rather than native speakers. So I will migrate this question to somewhere you're apt to get answers suited to your learning level. First I need to edit it to fix your errors in orthography (capitalization, punctuation, etc).
    – tchrist
    Jan 13 at 23:07
  • @tchrist thanks for that and could you answer these questions ?
    – hwkal
    Jan 13 at 23:52
  • 1
    They’re all basically ok but could mean slightly different things. 3 & 4 make it sound like the toy playing is something that happens every time the brother isn’t there, while 5 & 6 sound like they are talking about a single instance. Jan 14 at 14:54
  • After the simple past, you can use any past tense in the second clause but it changes the meaning. Perhaps you should review those individually: present perfect, present perfect continuous, imperfect.
    – Lambie
    Jan 14 at 17:15
  • @ tchrist "The thing is that those do not mean the same thing." What do you mean? To me sentence nr 1 means " she said: "I was practicing dancing the day before" and sentence nr 2 is the indirect speech and correct version of that sentence.
    – anouk
    Feb 13 at 17:37

1 Answer 1

1

(1/2) Neither tense is obviously wrong. I would find it more natural to say

Yesterday, Rachel said that she had been practising dancing the day before.

(She was speaking yesterday, so 'two days ago' would have been 'yesterday' then!)

(3) means that the sister often played with the toys, (4) that she was playing with them at the time. (5) and (6) give the required meaning of 'earlier'. When he wasn't there is better because it's simpler.

3
  • But wouldn't you say "her dancing" here?
    – Lambie
    Jan 14 at 17:02
  • @Lambie - Not necessarily. Jan 14 at 17:12
  • Not sure why you'd want "practising her dancing" any more than "practising her football" or something else.
    – Stuart F
    Feb 13 at 10:43

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