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Common examples of backshifting are:

  • Present Tense changing to Past Tense
  • Simple Past Tense changing to Past Perfect Tense

Example One

Present Tense - Direct/Quoted Speech:

  • Mommy said, "I am buying you a new pair of shoes."

Present Tense Backshifted to Past - Indirect/Relayed Speech:

  • Mommy said she was buying me a new pair of shoes.

Notice the present tense Am Buying in Direct Speech changes to the past tense Was buying in the Indirect.

Example Two

Simple Past - Direct/Quotes Speech:

  • "I was not expecting to see you so soon," she said.

Simple Past to Past Perfect - Indirect/Relayed Speech:

  • She said that she had not been expecting to see me so soon.

Notice the simple past "Was not" in the Direct Speech backshifts to the past perfect "Had not been" in the Indirect.

Backshifting also occurs with Modal Verbs: "Can, May, Will" backshift to "Could, Might, Would".