Conditionals In Reported Speech



As a consequence of this author’s library of textbooks of English completely lacking, or only summarily dealing with the question of conditional sentences in reported speech – a topic which had neither been dealt with in his years of study, nor in the courses he had taught at any institute – he deduced the treatment that such sentences should be given on the basis of the little available information. Upon further delving into the question, the conclusions were cross-checked with any additional findings. While the intuitively-comprehended grammar was in agreement with those discoveries, it was felt that this material needed to be made more available to a wider audience which might desire to lớn accurately reconstruct an original sentence from reported speech – a much more daunting task – và a question rarely dealt with. Although the need for such a transformation might be rare, inquiring minds may come up with the questions dealt with in this paper, & it behooves the language professional to lớn have a ready answer.

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This brief article looks at an aspect of reported speech which is often overlooked in textbooks, perhaps because that facet should be considered as self-evident, & as a corollary of what was already learnt. Consideration of the correct treatment lớn be afforded in indirect speech is not lacking when speaking of words such as “say”, “tell”, “request”, “command”, etc.; & indeed, such a các mục of words could be appropriate when dealing with a sentence that was stated as a conditional. However, it would seem that khổng lồ correctly convey the thought expressed in a conditional declaration, reported speech must take special pains khổng lồ avoid confusion as lớn what was said verbatim in the original statement, và not approximately. A web search using the terms “reconstruction of direct speech from reported speech” gave only one result among the first ten, và that was to a very specific question. Should such a point of view seem khổng lồ be of little practical use, there are nevertheless those students who might come up with the question dealt here, and it may well be worth avoiding a red face by having a ready answer. We herewith look at the causes and possible cures to such situations.

The reader is forewarned that some of the stranger sentences here reflect a quirky sense of humour. As a web-based article, attempts at gaining visible placement require some non-standard practices. From time khổng lồ time, the criteria varies – but of one thing we can be sure: where we would lượt thích to give all possible transformations of a sample sentence, it was felt more prudent to leave that as an exercise lớn the reader.

Basics of Indirect Speech

As this writer has pointed out lớn his students, for all practical purposes, after a verb such as “said”, following the rule that the verb tense must shift back one cấp độ from what was originally used will achieve correct or acceptable results. Where it is possible to lớn contemplate exceptions, it would vì students well to lớn consider the particular demands of the teacher, or of any thử nghiệm to be taken, so that one is not lulled into a false sense of security. Not all texts treat the subject of indirect speech with the same general solutions, và indeed, students who transfer from one school khổng lồ another, let alone from one country to lớn another, should not automatically assume that what they have learned as correct will be so considered in a different environment.

The following elementary principles reflect what this teacher considers as standard.

One need not know much about grammar to know that yesterday came before today, which is another way of saying that the past preceded the present. This truism allows us to khuyến mãi with quotations in the simple present tense in reported speech, by changing the verb khổng lồ the past. The same process is, of course, extended khổng lồ the present perfect. (Other words in the sentence may require changing, but there is enough material to be found elsewhere on that topic.)

Speaker: “There IS enough food on the table of gluttons.”

Indirect Speech of the preceding: The speaker said (that) there was enough food on the table of gluttons. “IS” in the quoted sentence changed to “WAS” in oratio obliqua. (Treble and Vallens, 1936, 99.)

Here is an example with the present perfect, with emphasis on results affecting the present:

Health Authority speaking: “There has been an epidemic of overeating in the country during the last few years.

Indirect Speech of the preceding: The health authority said that there had been an epidemic of overeating in the country during the last few years.

The English language is not so kind in providing us with suitable words for describing something which happened in a time past before another time gone by. Spanish has a word, antepasado, literally meaning “before (the) past”, but the first dictionary we looked at gives us the unsatisfactory renditions “passed” and “elapsed”. Another gives us “before past”, but using that in a sentence related to lớn grammar might provide a minor challenge. In light of the next Spanish word we present, it would seem strange that this seemingly “before-the-past” has nothing to do with verb tenses, but with ancestors. We bring it up only because it seems to lớn be a “missing link” in a series of terms related khổng lồ time.

Of course, we have the term “past perfect” or “pluperfect”, which are more arcane than the Spanish term we have given. Khổng lồ keep things simple, we will point out that one Spanish translation of the present perfect is antepresente. As in English, though, different authors may vary in their usage of terms, and, for example, the danh mục of past tenses and their alternative names in (Bello và Cuervo, 1945, phường 164) is formidable. However, in neither English nor Spanish vị we have a solution for giving a rendition of time even more previous to lớn a such a period already defined prior lớn another. The following diagram shows that Spanish did make a minor concession lớn a time period immediately preceding another, but that is as far as it goes. We must, of course, not fall into the trap of thinking that “before-the-present” implies the (simple) past, any more than khổng lồ attribute a greater completion of anything in the here-and-now by the present perfect.

Past perfect —- simple past –Spanish antepresente — present perfect — simple present

If the present perfect were taken as a non-grammatical term, & understood literally, who would use it? We may postulate the Biblical characters, Adam and Eve. One says khổng lồ the other: “We are living in the Garden of Paradise, in Eden, in the present perfect, in a perfect present.” Of course, they were yet to lớn learn that the present does not always have such a property. & Bible readers can tell us, for this couple, the grass was not greener on the other side, that is, it definitely was not a future perfect!

Teachers might consider asking students how to make the following sentence sound as if it were “more in the past” than it is at present; individual readers will find the solution below:

In a sentence with the present perfect, e.g.,

Speaker: “There HAVE BEEN enough wars in recorded history”, it is not even necessary to know the name of the tense arrived at (if results are lớn be merely intuitive), because the present tense of the auxiliary verb changes into the past again, giving:

The speaker said (that) there HAD BEEN enough wars in recorded history.

Because we see no kết thúc to wars, the preceding sentence might easily be up for an examination as lớn whether the tense change is required, but we will follow the safe rule.

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The student who needs to name the transformation has no choice but lớn know that we have now used the past perfect, a.k.a. The pluperfect.

While a sentence has already been given in the present perfect in direct speech further above, we prefer, in that example, khổng lồ think that the epidemic referred khổng lồ is still with us in the present; while in this example about war, we would lượt thích to think that the problem is close lớn the present, but fading away. That such a sentiment is wishful thinking is another matter.

The teacher might have students try lớn put the following Lewis Carroll type nonsensical sentence into reported speech, to lớn see what thoughts come khổng lồ them:

Moderator: Before the able fashioning of a cane, when wood WAS scarce, there HAD BEEN a dam on the river on the eve of creation.

If one were to suppose that our grammar is lacking in the required tools lớn put this sentence into a size even more in the past – something that seems khổng lồ be rarely discussed, we can reply that the sự kiện before another makes time relations clear, even in reported speech:

The moderator said that before the able fashioning of a cane, when wood WAS scarce, there HAD BEEN a dam on the river, etc.

Hint: to better understand the sentence, try reading it as “There had been …., before ….”

Reported Speech with Conditional Statements

Based on the foregoing, there should be, at first glance, no problem with the reported speech of a sentence like:

Science Teacher: If a scuba diver comes up too fast, he will get the bends.

The above, a zero conditional, or type 0, involving statement of a fact, with the “if” meaning “whenever”, is not a conditional at all. Reported speech in this case will not have any tense change for the words that were spoken.

The teacher explained that a scuba diver comes up too fast, he will get the bends.

Nor, by following standard rules, there will not be any problem with the first conditional, the real conditional in the present, nor in any other case where the main clause is in the present tense:

Disenfranchised Person: If I GET the vote, I WILL elect someone who IS in favour of justice.

Our reporter declared that the disenfranchised person WOULD elect someone who WAS in favour of justice if he GOT the vote.

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There is no problem here, but, if the first conditional – the real conditional in the present – is in effect the same as the second conditional, a difficulty in interpretation could arise. Let us see what I can invent:

Note: search engines consider repetition of key phrases as a sign of spamming or unfair attempts khổng lồ direct traffic lớn one’s page; so, while desiring khổng lồ change only the verb tense in the following examples, it has been necessary to revise each sentence to lớn something sufficiently different. The reader’s indulgence and imagination is requested. The italicized segment is what was originally retained in all sentences of a similar nature. We have presented the desired text in image format, to lớn try lớn elude the problem mentioned.