Tense sequences

In this video, Paul explains how to change the tense in order to use indirect, or reported speech. As you will see, the tense moves back one step in time from what the speaker actually said.

We can see that “would” is the past of “will” and that “might” is the past of “may”.

Present –> past

“I’m hungry” –> He said he was hungry

present continuous –> past continuous

“I’m going home” –> he said he was going home

Past –> past perfect

I didn’t see him –> he said he hadn’t seen him

Present perfect –> past perfect

“I’ve been ill” –> He said he had been ill

will –> would

“I’ll go and see” –> he said he would go and see

can –> could

“I can get it done today” –> he said he could get it done today

may –> might

“I may be able to do it before lunch” –> he said he might be able to do it before lunch


  1. Look at the sentence “he said he could get it done today”
    Shouldn’t there be “the same day” or “that day” instead of “today”?

    • Egzaminy,

      Thanks for your question. I’m not Paul, by the way! You should visit his website, it’s really good: http://www.learnamericanenglishonline.com
      To answer your question, no, “today” is correct. The speaker is referring to this current day (today), not some other day. “the same day” or “that day” are also correct, but would need a context, i.e. do the speakers know which “that day” is, or the “same day” as which day?

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