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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.
>>

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  
It is much easier than you make it out to be, Munchun. The speaker has a choice, which he can exercise freely. Except for purposes of good style in a formal paper, there is no rule that prohibits speakers from shifting their unconscious mental viewpoint between what the lecturer 'said' yesterday and what still holds true today. Mention of a specific past point is unrelated to the tense of the dependent clause, but does determine tense of the reporting (main) clause (the 'says/said' clause).

Yesterday, the lecturer said that the earth was round. (regression of verb 'tense' to established form for reported speech)
Yesterday, the lecturer said that the earth is round. (condition of roundness still appertains at the moment)
The lecturer says/said that the earth is round. (lecturer's statement 'immediately' preceded the report or lecturer has made the statement on more than one occasion)

These are correct:

(Fact: we are still in progress of writing the essays as the following statements are made.)

Statement 2) The lecturer said that we had to limit our words into 1200 words in our essay in class today.
Statement 4) The lecturer said that we had to limit our words into 1200 words in our essay in class yesterday(or last week).
Statement 5) The lecturer says/said we have to limit our words into 1200 word in our essay.
Statement 6) I saw(or visited) a website yesterday(or last week) and it says/said that one third of people who live in this country don't know anything about the stock market.

That's all there is to it.
Thanks for your reply Mister Micawber. I think the critical answer for your replay is

"Mention of a specific past point is unrelated to the tense of the dependent clause, but does determine tense of the reporting (main) clause (the 'says/said' clause."

So I try to think of some examples where they cover the grey area of Indirect Quatation I mentioned. Following are the examples and please note that all examples have the date stated and I am not certain about the correctness of each sentence where I really hope you could point out which of them can or cannot be used.

Statement 1) I paid a visit to your sciences lecturer yesterday and he told me that one of you is taking the aerospace project. (correctness: 50% think it can be used because I think the ealier phrase "...lecturer yesterday" doesn't really give restriction to the dependant clause "one of you is... aerospace project".)

Statement 2) I paid a visit to your sciences lecturer yesterday and he told me that one of you was taking the aerospace project. (correctness: 100% sure)

Statement 3) I paid a visit to your sciences lecturer yesterday and he told me that one of you is(should it be was?) taking the aerospace project when we were discussing your progress. (correctness: doubtful, because of the time clause "when we were discussing your project" does give a sense of restriction to the sentence.)

Statement 4) I met your lecturer yesterday and he told me that one of you is(taking) the aerospace project while we were having dinner together. (correctness: doubtful, because of the time clause "when we were having dinner together" does give a sense of restriction to the sentence.)

The main purpose of the above sentences is to give me some samples as reference to think of when it comes to decide which clause can be treated as "dependent clause" and which clause should be treated as part of the main clause. Please don't hasitate to point out where I have gone wrong.
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Mr M wrote: Except for purposes of good style in a formal paper, there is no rule that prohibits speakers from shifting their unconscious mental viewpoint between what the lecturer 'said' yesterday and what still holds true today. Mention of a specific past point is unrelated to the tense of the dependent clause, but does determine tense of the reporting (main) clause (the 'says/said' clause.

JT: Hooray for Mr M!!! An accurate analysis of the workings of reported speech. But while it is much easier than it has been made out to be, I can fully appreciate this and other ESLs deep consternation.

Now, Mr M, all you have to do is keep repeating it over and over, to undo all the bad advice that prescriptivists have used to mislead all these ESLs [not to mention ENLs who repeat the bad advice but don’t follow it]

I just have one tiny little bone to pick with what you said and maybe I’m making a mountain out of a molehill. I’m sure you’ll let me know if I am.

Following reported speech patterns in writing doesn’t make it “good style”. In writing as in speech, people use what’s needed to communicate effectively. The opportunity for downstream misunderstandings and the difficulty in rectifying those misunderstandings makes writers choose a safer but ultimately less expressive style of communication.

To my mind, writing is more like Morse Code; it uses simplified measures to get the message across. It’s much more difficult for a writer to express the range and nuance that speakers can readily express by choosing different reporting schemes.
So I try {NOT "So I try", Munchun; So I've tried; (so I try) means it's what you do routinely/habitually} to think of some examples where they cover the grey area of Indirect Quatation I mentioned. Following are the examples and please note that all examples have the date stated and I am not certain about the correctness of each sentence where I really hope you could point out which of them can or cannot be used.

JJT: First, reports of speech can come from third, fourth, fith or any source on the 'hearing' line.

While adverbs of time have an influence on what 'tense' is chosen for the tell(s)/told> portion, they do NOT, in any absolute way determine the forms later chosen.

Statement 1) I paid a visit to your sciences lecturer yesterday and he told me that one of you is taking the aerospace project. (correctness: 50% think it can be used because I think the ealier phrase "...lecturer yesterday" doesn't really give restriction to the dependant clause "one of you is... aerospace project".)

JT: Look at this example. Paying a visit and being told something are separate things even though they happened in a linear fashion at the same time.

1) I paid a visit to your sciences lecturer yesterday and he TELLS me that one of you is taking the aerospace project. What the hell is going on here?

Using "tells" makes the event more current hence more important. In this case, maybe the speaker is stating that he believed he was due to take on the project; he thought that the two who visited the lecturer were going to recommend him and he's a bit angry with what he has been told.

Statement 2) I paid a visit to your sciences lecturer yesterday and he told me that one of you was taking the aerospace project. (correctness: 100% sure)

JT: This isn't any more correct than anything else an ENL would choose. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT: DIFFERENT GRAMMATICAL FORMS ARE CHOSEN TO STATE DIFFERING NUANCES. ONE FORM IS NOT MORE GRAMMATICALY CORRECT THAN ANOTHER !!!!

This example, Statement 2, only makes it a more normal neutral reported statement. It can be viewed simply as a more matter of fact statement, one without emotion.

Statement 3) I paid a visit to your sciences lecturer yesterday and he told me that one of you is(should it be was?) taking the aerospace project when we were discussing your progress. (correctness: doubtful, because of the time clause "when we were discussing your project" does give a sense of restriction to the sentence.)

JTT: But if we adjust your sentence, then mixed tense forms are fine.

3A) I paid a visit to your sciences lecturer yesterday and when we were discussing your progress, he TELLS me that one of you is taking the aerospace project.

Statement 4) I met your lecturer yesterday and he told me that one of you is(taking) the aerospace project while we were having dinner together. (correctness: doubtful, because of the time clause "when we were having dinner together" does give a sense of restriction to the sentence.)

JTT: Again, with some minor revisions, which an ENL would put in place to keep things kosher, mixed tense FORMs would be okay.

4A) I met your lecturer yesterday and while we were having dinner together, he TELLS me that one of you IS taking the aerospace project.

There is no grammatical reason to keep all the tense forms the same, even with explicit past time adverbials BECAUSE the part being reported, the important stuff, is actually still in the future or the effects are in the future.

You [all ESLs] have, in all likelihood, been told some really tall tales about language. Prescriptive grammar doesn't rule language. ENLs have real rules inside that override the errant prescriptions. ESLs who have been subjected to the old nonsense are going to have to seek out more accurate information from the newer, more realistic language sources.
A few more (and various) viewpoints only:

(1) I failed to comment at first on what JTT very perceptively mentions-- that the sentence layouts are very awkward and serve only to contribute to your confusion:

Statement 3) I paid a visit to your sciences lecturer yesterday and when we were discussing your progress he told me that one of you is/was taking the aerospace project.

Statement 4) I met your lecturer yesterday and while we were having dinner together he told me that one of you is/was taking the aerospace project.

Now it is clear that the visit, the discussion, the dinner and the telling were all contemporaneous in the past, and equally do not affect the taking (?!) of the project, which is ongoing.

(2)
Following reported speech patterns in writing doesn’t make it “good style”. In writing as in speech, people use what’s needed to communicate effectively. The opportunity for downstream misunderstandings and the difficulty in rectifying those misunderstandings makes writers choose a safer but ultimately less expressive style of communication.


It is the chicken-and-the-egg, I think, JTT. To my mind, good style is the outcome of what authority (employers, law courts, TOEFL tests, admired poets and novelists, me, etc) considers effective communication; but it can be viewed either way. The nature and expectations of expressiveness are simply different in the written and spoken languages-- the downstream dangers are there, but of a different sort: one is on paper, and the other is blowing in the wind.

(3)
THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT: DIFFERENT GRAMMATICAL FORMS ARE CHOSEN TO STATE DIFFERING NUANCES. ONE FORM IS NOT MORE GRAMMATICALY CORRECT THAN ANOTHER


This is all well and good, but we must keep in mind that many ESLs and ENLs have other goals, and it should always be made clear to them that some forms are not at all acceptable for certain purposes-- entrance examinations, the TOEFL and its ilk, employment application letters and resumes, school boards, and a host of purposes that no longer concern you and me but are extremely important to others here. The word 'correct' (at least as I use it) most often has that intention.
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Thank you Just The Truth for your reply and thank you again Mister Micawber for your reply. I just wonder are there any chances what JTT tells me is correct. Following is the example.

4A) I met your lecturer yesterday and while we were having dinner together, he TELLS me that one of you IS taking the aerospace project.

The above sentence sounds unnatural to my hearing but I just wonder if it is correct or it is often used by the English Speaker in spoken style.

From the last point you told me:

"Now it is clear that the visit, the discussion, the dinner and the telling were all contemporaneous in the past, and equally do not affect the taking (?!) of the project, which is ongoing."

I think I got your idea and are able to derive somemore examples to illustrate your point. Following are the examples I have thought of:

Statement 1) She promised me she would talk about the new business model with me when I come to your party tonight. (correctness: 80% of me think correct because "I come to your party tonight" is a fact clause and that's why it's used here.)

Statement 2) I promised my boss that I would finish the painting before I go home. (correctness: 60% of me not sure because the phrase "I promised" sounds like it has abstract grammar connection with the phrase "before I go home".

Statement 3) I told her the are many fans waiting for her at the gate and she simply doesn't want to come out anymore. (correctness: 100% correct because it's a fact that is independent from what you told the girl.)

I think that finalize what I want to ask. If anybody has anything to add , please don't hesitate to point out my mistake or giving new comment.
Thank you Just The Truth for your reply and thank you again Mister Micawber for your reply. I just wonder are there any chances what JTT tells me is correct. Following is the example.

4A) I met your lecturer yesterday and while we were having dinner together, he TELLS me that one of you IS taking the aerospace project.

The above sentence sounds unnatural to my hearing but I just wonder if it is correct or it is often used by the English Speaker in spoken style.

>>>>>>>>>>>

JT: See what prescriptive grammar has wrought!

Dear Munchun, the folks here who believe {believed} in these errant rules would be falling all over themselves trying to post if they thought they could refute what I've said. A quick glance at any reliable language source will prove that these old rules are, indeed, largely false.

If you need a few quotes from such sources, let me know.

Note what happens when these types of reporting mechanisms are googled:

Results 1 - 10 of about 104,000 English pages for "he tells me that"

Results 1 - 10 of about 106,000 English pages for "they tell me that"

Results 1 - 10 of about 138,000 English pages for "you tell me that".

Results 1 - 10 of about 40,800 English pages for "she reports that".

Results 1 - 10 of about 21,600 English pages for "she mentions that"

>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Note the next collocation. This is an example where present tense forms abound.

Results 1 - 10 of about 186 English pages for "your mom tells me that"

1. Your mom tells me that she has been having trouble
trying to get you to get ready for school in the mornings? ...

2. Your mom tells me that you want to do a trip
like this someday — that’s great!

3. Your mom tells me that you are not coming to Chicago because of another
engagement, so we will just celebrate long distance

4. “Hey your mom tells me that you got yourself a new beau, it’s about
time that you thought about getting hitched”.

The profusion of present tense forms isn't because of some grammatical rule; it's done because meaning encourages such forms be used. This, in and of itself, clearly refutes "concord of tenses" or "sequence of tenses".

In 4. we see past tense form . Again, not for any grammar reason, simply considerations of meaning.

Munchun wrote:

From the last point you told me:

"Now it is clear that the visit, the discussion, the dinner and the telling were all contemporaneous in the past, and equally do not affect the taking (?!) of the project, which is ongoing."

I think I got your idea and are able to derive somemore examples to illustrate your point. Following are the examples I have thought of:

Statement 1) She promised me she would talk about the new business model with me when I come to your party tonight. (correctness: 80% of me think correct because "I come to your party tonight" is a fact clause and that's why it's used here.)

JT: Not any more correct than,

She promised me she WILL talk about the new business model with me when I come to your party tonight.

OR the potentially possible,

I've phoned her five times and she PROMISES me she WILL talk about the new business model with me when I come to your party tonight.

When an ENL knows what meaning/what nuance they want, they decide on the tense FORM to put forward that meaning. That's how language works, most assuredly not by "Concord of Tenses"!
The above seems sensible to me. The nuances of choosing a past form over a present, in any situation, when the choice is there, would tend to be formality, politness and a relative lack of concern. Agree?
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