Lesson

Tense Changes

Because we usually report about something later, we usually change the verb tense:

Direct Speech Indirect Speech
present simple
‘I play football,’ said Dennis.
→ past simple
Dennis said (that) she played football.
present continuous
‘I am playing football,’ said Dennis.
→ past continuous
Dennis said (that) she was playing football.
past simple
‘I played football,’ said Dennis.
→ past perfect
Dennis said (that) she had played football.
present perfect
‘I have played football,’ said Dennis.
→ past perfect
Dennis said (that) she had played football.
past perfect
‘I had played football,’ said Dennis.
→ past perfect
Dennis said (that) she had played football.
past continuous
‘I was playing football,’ said Dennis.
→ past perfect continuous
Dennis said (that) she had been playing football.
am going to
‘I am going to play football,’ said Dennis.
→ was going to
Dennis said (that) she was going to play football.
will
‘I will play football,’ said Dennis.
→ would
Dennis said (that) she would play football.
can
‘I can play football,’ said Dennis.
→ could
Dennis said (that) she could play football.
may
‘I may play football,’ said Dennis.
→ might
Dennis said (that) she might play football.
must
‘I must play football,’ said Dennis.
→ had to / must (less common) 
Dennis said (that) she had to / must play football

We can see that the changes in verbs move back in time: present simple becomes past simple, present perfect becomes past perfect, will becomes would etc. We call this change “backshift” because the verbs “shift back” in time.

The past perfect doesn’t change, however, because we can’t go back in time more than the past perfect:

Direct speech: “I had played football,” said Claire.
Reported speech: Claire said that she had played football.

These verbs stay the same:

Direct Speech Indirect Speech
could
‘I could play football,’ said Claire.
→ could
Claire said (that) she could play football.
should
‘I should play football,’ said Claire.
→ should
Claire said (that) she should play football.
might
‘I might football,’ said Claire.
→ might
Claire said (that) she might play football.
ought to
‘I ought to play football,’ said Claire.
→ ought to
Claire said ought to play football.
used to
‘I used to play football,’ said Claire.
→ used to
Claire said (that) she used to play football.

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