Direct speech: He said, "If the flood gets worse we must leave the house."

Indirect speech (book answer): He said that if the flood got worse they would have to leave the house.

I think there should be must/had to instead of would have to, because I read a rule saying we change must into must/had to when we change direct speech into indirect speech. Correct me if I am wrong?

2 Answers 2


I think the book answer is right. We really can't use "must" to mean "have to" in the past. So we switch to "have to." Then, since it's reported speech, we have to use the conditional "would have to."

I wish books didn't teach "must" in this context, by the way, because it's much rarer than "have to." Nobody would ever say "if the flood gets worse we must leave the house." We'd say "if the flood gets worse, we have to leave the house."

  • having encountered many more dialects of english in the decade since I wrote this answer, I regret the phrase "nobody would ever say," although it's true of the dialects I have familiarity with
    – hunter
    Commented May 24 at 6:04

I think right answer is - he said that if the flood gets worse they must leave the house., because there is verbs used in clauses expressing improbable condition that remains unchanged in indirect speech...

  • In your answer, you don't backshift the tense from present to past when converting the sentence to reported speech after "He said..." In some cases, backshifting is optional: can you explain why you believe it is so for this particular sentence? Commented May 24 at 4:13

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