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Author Topic: The usage of the reported speach.  (Read 2848 times) Average Rating: 0
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msmirnov
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« on: November 20, 2007, 02:26:41 PM »

Tell me please, what variant is correct?

1. He told me that Washington is the capital of the United States.
2. He told me that Washington was the capital of the United States.

Thank you very much!
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ytterbiumanalyst
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« Reply #1 on: November 20, 2007, 04:03:32 PM »

First of all, the question would be better stated as "which variant is correct."

In response to your question, the first option is the correct one.

Since "Washington is the capital of the United States" by itself is correct, then "He told me that [Washington is the capital of the United States]" is also correct. The grammar does not change even though that sentence is now inside a larger one.
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scamandrius
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« Reply #2 on: November 20, 2007, 05:45:06 PM »

Ah, the grammatical shortcomings of the English language!

both of your variations are correct.  Since English lacks ways to truly differentiate present and future tenses in indirect speech as well as adequate differentiation in the sequence of tenses, both are correct.

Direct speech:  "Washington is the capital of the U.S."
Indirect speech (note tense of main verb):  "He told (past tense) me that Washington was (same time as main verb) the capital of the U.S."  This does not mean that Washington ceases to be the capital of the U.S. now, but it relates what was said at that moment, hence the continued use of past tense, but it does not negate future implications.

This is one of the main reasons Latin is such a great language.  In Latine (Augustine, Dantxny, hoc vobis est):

Direct:  Washington caput Civitatum Americae Foederatarum est.
Indirect:  Dixit mihi Washington Civitatum Americae Foederatarum esse.

In this case you can't translate esse as anything else besides "was". 
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ytterbiumanalyst
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« Reply #3 on: November 21, 2007, 02:06:06 PM »

Ah, yes, the idea that English grammar must conform to Latin rules.

Scamandrius is correct in that usually you should not change the tense (or time) of the verb in mid-sentence. However, you will find that this is said both ways in speech, yet in writing the first is generally considered more correct.
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"It is remarkable that what we call the world...in what professes to be true...will allow in one man no blemishes, and in another no virtue."--Charles Dickens
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