I'd like to ask if there is an ambiguity in the following sentence in terms of the possibility of her late

She said she would be late

In reported speeches we do not change model like would, could, might, yet we use would when we there is uncertainty.

For example :

I will be late, don't wait for me. ( 99 % certainty)

I would be late. ( she could be either late or not)

But in the end we report these different sentences in the same format as

She said she would be late.

Or I can ask what would be natural and explicit conversation in this case so as to avoid misunderstanding, that is

What would she said if she thought she may/might be late.

  • Show me a sentence where a native speaker uses would to mean uncertainty. We say I may/might be late to indicate uncertainty (as you do in your last sentence). In this case you can change it to Alan said he might be late. I'm talking about American English here, and not other Englishes. Mar 26, 2016 at 15:49

2 Answers 2


She said she would be late.

The above sentence is grammatically acceptable and, given no context, there is equivocacy pertinent to the inference of the original. E.g. the original may have been

  • I will be late.
  • I would be late.

Normally, and standing on its own, it's interpreted as the former.


The ambiguity appears when there is no context. You can use might in the second sentence.

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