and verb tenses in English
While expressing reported statements in
English is relatively easy to
master, putting direct questions
into reported speech can often cause
problems for the learner.
The simplest way to master the rules or structures is to start with a
few varied direct questions, and use them as models
We will use the following M
Where is my jacket ? (question using to be)
What is making that noise ? ( Wh
word as subject, )
Does she like chocolate? (no question word present)
What are you doing ? (Wh
word as object).
Where do you live ? (Wh
word as adverb).
- a) The main thing to remember
that in reported
interrogatives, there is no inversion
of subject and verb.
Reported speech can be
introduced by a lot of different verbs, but most commonly by
expressions such as "He
asked...... , I wonder....." etc.
- When there is no question
word (as in model M3),
indirect questions are introduced by if or whether.
1. Reporting the
present: simultaneous reporting.
This is not complicated. The verb tense in the reported question is the
as in the original question.
"Where is my jacket ?" ►
He's asking where his jacket is.
"What is making that noise ?" ► I
wonder what's making that noise
"Does she like chocolate ?" ► I
wonder if (whether) she likes chocolate.
"What are you doing ?" ► He's
asking what you're doing.
"What is he saying ?" ► I
wonder what he's saying.
"Where does he come from ?" ► I wonder where he comes from.
2. Reporting the
past: deferred reporting.
is a little more complicated, but not impossible to master. It is
the more common form of reporting. The verb in the reported
question usually changes.
from the present.
If the reported question refers to a past situation, the verb in the
reported question clause should go in the past
But if the reported question refers to a permanent or ongoing situation
) , it can
remain in the present.
Where is my jacket ?" ►
He asked where his jacket was.
"Where is London ?" ► He asked
where London is
"What is making that noise ?" ► I
wondered what was
making the noise.
"Who lives in this house ?" ► I wondered
in this house.
"Do you want a chocolate?" ► They
asked (me) If I wanted
a chocolate .
you speak English ?" ► He asked
(me) if I speak
"What are you doing ?" ► He
asked what you were
"What are you doing ?" ► He asked
"What is he saying?" ► I
asked what he was
"Where does he come from ?" ► I asked him where he came from.
the examples above, the jacket
(M1) has moved
since the question was asked, but London
(M11) has not moved ! We can suppose that the noise (M2) has
but that the person still
lives (M21) in the house, and so on.
As for example M31, people often put the verb
into the past tense in this type of reported question, though strictly
this is not necessary, nor really really correct. "He asked me if I spoke English"
suggests that speaking English is something you can do one day, but not
what was the future
in the original question.
a direct question using a future
verb form is reported, the future form of the question
clause becomes a
conditional, or a future-in-the-past if what was the future is now the
– are going to > were going to
– can > could,
If the original future is still in the future
then the reported question remains in the future.
"Where will you be tomorrow?"
► He asked where I would be the following day.
"Where will I be in 2030 ?" ► I wondered
where I'll be
"What will come next ?" ► He
asked what would come
"Will you take me home?" ► I
asked if he'd take me
Will he still be there in 2020 ?" ► I wondered
if he'll still be there in 2020.
What are you going to do ?" ► He asked what I was going to do..
"Who's she going to marry ?" ► They asked
going to marry .
"How will you survive?" ► He
asked me how I'd survive .
adverbs of time or place.
many other languages) has a series of adverbs of time and
place which are absolute
and strictly related to present time
(the moment) or place. Now,
today, yesterday, tomorrow, in
five minutes' time (etc), here.
questions or statements, the moment is not normally the
same as it
was when the question or statement was originally made. Therefore it is
often necessary to change the adverb of time and use one that
expresses a relative
concept of time.
Here are the most common pairs:
day, the following day
day before, the previous day
then, at that moment,
(etc) time five minutes (etc.) later
you be here tomorrow?" would be reported as:
asked if I could be there the following day.