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I saw this article from the web and I think it is worth to post part of the article in this forum.
Following is the article

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...AND REPORTED SPEECH

Dear English Doctor,
Please explain about word changes in reported speech.

If you say to me "My sister is going to Chiang Mai", I can report that in two ways. I can use your words in a direct quotation as follows:

He said, "My sister is going to Chiang Mai."
In this case, the exact words that you said are repeated and surrounded by quotation marks in order to indicate that they are, indeed, your words.

I can also report your speech in a more general way in an indirect quotation like this:

"He told me his sister was going to Chiang Mai."
In this case, the essence of the meaning of what you said has been distilled and incorporated into my report to a third party. No quotation marks are necessary as the words are not an exact replication of your statement.

More examples:

Direct quotations

1. "Can you see," he asked me, "whether the train has arrived?"
2. I swear I heard her say, "My dog ate my daughter."
3. "Sing me my favorite song," were the last words she ever spoke.

Indirect quotations:

1. He asked me to see whether the train had arrived.
2. I swear I heard her say that her dog had eaten her daughter.
3. She asked me to sing her favourite song, and those were the last words she ever spoke.
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As the article has made it clear, reported can be used in Direct or Indirect quotations. My question is, how the reported speech goes when it comes to the grey area of Indirect Quotation like the following situation.

Statement 1) The lecturer says that we have to limit our words into 1200 words in our essay in class today.
Statement 2) The Lecturer said that we had to limit our words into 1200 words in our essay in class today.

I often hear English speakers say in present tense like statement 1 when they try to tell other people what they heard from other people. However, sometimes the English speaker just use the past tense like statement 2 to convey what they heard. I just wonder how come sometimes they can simply switch in between the sentences like statement 1 and 2 shown above whenever they like. Is there a concept in reported speech that governs this kind of situation?

I visited some websites for answer and they said we could use the present tense when the event was just said or was still currently related. I tried to put this concept in use but simply couldn't make myself clear because even the event is still currently related, when the statement comes out from other people's mouth, it is always in the past according to reported speech rules. If what the websites tell me is true, how about the following situation?

(Fact: we are still in progress of writting the essays as the following statements are made.)
Statement 3) The lecturer says that we have to limit our words into 1200 words in our essay in class yesterday(or last week).
Statement 4) The lecturer said that we had to limit our words into 1200 words in our essay in class yesterday(or last week).
Most often hear:
Statement 5) The lecturer says we have to limit our words into 1200 word in our essay. (Note: Without the date. What the lecturer told them was in week ago and that statement still holds true. It this statement is correct, how come statement 4 and 5 cannot be used?)

In short, I think my question is, why English speakers can switch between the usage of 'say' and 'said' whenever they want and what is the concept that lies behind their minds that makes them think what they say is correct? How they think when they change in between the two words, 'say' and 'said'?

Following is just another example I hope you could help me with.
Statement 6) I saw(or visited) a website yesterday(or last week) and it says that one third of people who live in this country don't know anything about the stock market.

I don't know if I should use the phrase "and it says" after the previou phrase "I visited a website last week". What I saw from the website was in the past but the event I stated out is still holds true or is still related to current situation. I just don't know if the statement 5 show above could be used.

I hope somebody could help me out with the above question and if you think what I ask is not clear enough, please inform me and I will post another message to clear myself up.
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Comments  (Page 3) 
Thank you, JTT, for your replay, I will check out all the websites you provide.