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SIBIU, 2012


A complex sentence is made up of one or several main / principal clauses and at

least one secondary / subordinate clause. As we have previously seen, the relation main
clause - subordinate clause may vary a lot. We speak about a compound-complex
sentence, when there are several main clauses in the same sentence and about a complex-
compound sentence, when there are several subordinates of the same kind related to the
same main clause.
It often happens that the sentence is more complicated – i.e. the subordinate
clause may, in its turn, govern a subordinate of its own.
e.g.: He said he would tell me the secret if he knew it.
Or the sentence may have four or five or even more levels of subordination.
e.g.: She said she would leave as soon as she finished reading the mail she had
received from a friend who had visited her that summer.
In this case, the first clause "She said" is considered to be the main clause, while
the middle ones governing their own subordinates are regent clauses.


From the point of view of the levels of subordination, we are interested in the
distinction between governing clauses (principal or regent) and governed clauses
(subordinated to either the principal clause or one of the regent clauses).
From the point of view of their meaning and as related to the various parts of
speech, clauses can be classified as follows:
1. subject clauses;
2. predicate / predicative clauses;
3. direct object clauses;

4. indirect object clauses (rare);
5. prepositional object clauses (rare);
6. attributive clauses, subdivided in their turn as defining and non-defining.
Adverbial clauses can be subdivided as follows:
7. adverbial clauses of manner (modal clauses);
8. adverbial clauses of place (locative or directional clauses);
9. adverbial clauses of time (temporal clauses, possibly distinguishing between
definite and indefinite / frequency);
10. adverbial clauses of comparison (comparative clauses, sometimes identified as
adverbial clauses of manner);
11. adverbial clauses of concession (concessive clauses);
12. adverbial clauses of comparison and concession (comparative-concession
13. adverbial clauses of condition (conditional clauses);
14. adverbial clauses of reason / cause (causal / causative clauses);
15. adverbial clauses of result (consecutive clauses);
16. adverbial clauses of purpose (final clauses).
Some grammarians also signal the existence of:
17. introductory emphatic clauses;
18. adverbial clauses of relation;
19. adverbial clauses of degree, measure, quantity and approximation;
20.adverbial clauses of exception.

1. SUBJECT CLAUSES - have the same role as the subject in a

simple sentence. A subject clause, therefore, includes a group of words out of which one
must be a verb in a predicative (finite mood).
e.g.: What they promised you is not possible. (=Their promise is not possible).
Subject clauses may be introduced by conjunctions, pronouns, and - rarely -
Conjunctions frequently introducing subject clauses are: that, if and whether.
e.g.: That you never arrive on time is no wonder.

Whether she will agree is a different matter.
Pronouns which can introduce subject clauses include: who, which, whoever,
whichever, whatever.
e.g.: Who will be the new president is a secret.
Whoever will take this job will find it difficult.
What you say is perfectly right.
Whatever they say is always sensible.
Adverbs which are used to introduce subject clauses include: where, when, how,
why, wherever, whenever, however, whysoever, whither (=to what place)
e.g.: When / why / where he will come does not concern you.
Where / whither I should go I don`t know yet.
Wherever / whenever he will go is still a secret.
Asyndetic connection even if quite rare, can be used to introduce subject clauses:
e.g.: "Come and see me" is what he said to me.

2. PREDICATIVE CLAUSES - have the same function in a

sentence as that of the predicative (= nume predicativ) in a simple clause / sentence. The
verb of its regent clause must therefore be a copulative verb: to be (with its synonyms: to
fall, to hold, to lie, to make, to prove, o rank, to rest, to sit, to stay, to stand), to become
(with its synonyms: to come, to get, to go, to grow, to run, to turn, to turn out), to
continue (with its synonyms: to go on, to hold, to keep), to seem (with its synonyms: to
appear, to look, to loom), to call, to consider, to find, to happen, to hold, to leave off, etc.
e.g.: That is what we discussed.
It seems that we have no choice.
The important thing is what we can do now.
The truth is I have never seen him before. (asyndetic connection, the
conjunction that is omitted).
It turned out that he was wrong.
Predicative clauses are often difficult to differentiate from subject clauses. But while the
subject clause is usually the subordinate which precedes the copulative verb, the
predicative is the one which follows it.

e.g. What I know about him (subject) is that he works late (predicative).
Once their order in the sentence is changed, these subordinate change their role, too.
e.g. That he works late (subject) is what I know about him (predicative).

3. DIRECT OBJECT CLAUSES - have the same role in a sentence

as a direct object in simple extended sentences. A direct object clause can be required by
a verb in either a personal or an impersonal mood:
e.g. I understand that you don’t like it. (personal)
They would like to ask him if he comes. (impersonal)
He kept saying that he was busy. (impersonal)
They are practically introduced by the same elements as the subject clauses.
e.g.: I don’t know when / how / why he goes to Bucharest.
I don’t know who / what he is.
I doubt if / whether he knows our programme.
I saw (that) she understood.1
Who knows what has happened there?
She said she would call on us.
Most situations of indirect speech use direct object clauses. It is to be noted that
there are several situations in which changes are required, some regarding punctuation,
others - tenses, others - word order and others - the person of a pronoun.
Questions, for example, when reported, have to come back to their original word
order, as they are no longer questions.
e.g.: "Have you seen it?" she asked me. She asked me whether I had seen it.
"Where do you live?" He asked me where I lived.

4. INDIRECT OBJECT CLAUSES - are the extension on the

plane of the complex sentence of an indirect object in a simple extended sentence.
e.g.: Give the money to whoever needs it.
They were giving flowers to all those who came in.

The conjunction that is not to be used after I wish, I’d rather, I’d sooner, it is time, which require the use
of a subjunctive.
e.g. I wish he were here.
He gave another meaning to what I said.

5. PREPOSITIONAL OBJECT CLAUSES - have the same role

in a sentence as a corresponding prepositional object in a simple sentence. It is required
by verbs with obligatory prepositions: to argue about, to complain about, to prepare for,
to receive from, to suffer from, to dream of, to remind of, to think of, to agree on, to
concentrate on, to rely on, to belong to, to give to, to listen to, to fight with, to talk with,
etc., or adjectives with obligatory prepositions: afraid of, angry about, different from,
proud of, consistent with, crazy about, disgusted with, indignant at, sorry for, sure of
(somebody)/about (something), etc.
e.g.: Think of what you are doing.
Wait for what the others will do.
They laughed at what I said.
He is listening to what I say.
She was afraid of what might happen.

6. ATTRIBUTIVE CLAUSES - often called relative clauses,

modify a noun, or, more rarely, a pronoun from the regent clause, and is usually placed
immediately after it. They can be subdivided according to the importance they have in the
sentence, whether they are essential to the meaning of the sentence or not (just add

A. Defining / restrictive / limiting relative attributive clauses are indispensable

to the meaning of the subject or another nominal element in the sentence, therefore they
cannot be omitted without affecting clarity. They are usually introduced by a relative
pronoun: who/whom, which, what, that, as, the relative adjective whose, the adverbs
where and when, or asyndetically.
e.g.: A man who works hard will always succeed.
The place where the accident happened is off the main road.

B. Non-defining / descriptive / amplifying relative attributive clauses, usually
placed between commas or dashes, are parenthetical in meaning, punctuation and
intonation. The information they carry is not essential for the understanding or
identification of the nominal element. They can be introduced by the relative pronouns:
who, which, whoever, whichever, the relative adjective whose, or the adverbs when and
e.g.: My mother, who is always at home, will answer the phone.
He was late, which upset everybody.

C. A third type of attributive clause is the appositive attributive clause, which

conveys more or less essential information. Appositive attributive clauses are not
separated by commas from the noun they explain or amplify or clarify (and which would
have little meaning without them), or from the rest of the sentence. They are supposed to
modify a noun with an abstract, vague meaning: fact, question, opinion, idea, belief,
doubt, feeling, impression, wish, etc.
e.g.: The fact that she didn’t come was surprising for all of us.
The news that he was re-elected President quickly spread all over the country.
They all listened to the story of how the company had succeeded.
In the above examples, the semantic value of the head-noun lies in its attribute -
i.e. the appositive attributive clause.

7. ADVERBIAL CLAUSES - are the equivalent on the plane of a

complex sentence of what adverbial modifiers are on the plane of a simple extended

a. Adverbial modifiers of manner / modal (adverbial) clauses - are introduced

by the conjunction as and by the relative adverb how, sometimes by the compound
conjunction in what manner.
e.g.: Do as you think.
Do it how you can / in what manner you can.
He did it as best as he could.

b. Adverbial clauses of place, sometimes called locative - are introduced by the
relative adverbs where, wherever, everywhere (that).
e.g.: I’ll go where / wherever / wheresoever / whither I want.

c. Adverbial clauses of time - are introduced by many adverbs and

conjunctions: when, whenever, while, as, till, until, as soon as, as long as, before, after,
directly after, directly, since, now that.
e.g.: Come when / whenever you like.
As soon as / as / once / immediately after you have arrived home, you may go
to bed.
A particular pattern of time clause is the one which is translated into Romanian
by "nici nu...,că...și...", in which it is actually difficult to distinguish the main clause from
the subordinate clause. There are three (or four) possibilities of expressing it:
Hardly / Scarcely / Barely + past perfect (with inversion) + ...(,) when + past
tense + ...
No sooner + past perfect (with inversion) + ...(,) than + past tense +...
e.g.: Hardly / Scarcely / Barely had he said that, when he regretted it.
No sooner had I seen her, than I recognized her.
Adverbial clauses of time are subject to many restrictions regarding the
sequence of tenses. Briefly put, they might include the following situations:
- concomitance with the present tenses (present indefinite, present perfect) in the
main clauses is shown by the present in the temporal clause; with the past tenses (past
indefinite, past perfect) it is indicated by the past indefinite in the temporal clause; with
the future it is expressed by the present indefinite in the temporal clause.
e.g.: He comes here when he likes.
He came here when he felt like it.
He will come here when he thinks fit to do so.
- anteriority / priority / previousness to the present tenses in the main clause is
indicated by the present perfect in the temporal clause: to a past tense in the main clause
is expressed by the past perfect in the temporal clause, and priority to a future action can

only be expressed by the present perfect in the temporal clause.
e.g.: I always have my cup of coffee after I have had something to eat.
He left only after he had said goodbye to everybody.
She will only be allowed to leave after she has finished her work.
- subsequence / ulteriority to the present in the main clause is rendered by the
future, while in relation to a past action it is shown by the future-in-the-past in the
temporal clause or by a past tense, the relation being indicated by till / until / before etc.
e.g.: He is reading now, after which / while afterwards he will take a break.
He lived in Sibiu before he went to live in Bucharest. (the future-in-the-past is
rarely used here).
They will have a concert in Romania first, after which they will sign another

d. Adverbial clauses of comparison (comparative adverbial clauses) - are

related to the adverbial clauses of manner. However they have peculiarities, especially as
regards the conjunctions introducing them: as, so, than, more than, and comparative
phrases of various types: as + adverb + as + subject + verb, not more than, no less than
e.g.: She is two years older than I (am).
I miss you more than you believe.
He slept more than he was allowed to.
He slept no less than I (did).

e. Adverbial clauses of concession (concessive adverbial clauses) express a

contradiction between the subordinate and the main clause. They are introduced by the
conjunctions: although, though, in spite of, despite the fact that, notwithstanding (the
fact) that, by the adverbs: however, however much, however long, however little, no
matter how (much/long), whether, no matter whether, by the indefinite pronouns:
whatever, whoever, whichever and their emphatic correspondents: whatsoever etc., no
matter what / who / whom / which.
e.g.: Whatever you say / No matter what you say / Whatever you may say, I`ll do

You’ll have to learn English, whether you like it or not.
However hard / much / long I may work, it’s worth the trouble.

f. Adverbial clauses of comparison and concession have no parallel at the level

of the simple sentence. They may be reduced to elliptical forms with "as though / as if +
past participle" quite frequently.
e.g.: He speaks as if he knew what all is about.
He walked as if he were tired.
In these cases the subjunctive is used and the relation between the main clause
and the subordinate clause is that of concomitance. If the relation is of priority, the
perfect subjunctive should be used.
e.g.: She speaks English as if she had been brought up in England.
He cried as though someone had beaten him.

g. Adverbial clauses of condition (conditional clauses) have no correspondent

on the plane of the syntax of the simple sentence. The conjunctions introducing
conditional clauses are: if, supposing (that), providing/provided (that), in case, unless, in
case + no, on condition (that), assuming, as long as, but for.
e.g.: If she didn’t like tea, she wouldn’t drink it.
Supposing / suppose / provided (that) she finds the door unlocked, she may
come in.
Unless you do the task yourself, nobody else will do it.
The conjunction "if" can be omitted, for reasons of emphasis, the conditional
clause being introduced asyndetically. Such cases are only possible with the verbs were,
should, had and could and imply an inversion.
e.g.: Were I taller, I should reach the top shelf.
Should he arrive earlier, tell him to wait.
Had I remembered your phone number, I should have called you.
Could I help her, I should most gladly do it.
A classification of conditional clauses would include the following categories:
I. Conditional clauses of real condition referring to the future (not
contradicting the present reality) - include a present indefinite of the indicative, and a

future indefinite in the main clause.
e.g.: If I have time tomorrow, I shall go there.

II. Conditional clauses of real condition referring to the present alone,

suggesting the idea of repetition / reiteration, in which the tenses of the indicative are
identical in both the subordinate and the main clause
e.g.: If I have time, I always / often / generally watch TV. (Meaning: Whenever /
when I have time...)

III. Conditional clauses of real condition referring to the past, having the
meaning of temporal clauses denoting habitual actions, use the past indefinite of the
indicative in both the main and the subordinate clause.
e.g.: If I had time, I (always) sent a message to my friend every day. (Meaning:
Whenever I had time, I used to send a message...)

IV. Conditional clauses of unreal condition referring to the (immediate)

present or the future in which the condition contradicting the present reality can be
fulfilled some time or another. It is also called unreal but possible and uses the present
conditional in the main clause and the synthetic subjunctive in the subordinate.
e.g.: If she were here, she would help me.

V. Conditional clauses of unreal condition referring to the past, whose

condition is highly hypothetical, therefore unreal and impossible and irreversible. It uses
the perfect conditional in the main clause and the synthetic subjunctive perfect in the
subordinate one.
e.g.: If the boy hadn’t missed the class, he would have understood the lesson.

VI. Other clauses introduced by if may be termed "apparent" conditional

clauses, because they are in fact clauses of reason, of result, etc.
e.g.: If you have finished your homework, you may come with us.
(=Since / as you have finished your homework...- shows reason,
rather than condition)

h. Adverbial clauses of reason / cause also called causal / causative clauses,
whose role is similar to that of the adverbial modifiers of reason in the simple extended
sentence, can be introduced by the conjunctions: because, since, as, considering (that),
seeing (that), now (that), for the reason that, in view of the fact that.
e.g.: Because / Since / As / Considering I had too little money on me,
I didn`t buy the DVD.
Considering / Seeing / Now that / For the reason that / In view of
the fact that we are all here, we may start the meeting.

i. Adverbial clauses of result / consequence / effect (consecutive adverbial

clauses) play the same role as their corresponding adverbial modifier of result in a simple
extended sentence. They are introduced by the conjunctional phrase "so that" or in
American English the conjunction "so" or the correlative conjunctions "so...that"
e.g.: It was dark, so that we had to switch on the light.
She was so busy that she didn’t have time for lunch.
Another pattern is "such + linking verb + noun + that + subordinate consecutive
e.g.: Such was my amazement that I couldn’t say a word.

j. Adverbial clauses of purpose (final clauses), introduced by the

conjunctions / conjunctional phrases: so that, in order that, that, so, for the purpose that,
followed by an analytic subjunctive in Standard English.
e.g.: He wears glasses, so that he may read.
They came closer, in order that they might hear us.
Negative purpose may be expressed by the same conjunctions + the negation
"not" attached to may / might. More usually, people prefer to use: lest, for fear that,
followed by the analytic subjunctive with should.
e.g.: He took a map, lest he should get lost.
We spoke in a whisper, for fear the child should hear us.
An alternative non-finite possibility, when the two actions have different
subjects, is "for-to infinitive" / "for-phrase + infinitive".

e.g.: He brought a book for me to read.

k. Adverbial clauses of relation, usually introduced by "as far as", "as

concerns", "as regards".
e.g.: As far as I understand, she doesn`t like me.

l. Adverbial clauses of quantity, measure, degree, intensity and approximation,

introduced by: as, according as, in proportion as, as far as, insofar as (=în măsura în
e.g.: As he grew older he grew wiser.
I’ll help you inasmuch as I can.
Insofar as nobody was hurt, the accident wasn’t serious.

m. Adverbial clauses of exception, introduced by conjunctional phrases made

up of the prepositions "except" and "save" or the restrictive adverbs: when, except that,
except when, save that, only that etc.
e.g.: He is so hardworking except when he is very tired.
I like it only that I don`t have enough money to buy it.


Definition: The chapter of the sequence of tenses in English covers "a set of rules
governing the selection of verbal forms - tenses or moods - in certain types of
subordinate clauses under the influence of a number of tenses or constructions in the
main or regent clauses".

The Application of Constraints upon the Tenses and Moods in Various Subordinate

1. Subject Clauses - are not influenced by the rules of the sequence of tenses.
But there are a number of constructions which require the use of a specific mood (i.e. the
subjunctive) or tenses.

a. The construction "it is necessary / important / advisable / inevitable / better /

natural..." must be followed by the analytic subjunctive present with should.
e.g.: It is advisable that she should be notified about it.
(American English favours the synthetic subjunctive: "It is advisable that she
be notified...")

b. The construction "it is possible / probable / likely..." must be followed by

the present analytic subjunctive with may or by the analytic subjunctive with might (for
more probability).
e.g.: It is possible that the film may have ended.
It is possible that he might have resigned. (=I doubt it).

c. The construction “it is strange/surprising/amazing/gratifying…” is

followed by the indicative in contemporary English.
e.g. It is surprising that she doesn’t want to come with us.

d. The construction “it is certain/sure/etc….” does not impose constraints, but

if it is used in the past, must be followed by a past tense, past perfect tense or a future-in-
e.g. It was certain that he was tired/that he had worked
hard/that he would fall asleep.

2.Predicative Clauses – allow perfect freedom in the use of tenses.

e.g. The question is if he likes it/ if he has done it/ if he would
accept it/ if he will notice it etc.

3.Direct Object Clauses are the ones which are subject of many rules and

exceptions in using verb tenses.
There are, in this respect, two main situations:

a. When the predicate of the main clause is used in a tense belonging to the
“group of present” ( present indefinite, present perfect or future tense), there is perfect
freedom in using tenses in the direct object clause:
e.g. He says/ He has said/ He will say/ Tell him that you are tired.
There are a couple of limitations here too:

- verbs of request, order and insistence are followed by the analytic subjunctive
with should in BE or the synthetic subjunctive in AE:
e.g. I demand that you should leave. (BE)
I demand that you leave. (AE)
- after the verb suggest, the indicative follows normally, but AE uses the synthetic
subjunctive I:
e.g. I suggest that she leaves right away. (BE)
I suggest that she leave right away. (AE)

b. When the predicate of the main clause is used in the past tense, the
past perfect or any other tense whose auxiliary is in the past tense, the
following rules are to be obeyed:
- the rule of concomitance/ simultaneousness/ simultaneity of the direct
object clause with the main clause, which is shown by the use of the past tense
e.g. He said he liked the new house.
- The rule of anteriority/ previousness/ priority, which is indicated by
using the past perfect in the subordinate clause:
e.g. I knew he had worked hard.
- the rule of subsequence/ posteriority/ ulteriority, which is indicated by
the use of the future-in-the-past in the subordinate clause:
e.g. Last year he promised he would come on Christmas.


- general or lasting truths, i.e. assertions whose validity exceeds the moment of
speaking; among the former category we include truths which are generally
accepted, or scientifically demonstrated.
e.g. The teacher told us that the Universe is infinite.
The others include prolonged, lasting or irremediable situations.
e. g. I knew that he is an orphan.

4.Indirect Object Clauses are not affected by the rules of the sequence of tenses.

5.Prepositional Object Clauses allow freedom in using any tense required by the
e.g. He was ignorant of what will happen.

6.Attributive Clauses are generally not affected by these rules.

e.g. He wrote the book which I am reading now.
However, it is sometimes felt necessary to express non-simultaneity.
e.g. I finally received the letter that you had written a long time
It is therefore the logic of the sentence which governs the use of tenses in this type of

7.Adverbial Clauses allow different ways of applying these rules:

- in adverbial clauses of manner (modal clauses) there is freedom
of using tenses according to the logic of the context;
e.g. He did as is convenient to him/ as he was required.

- in adverbial clauses of place there are no constraints either;

e.g. I went where I thought they would not find me.

- in adverbial clauses of time (temporal clauses), the basic criteria

are the same governing the direct object clauses, namely:

 The tenses in the group of the present, as well as the imperative, allow
freedom in using tenses in the subordinate clauses:
e.g. I lock the door when I leave/ when he has left.
No future can be used in these clauses.

 The tenses in the group of the future require the present indefinite for
concomitance and the present perfect for anteriority:
e.g. She’ll call on you when she considers.
He will have a cup of coffee as soon as he has had

 The tenses in the group of the past (past tense, past perfect, conditional
present or perfect) require a temporal clause in the past tense for
concomitance and in the past perfect for anteriority:
e.g. The meeting ended as soon as an agreement had been

Adverbial clauses of comparison have no constraints in using tenses:

e.g. Harry acted better than he usually does.

Adverbial clauses of comparison and concession impose the use of

the subjunctive (were for concomitance and had been for priority):
e.g. He spoke to him as if he didn’t know him.
The man walked as if he had been wounded.

Adverbial clauses of condition are subject to the following




I. Real condition Future Indicative Present

referring to the future He will come, if you invite him.

II. Real condition Present Indefinite Present Indefinite

referring to the present We stay at home, if it rains.

III. Real condition Present Pf./Past Tense Present Perfect/Past

referring to the past He (has) made a mistake if he (has) acted like this.

IV. Disguised tempo- Present Indefinite Present

ral clause referring He reads a lot if/when he has time.
to the present

V. Disguised temporal Past Tense (habitual) Past Tense

clause referring to the He dined out if/when he had enough money.

VI. Unreal condition Conditional Present Synthetic Subjunctive

referring to the pre- I should/would go there if I knew her address.
sent or future (unreal
but possible)

VII. Unreal condition Conditional Perfect Synthetic Subjunctive Perfect

referring to the past I should/would have gone there if I had known her address.

(unreal but impossible)

Adverbial Clauses of Reason (known as Causal/ Causative Clauses) are free from the
constraints of the sequence of tenses.
e.g. I came/ have come because I have something to tell you.
I finished earlier because I’ll have to go away soon.

Adverbial Clauses of Result are also free from any constraints from this point of
e.g. I was so tired that I didn’t hear the doorbell.

Adverbial Clauses of Purpose (also known as Final Clauses) impose the use of
various forms of the subjunctive mood:

- when the present perfect, future, or the imperative are used in the main clause,
the analytic subjunctive with may (or will) is to be used in the subordinate clause:
e.g. I’m doing it/ I have done it so that I may help you.

- in the negative we use the conjunction lest or the phrase for fear that + the
analytic subjunctive with should or would:
e.g. I spoke in a whisper, lest the baby should/ would wake up.

- when the past tense or the past perfect is used in the main clause, we use the
analytic subjunctive with might or would in the subordinate clause:
e.g. He came early, so that he might/would find me at home.

- if negative purpose is implied, lest or for fear that + the analytic subjunctive
with should or would follow:
e.g. He put the money in his pocket, for fear/ lest he should lose it.

- in case the purpose is uncertain, doubtful, hypothetical, highly improbable, the
analytic subjunctive with might is used:
e.g. They did their best so that they might save her life.

8. The Introductory Emphatic Clause may be used in either the present or the past.
e.g. It is for you that I stay.
It was for you that I had stayed.


There are frequent cases when we need to reproduce someone else’s words. This
can be done either directly, by quoting their exact words, or by transposing them into
indirect speech.
In the former case, we use what is called “direct speech”. The words of the original
speaker are rendered exactly as they have been used. In written form, direct speech must
be marked by the use of quotation marks (“...”).
The latter case implies a transition from direct speech into “indirect speech”, i.e.
rendering the initial words, without quoting them, either by subordinating them, in a
similar form, in a direct object clause, or by rendering their essence/gist in the words of
someone else.
The transition from direct into indirect/reported speech implies a variety of changes.
One of them concerns the change of speaker; the next has to do with the time of the
action (therefore with the tenses used); and another – with the location of the action (i.e.
with the adverbials of place).
Such changes are particularly difficult for the Romanian speaker of English, as the
Romanian language seems to encounter almost no constraints in this respect. Ignoring
them in English, however, would cause confusion or misunderstanding.
Indirect /Reported Speech
In the English grammar, indirect speech rules are based entirely on the rules of the
sequence of tenses, namely those regarding the subordinate direct object clauses. Apart
from the changes in verb tenses, however, the transition from direct to indirect speech
frequently implies changes in the field of time and place adverbs, as well as pronouns and
Regarding the morphological changes, the following aspects have to be mentioned:
The adjective is affected at the level of the possessive and the demonstrative ones.
Possessive adjectives change, usually together with the person of the subject. There
are rare cases when the subject remains the same, and consequently the possessives
accompanying it remain the same.
e.g. “I expect you to drive your own car”, she said.
She said she expected him to drive his own car.
“I will drive my own car”, I said.
I said I would drive my own car. (There is no need here to change the
possessive, as there is no need to change the subject pronoun of the direct object clause.)
Several types of pronouns are affected: personal, emphatic, possessive and
demonstrative pronouns often have to change in indirect speech when the person
e.g. She said: “He cannot join us.”
She said he couldn’t join them. (personal)
Richard said: “I consider myself a lucky person.”
Richard said he considered himself a lucky person. (emphatic)
He said: “This hat is mine, not yours.”
He explained to me (that) that hat was his, not mine. (possessive)
The teacher said: “This is your homework.”
The teacher told us (that) that was our homework. (demonstrative)
As to demonstrative adjectives of proximity (this, these), they change to
corresponding demonstrative adjectives denoting remoteness, no matter if they are part of
phrases expressing time or location.
e.g. The boy said: “These streets will be repaired this year.”
The boy told me (that) those streets would be repaired that year.

The most consistent changes, however, concern the verb, affecting its tenses. As a
direct speech sentence becomes a subordinate direct object clause when reported, the
rules discussed in the lecture on the sequence of tenses for this type of subordinates will
be applied here. Therefore, changes occur when the reporting verb (say, tell, mention,
announce, let know, remind, order, warn, threat, promise, admit, explain, repeat, assure,
reassure, doubt, complain, deny, agree, invite, advise, inform, ask, demand, inquire,
require, want to know, exclaim, insist, wonder, retort, answer, reply, etc.)2is used in a past
tense (past tense itself or past perfect tense). In this case, the reported verb is subject to
the BACKSHIFT RULE, i.e. present tense becomes past tense, past tense and present
perfect tense become past perfect tense, past perfect tense remains the same, and future
tenses built with will become future-in-the-past tenses built with would (shall/should,
e.g. “I like (present simple) tea.” → He said he liked (past simple) tea.
“He is talking (present continuous) to us.” → I informed you he was talking (past
continuous) to us.
“They left (past simple) early.” → She let us know they had left (past perfect)
“The child was playing (past continuous) alone.” → He complained the child had
been playing (past perfect continuous) alone.
“I haven’t finished (present perfect simple) yet.” → Sue warned us she hadn’t
finished (past perfect simple) yet.
“Tom has been driving (present perfect continuous) since morning.” → Mary
reminded us (that) Tom had been driving (past perfect continuous) since
“Dinner will be ready (future simple) in a minute.” → Mother promised dinner
would be ready (future-in-the-past simple) in a minute.
Note: Examples can continue with all the types of future built with will/would.
It is to be noted, however, that the imperative of the 2nd person singular and plural,
either affirmative or negative, changes to the infinitive, no matter the tense of the
reporting verb.
e.g. “Go home! Don’t stay here!” → He orders/ordered us to go home and not to stay
The longer the text reported, the wider the variety of reporting verbs should be, in order to avoid
monotony and dullness in speech.
The imperative with let’s usually turns into a gerundial construction introduced by
suggest/propose (when the reporting subject is involved in the action of the verb), or into
a subjunctive construction (when the subject is not involved in it).
e.g. “Let’s wait for Jim.” → a. He suggests/suggested waiting for Jim. B. He
suggests/suggested that they should wait for Jim.
There are numerous exceptions from these rules, covering quite an extensive area:
a. If the reference time remains the same, the above rules are no longer valid.
(For example, if the sentence is reported only a short while after it is
uttered.) Such a situation must be either specified or evident from the
e.g. “She will graduate in July 2012.” → Her mother said she will
graduate in July 2013. (As long as it is obvious that it is not July 2013
b. If we report a general/universal truth, or a scientific law, whose reference
time cannot affect the time of the action of the reported verb.
e.g. “The Earth spins around its own axis.” → The teacher told us (that)
the Earth spins around its own axis. (Because it is unlikely that a
shift in the reference time could affect in any way the occurrence of
this physical phenomenon.)
c. The subjunctive and the conditional mood are not subject to these changes,
as they are not concerned with real situations. Thus, a sentence containing a
subordinate conditional clause type I (real condition referring to the
present/future) will change, turning to a type similar to type II (unreal,
referring to the present/future); all the other types of subordinate conditional
clauses remain as they are.
e.g. “I’ll do it myself if I have time.” (type I) → He promised he would do it
himself if he had time.
“He would help you if you asked him.” (type II) → She told me he would
help me if I asked him.
“She would have left if it hadn’t been too late.” (type III) → I told you she

would have left if it hadn’t been too late.
The subordinate time clauses referring to the moment when the action of the main
clause predicate is performed, and whose meaning is not actually strictly connected to the
time of the reporting verb, are not subject of the above mentioned rules, either.
e.g. “I saw it as I was going to school.” → She said she had seen it as she was
going to school.
The modal auxiliaries will/shall/may/can will turn to, respectively,
would/should/might/could. Should/would/could/might remain as they are. The
possibility of replacing can by to be able to, and may by to be allowed to also
Another aspect concerning the changes occurring when reporting direct speech
concerns a number of adverbials of definite time and place. Theoretically, in most
cases adverbials of definite time must be adapted to the situational context. A rough
list of these adverbials contains:
now becomes then
today → that day
tomorrow → the next day
the next day → the following day
yesterday → the day before
the day before
yesterday → two days before
the day after
tomorrow → within two days; two days later
Evidently, the whole series of adverbial phrases built with this (this
morning/week/month/summer, etc.) change into phrases built with that (that
morning/week/month/summer, etc).
Adverbial modifiers of place, such as here, which becomes there include adverbial
phrases, too: in this country/ place becomes in that country/place, etc.

Syntactic changes. This type of changes includes two levels: independent clauses
become subordinate direct object clauses, and, on the other hand, the changes inside

this subordinate clause are reflected in the word order which sticks to the rules for
declarative sentences only.

Declarative sentences
They become subordinate object clauses and are governed by verbs such as: to
say, to tell, to insist, to declare, to state, to announce.
e.g. He said: “I want to do everything by myself.”
He announced/said/insisted/declared (that) he wanted to do everything by

Interrogative sentences
They become direct object clauses, and are introduced by verbs such as: to ask, to
inquire, to question, to wonder, to want to know.
In particular, the following situations must be considered:

- special questions (WH- questions) become subordinate direct object clauses

introduced by who, which, what, why, when, where, etc. and need no inversion
between subject and auxiliary/modal auxiliary (as they are now of declarative
e.g. “Where do you live?” → He asks where I live./He asked where I lived.
“Which one have you chosen?” → He wants to know which one I have
chosen. / He wanted to know which one I had chosen.

- simple questions (yes/no questions) become subordinate direct object clauses

of declarative type, introduced by if or whether.
e.g. “Does Alf speak French?” → I want to know whether Alf speaks
French. /I wanted to know whether Alf spoke French.

Imperative sentences
Imperative sentences turn into infinitival constructions, as mentioned before.
e.g. “Bring the car to the garage”, he said.
He ordered me to bring the car to the garage.
Lisa begged me: “Do not leave now.”
Lisa begged us not to leave then.
Exclamatory sentences
Reporting verbs such as: to exclaim, to shout, to cry are used to introduce
exclamatory sentences into indirect speech.
One group of such exclamatory sentences is represented by elliptical sentences
(the predicate is understood to be the verb to be). In this case, the verb to be needs
to be reintroduced.
e.g.“What fine weather (it is)!” → She exclaims that the weather is so fine. /
She exclaimed that the weather was so fine.
Another group is represented by exclamations of onomatopoeic type. As a
matter-of-course, these words can no longer be introduced as such into indirect
speech, as they express emotions, states of mind, sounds in nature, etc. As a result,
it is desirable that they are replaced by a reporting verb semantically corresponding,
or that they are completed with an adverbial of manner.
e.g. “Wow! I like it!” → She expressed her enthusiastic admiration.
“Ouch! It hurts!” → He complained it hurt badly. / He cried in pain. / He
gave an exclamation of pain.
Greetings and wishes are rendered by verbs semantically related:
e.g.“Hello! How are you doing today?” → He greeted us and asked how we
were doing that day.




I. Add a disjunctive question to the following statements:

1. There is no coffee left for Jane, …?
2. The manager is about to retire in a few months, …?
3. The kid has been playing ever since they left, …?
4. Money is always a problem in this department, …?
5. We hardly ever spend our holidays with our parents, …?
6. No written evidence was found about the ancient population in
this part of the country, …?
7. Well, I believe he has been seriously injured in the accident,
8. You don’t think she has a right to do that, …?
9. It is advisable to be there in good time, …?
10.He doesn’t seem to like her very much, …?
11.Opportunities can occur at any time, …?
12.We shouldn’t wait until 10 o’clock, …?
13.You must admit she is a pretty girl, …?
14.I am one of their options, …?
15.His brother never used to visit them, …?

II. What were the simple questions which stood at the origin of these
1. Yes, I believe she is right.
2. Yes, tourists were allowed to visit the castle.
3. No, there has never been such an accident in this district.
4. Yes, the tea is ready and the guests are waiting for us.
5. No, nobody will feel frustrated by their behaviour.
6. No, my fiancée is not travelling to Japan.
7. Yes, it lies in Europe.
8. No, you shouldn’t.
9. Yes, fortunately she will.
10.No, they couldn’t.

III. Ask special questions to which the words in italics can be answers:
1. I gave her a special gift because she was a very special friend.
2. We couldn’t hear a word because of the noise around us.
3. To my opinion, the problem deserves more attention this time.
4. So far, nothing has been done to help them.
5. Considering that she isn’t very young, I will insist that she gets
a position of higher responsibility.
6. This branch of economy will be paid considerable importance
in the years to follow.
7. More and more people have deposited their income in our bank.
8. If you don’t like this coat, we’ll have to get it to a tailor’s.
9. He gave me his briefcase to put my things in.
10.At about 5 o’clock the taxi will be here.
11.I have already seen this film twice.
12.There were many curious people there, so I couldn’t see much.
13.An assistant came in to help us.
14.He got here by plane, this time.
15.Three pedestrians were injured in yesterday’s accident.

IV. Transform the following statements into exclamatory sentences:

Example: This is a good question.
What a good question!
She sings wonderfully.
How wonderfully she sings!
1. The arrangement looks good.
2. Mary’s sister is tired.
3. They always walk carefully.
4. It’s a very nice poem.
5. Time passes quickly.
6. She understood my question easily.
7. It is a warm day.
8. This was a stupid remark.
9. The boy reads well at his age.
10.This is an amazing event for everybody.

V. What do you think might have been the questions that generated
these statements?
1. This activity will help you improve your knowledge of
2. I agree. No wonder they went away.
3. An answer is difficult to give right now.
4. There was a storm and some drizzle.
5. She is a shy girl, but quite determined.
6. You are always welcome in this office.
7. Of course you may. Don’t mind what she says.
8. It was the doorbell that you’ve heard.
9. Sorry, I didn’t realize you were busy.
10.Unfortunately, I am not.

VI. Turn the following simple sentences into compound sentences:

1. My sister speaks English.
2. The bus didn’t stop here this morning.
3. Children like sweets.
4. I forgot a document.
5. They didn’t have an interpreter.
6. He had some wrong information.
7. I experienced computer problems.
8. Ann was paid a little sum of money to leave the company.
9. He made a bad choice with the new staff.
10. I will be promoted next month.

VII. Starting from the same simple sentences of the exercise above,
build up complex sentences, having at least three clauses.

VIII. Use the same sentences of exercise V. above to build up

compound-complex sentences.

IX. Similarly, use the same simple sentences to build up complex-

compound sentences.

X. Expand the following simple sentence into a complex one, made

up of five clauses:

Many of his ideas proved to be quite useful to our company.


I. Replace the grammatical subject in the following sentences with a

subject clause:
1. This is difficult to understand.
2. Your opinion is quite interesting.
3. His desire is unknown to us.
4. Icecream is very good in summer.
5. An opinion is more than wanted.
6. His opinion is what we want to know.
7. The story amazed each and every one of us.
8. Their behaviour raised our suspicion.

II. Make up sentences of your own with the adjectives, nouns and
verbs that trigger a subject clause:
Adjectives with sentential subject clauses:
a) likely, unlikely, certain, possible, probable, sure, certain,
Model: It’s unlikely that he will win the elections from the first tour.
It’s incredible she behaved in such a way.
b) clear, doubtful, evident, feasible, true, anomalous, appropriate,
fair, fantastic, funny, good, important, inconvenient, crucial,
essential, unnatural, usual, interesting, alarming, surprising,
gratifying, splendid:
Model: It’s funny nobody heard them come in.
It’s unnatural the party ended so early.
c) Nouns: problem, surprise, miracle, pity, mystery:
Model: It’s a surprise they showed up in the end.
That he passed the exam is wonderful news.
d) Transitive verbs of psychological state:
alarm, amaze, attract, baffle, boast, confuse, discourage, elate,
embarrass, enrage, intrigue, irritate, madden, relieve, scare,
tempt, trouble.
Model: That nothing happened there relieved me.
It relieved me that nothing happened there.

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