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On my grammar book, it says: When the verb in the main clause is in the past or past perfect tense, the verb in the subordinate cluase must also be past or past perfect. Here is the example: The researchers discovered that people varied widely in their knowledge of public events. the first verb in its past form is in the main clause, and the second verb is in the subordinate clause. If i want to say a sentence: I was going to say that when I went(go)? to school every day, ……. Here should i say 'go to school' or 'went to school'? because i mean i go to school every day, which is present tense, but since i used past tense in the main clause, so what can i do?

But the contradicted thing is on my book, it also says that the tenses need no be identical as long as they reflect changes in actual or relative time. Here is the example: Ramon's father arrived in the USA thirty years ago, and now Ramon has decided that he will return to his father's homeland. If according to what i first said that past vs. past, then 'has decided' is in the present perfect form which is not right? and 'will return' in this example should be converted to 'would return' because of the past tense in the main clause 'arrived'. but since it said tenses needed not to be identical, so it's in future tense.

I was deeply confused about these two. Which is right? Past Vs past or as long as they reflect changes in relative time, it's okay>? Hope you can patiently read through my problem and help me out. thank you.
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Comments  (Page 2) 
You should use the past viewpoint (PV2) tenses after thought and knew.

I thought you went to school every day.
I knew you went to school every day.


every day doesn't change the point of view because it can mean every day in the present or every day in the past. You don't have to use adverbs to change the point of view. It's just that they are often found when a writer wants to make it more clear that he is changing the point of view.

CJ
Take a look at this sentence:

The researchers discovered that people varied widely in their knowledge of public events. Here maybe 'people vary widely in their knowledge' is still true, but we can not use present tense but past tense with the main clause? It has sort of same situation with my sentence: I was going to say that when I go/went to school every day, I always go by bus. In this case, you said I could use 'go' because it is still true. But I don't think in the first sentence I can say 'vary' instead of 'varied'. If I can change my point of view without putting any adverbs or other words to indicate this change, then how can I know when I can make the change. I always worry about in a past tense main clause, if the things in the subordinate clause still happen and are still true, should I change it to past or not. I would worry if my listeners (I mean daily conversation) or my reader would misunderstand my meaning, just like I mean I still go to school, but if I use past tense, then they would think I mean the past, but now no longer. However, we can use present tense with a past tense main clause if the thing in subordinate clause is a general truth. General truth doesn't mean that something happens habitually, right? When we mention general truth, we often say : The earth is round. No example would be I go to school every day is a general truth.
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Both of these are fine.

The researchers discovered that people varied widely in their knowledge of public events.

The researchers discovered that people vary widely in their knowledge of public events.

When you change the tense in the subordinate clause to match the point of view of the tense in the main clause (as in the first sentence above), it is called backshifting.

Here are the two general facts about backshifting:

1. Backshifting is always correct.
2. Backshifting is never required.

Less basic.

3. After knew and thought, and possibly other verbs, there is a strong tendency to prefer backshifting, so backshifting usually occurs.
4. When the subordinate clause contains a general truth it is more likely to be expressed without a backshift (but this is not required. See 2. above)

CJ
Therefore, the general truth that you meant is that something still happens and is still true. For example, I have lunch every day. When it happens, we can express the subordinate clause without a backshift?
Yes, if you still have lunch every day, then you can express that without a backshift.

All of the following are correct. The meaning is the same for both sentences in each pair.

You said that he has lunch there every day.
You said that he had lunch there every day.

They found out that I have lunch there every day.
They found out that I had lunch there every day.

Somebody told me that she has lunch there every day.
Somebody told me that she had lunch there every day.

It was reported that we have lunch there every day.
It was reported that we had lunch there every day.

Below, with the verbs think and know, the unbackshifted forms (marked ???) don't seem as good.

???We thought that he has lunch there every day.
We thought that he had lunch there every day.
???I didn't know that she has lunch there every day.
I didn't know that she had lunch there every day.


You have to learn when to backshift and when not to backshift mostly by imitating what you read, because aside from the few guidelines I gave you in a previous post, there really aren't any fixed rules about it.

CJ
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Thanks, CJ. I know in daily conversation that when we talk about "thought', we always add past tense verb after it. I know that if I want to know those things well, I need to read more to get a general idea. Anyway, your explanation was really good. BTW, Is 'heard' a word that tells us we should use backshift? I heard you WERE sick.
Is that right?
There is no need of confusion at all. When the verb in the main clause in the past, the verb in the subordinate clause should also be in the past.
Robert said that he would marry Liza.
Shahina told me that she ate/had eaten all the cakes.
But when the verb in the main clause is in the present simple or in the present perfect or in the future simple, you should not change the verb in the subordinate clause into the past tense.
Robert says that he will marry Liza.
Robert has said that he will marry Liza.
Robert will say that he will marry Liza.
Another point to be noted here is the fact that you can use a present tense in the subordinate clause even when the verb in the main clause is in the past if the subordinate clause tells us something that is a universal truth.
Keats wrote that a thing of beauty is a joy for ever.
What Keats wrote in the past is relevant in the present too. So you can retain the present tense in the subordinate clause.
However, if you want to change the tense, you are free to do so.
Keats wrote that a thing of beauty was a joy for ever.
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O.ABOOTTYThere is no need of confusion at all. When the verb in the main clause in the past, the verb in the subordinate clause should also be in the past.Robert said that he would marry Liza.Shahina told me that she ate/had eaten all the cakes.
As CJ explained above, this is not necessarily true. While your sentences are correct, the following are possible:

"Robert said that he will marry Liza." At the moment of reporting the proposed marriage, that marriage is still in the future.
"Shahina told me that she has eaten all the cakes." At the moment of reporting, the eating of the cakes has present relevance.

Backshifting is almost always correct when reported statements are introduced by a verb in a past tense.; it is not always necessary.

ps. Did you realise that you posted in a thread that was five years old?