1

Several defense witnesses corroborated Sacco’s account of his day off, establishing a timeline of his activities from morning to late afternoon. Carpenter Dominick Ricci said he saw Sacco in the Stoughton railroad station between 7:15 and 7:40 a.m. on April 15.

The source: In Search of Sacco and Vanzetti by Susan Tejada, p. 141.

I would like to ask why there is not used the past perfect in the second clause (he said he had seen). Why is the rule about shifts of the tenses in the reported speech not applied here?

2

The "rule" you cite does not exist.

The past perfect is not required when you allude to an event prior to the events you are narrating; it is a tool which you may employ if you find it useful in clarifying complex temporal relationships.

In the passage you asked about in your previous question, the author was concerned to draw a contrast between what was said before the trial and what was said at the trial. In the passage you ask about here, there is no such contrast: the time relationships are perfectly clear, and since the author's focus is on the agreement between these witnesses' accounts and Sacco's account, she has no need of the perfect to draw a bright line between the prior events and the subsequent account of those events.

I refer you again to §4 of the Canonical Post, which is in effect a protracted commentary on FumbleFingers' Perfect Truism:

The guiding principle should be don't use Past Perfect unless you really have to.

1

Backshift of Simple Past and Past Progressive is optional if they cannot be mistakenly taken for backshift of Present Tense. So backshift is not necessary if there is a time expression indicating past.

Example: “She left Boston on Monday.“ He said that she left / had left Boston on Monday.

Source

Since it is unlikely that the carpenter originally said:

I see Sacco in the Stoughton railroad station between 7:15 and 7:40 a.m. on April 15.

Then what he originally said was almost certainly:

I saw Sacco in the Stoughton railroad station between 7:15 and 7:40 a.m. on April 15.

Which does not have to be backshifted because it "cannot be mistakenly taken for backshift of Present Tense."

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.