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Advanced Points

Main Clauses connected with and / but

If two complete main clauses are connected with ‚and‘ or ‚but‘, put ‚that‘ after the conjunction.

He said,“I saw her but she didn’t see me.“ – He said that he had seen her but that she hadn’t seen him.“

If the subject is left out in the second main clause (the conjunction is followed by a verb), do not use ‚that‘.

She said,“I am a nurse and work in a hospital.“ – He said that she was a nurse and worked in a hospital.“

Tense of the Introductory Clause

The introductory clause usually is in Past Tense.

He said that …

Present Tense is often used to report a conversation that is still going on, e. g. during a phone call or while reading a letter.

“I am fine.“ – Tom says / writes that he is fine.

The introductory clause can also be in another tense. In the following table you can see, for which tense of the introductory clause you have to use backshift in reported speech.

No Backshift
if introductory clause is in …
if introductory clause is in …
  • Simple Present (He says …)
  • Present Perfect (He has said …)
  • Future I will (He will say …)
  • Future I going to (He is going to say …)
  • Simple Past (He said …)
  • Past Perfect (He had said …)
  • Future II ( He will have said …)
  • Conditional I (He would say …)
  • Conditional II (He would have said …)

Backshift in Reported Speech

The basic rules for backshift when transforming direct speech into reported speech are:

Direct Speech Reported Speech
Simple Present Simple Past
Present Progressive Past Progressive
Simple Past Past Perfect Simple
Present Perfect
Past Perfect
Past Progressive Past Perfect Progressive
Present Perfect Progressive
Past Perfect Progressive
Future I (going to) was / were going to
Future I (will) Conditional I
Conditional I
Future II Conditional II
Conditional II


Backshift of Simple Present is optional if the situation is still unchanged or if you agree with the original speaker.

“Canberra is the capital of Australia.“
She said that Canberra is / was the capital of Australia.

Backshift of Simple Past and Past Progressive is optional if they cannot be mistakenly taken for backshift of Present Tense. So backshift is not necessary if there is a time expression indicating past.

“She left Boston on Monday.“
He said that she left / had left Boston on Monday.

Simple Past and Past Progressive do not normally change in sentences with when / if.

“When I was having breakfast, the telephone suddenly rang
She said that when she was having breakfast, the telephone suddenly rang.
“If I had more time, I would learn French.“
He said that if he had more time, he would learn French.


The basic rule for requests is: introductory clause + ‚to‘ + infinite verb.

“Say hello to your mum.“
She asked me to say hello to my mum.

Advise expressions with must, should and ought are usually reported using advise / urge.

“You must read that book.“
He advised / urged me to read that book.

The expression let’s is usually reported using suggest. In this case, there are various possibilities for reported speech: gerund or statement with should.

“Let’s go to the cinema.“
He suggested going to the cinema.
He suggested that we should go.to the cinema.