Tense changes when using reported speech
Normally, the tense in reported speech is one tense back in time from the tense in direct speech:
She said, "I am tired." = She said that she was tired.
|Phrase in direct speech||Equivalent in reported speech|
|Simple present||Simple past|
|"I always drink coffee", she said||She said that she always drank coffee.|
|Present continuous||Past continuous|
|"I am reading a book", he explained.||He explained that he was reading a book|
|Simple past||Past perfect|
|"Bill arrived on Saturday", he said.||He said that Bill had arrived on Saturday.|
|Present perfect||Past perfect|
|"I have been to Spain", he told me.||He told me that he had been to Spain.|
|Past perfect||Past perfect|
|"I had just turned out the light," he explained.||He explained that he had just turned out the light.|
|Present perfect continuous||Past perfect continuous|
|They complained, "We have been waiting for hours".||They complained that they had been waiting for hours.|
|Past continuous||Past perfect continuous|
|"We were living in Paris", they told me.||They told me that they had been living in Paris.|
|"I will be in Geneva on Monday", he said.||He said that he would be in Geneva on Monday.|
|Future continuous||Conditional continuous|
|She said, "I'll be using the car next Friday".||She said that she would be using the car next Friday.|
You do not need to change the tense if the reporting verb is in the present, or if the original statement was about something that is still true, e.g.
- He says he has missed the train but he'll catch the next one.
- We explained that it is very difficult to find our house.
These modal verbs do not change in reported speech: might, could, would, should, ought to:
- We explained, "It could be difficult to find our house." = We explained that it could be difficult to find our house.
- She said, "I might bring a friend to the party." = She said that she might bring a friend to the party.