Reporting Time

When we use reported speech, we usually have to make changes to references of time.

For example, imagine on Monday Bruce says to me:

“I will play tennis tomorrow.”

Then later in the week on Wednesday I see my friend Jill and report what Bruce told me. I can’t say:

x Bruce said he would play tennis tomorrow.

I can’t say this because tomorrow refers to a different day. On Monday when Bruce said tomorrow, it meant Tuesday. But now when I’m talking to Jill on Wednesday, tomorrow means Thursday.

To fix this problem I have to change the time expression, in a similar way to how we backshift the tenses. So the correct way to report is:

Bruce said he would play tennis the next/following day.

Here is a list of the common changes we make to time expressions:

Direct Speech Indirect Speech
‘I’m speaking with him now,’ she said.
→ then/at that moment
She said that she was speaking with him then/at that moment.
‘I have to work today,’ he said.
→ that day/night
He said he had to work that day.
‘We saw James yesterday,’ she said.
→ the day before
She said that they had seen James the day before.
next week/month/year
‘David is visiting next week,’ he said/
→ the following week/month/year
He said that David was visiting the following week.
‘I will probably go swimming tomorrow.’
→ the next/following day
He said that he would probably go swimming the next day/the following day.
‘I saw him 5 days ago,’ she said.
→ before
She said that she had seen him 5 days before.
last week/month/year
‘I saw my family last week,’ he said.
→ the previous week/month/year OR the week/month/year before
He said that he had seen his family the week before / the previous week.


Tests Status