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The sequence of tenses is:



  1. in present-time contexts after a past form in the principal clause when the reference is made to

    1. the actual present time (I told her that we are always glad to see her)

    2. the actual past time (They left an hour ago. You said you didn’t want to go)

    3. the actual future time (Did you know they are coming tomorrow?)

  2. after a past form in the principal clause when we speak about the general truth (He understood how important the profession of a doctor is)

  3. with modal verbs which have only one form – MUST, SHOULD, OUGHT TO, NEED (I said I must be off)

  1. in object clauses (­)

  2. in subject and predicative clauses (It is strange how she left)

  3. in appositive clauses (She had the fear that smth terrible would happen)

  4. in clauses of purpose (He turned on the light so that everyone could see him)

  5. in simple sentences in the inner speech (It wasn’t actually as bad. Tom was to leave for college, but it didn’t mean Kelly would stay alone)

  6. in simple sentences with an inserted parenthetic sentence (It was all right, James thought to himself)


Direct speech

Reported speech

Present simple

“I want to go to bed early,” he said.

Past simple

He said (that) he wanted to go to bed early.

Present continuous

“She is feeding the baby,” he said.

Past continuous

He said (that) she was feeding the baby.

Present perfect

“I have bought a new dress,” she said.

Past perfect

She said (that) she had bought a new dress.

Past simple

“I finished work early,” Alex said.

Past simple or past perfect

Alex said (that) he (had) finished work early.

Past continuous

“I was planning to call you later,” she said.

Past continuous or Past perfect continuous

She said (that) she was planning/ had been planning to call me later.

Future (will)

“I will talk to you tomorrow,” she said.

Conditional (would)

She said (that) she would talk to me the next day.

The sequence of tenses is not observed in Object Clauses when:

• a general truth or scientific law is expressed:

Copernicus concluded that the earth goes round the sun.

• something habitual, customary, or characteristic is represented:

We asked a bank clerk when the bank closes.

• in newspaper and magazine articles:

It was announced in Cairo yesterday that the election will be held in June





then, at this time, immediately


last week

the week before,

the previous week

today, tonight

that day,

that night

next week

the week after,

the following week


the day before, the previous day

two days ago

two days before


the next day, the following day



this week

that week



We can use the verbs say and tell both in direct and reported speech.

Tell is always followed by a personal object (told me).

Say is used with or without a personal object. When used with a personal object it is always followed by the preposition to (said to me).

Study the following examples:

Direct speech

Reported speech

He said, “I’m Ted.”

He said (that) he was Ted.

He said to me, “I’m Ted”.

He said to me that he was Ted.

He told me, “I’m Ted”.

He told me that he was Ted.

Say and tell are also used with the following expressions:


good morning, afternoon, etc., something, nothing, etc., one’s prayers, so, a few words


the truth, a lie, a secret, a story, the time, the difference, smb one’s name, smb the way, one from another, one’s fortune

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