She said the train left at 8 pm



Can I say the sentence in the following context?

Now it's 7 pm, my friend Jane said " The train leaves at 8 pm"

Can I say

Jane said that the train left at 8 pm.(becauses now it is just 7 pm)


Posted 2016-10-02T09:44:02.230

Reputation: 598

Jane said that the train leaves at 8 pm. Imo. – Martze – 2016-10-02T09:51:14.063



Not really.

If it was 7 pm now and you said "the train left at 8 pm", I would assume you meant this occurred yesterday.

The correct form is to repeat what Jane says, "Jane said that the train leaves at 8 pm" or, alternatively "Jane said that the train will leave at 8 pm".


Posted 2016-10-02T09:44:02.230

Reputation: 25 211

But if you use said, and put "leaves" and "will leave", the tense is wrong – moyeea – 2016-10-02T10:39:15.090

Not in reported speech. – Catija – 2016-10-02T10:44:02.703

That means we can say: She said she is fine? – moyeea – 2016-10-02T11:00:31.457

Yes. That is fine. – Catija – 2016-10-02T12:07:20.403


In your case, you can say at least four things.

Jane said that the train left at 8 pm.

This is the normal backshifted sentence, with present tense shifted to past. It doesn't matter if it is 7pm: you can say this right after Jane says her sentence.

or you can say

Jane said that the train leaves at 8 pm.

You can say this because the thing that Jane said has not happened yet: the declaration or proposition 'the train leaves at 8pm' is still true or can be fulfilled in the view of the speaker.

You can also report what Jane says using the present tense of to say; again this is because the proposition has not yet been fulfilled. And you can vary the tense of the other verb. Thus:

Jane says the train leaves at 8pm.


Jane says the train left at 8pm.

In both this sentence and the first one in this answer, the past tense can be used by the speaker to indicate his or her doubt regarding the proposition. (You can also do this with the present tense, but the use of the past tense can specifically indicate the speaker's doubt.)

Examples (it's still 7pm):

Jane just now said the train left at 8pm, but I don't think so: I think it leaves at 8:30pm.

and the parallel sentence for the present tense of the verb says

Jane says that the train left at 8pm. But I don't believe her. I think it's already left.

Note in all these cases of using the train left, it is past tense form, but not past tense meaning. It is future meaning, and this is called future in the past.

Reference: The English Verb, by Frank Robert Palmer (link).

Alan Carmack

Posted 2016-10-02T09:44:02.230

Reputation: 11 630

1Using the past tense when the train has not left yet is wrong. It is certainly grammatically correct but it doesn't fit reality. – Catija – 2016-10-03T11:11:42.640

@Catija Please cite a reputable source that supports your statement. – Alan Carmack – 2016-10-04T12:29:26.550

Thanks so much sir!!Sorry for replying late. And I think: She will tell you that the train leaves at 10.(even though now is 7, this one still works right?) – moyeea – 2016-10-10T19:19:31.463

Yes, that works, but it's not reported speech. – Alan Carmack – 2016-10-13T15:16:34.760


I infer you are exploring "indirect speech." First let's do this the easy way, in the present. Imagine you are looking at a cartoon strip, or watching a skit, and describing what's going on.

Jane is saying that the train leaves at 8 pm.

This is the same as:

Jane is saying that the train will leave at 8 pm.

Now let's shift everything to the past tense:

Jane said that the train would leave at 8 pm.

Do you see how "will" becomes "would"?

"Would is the past tense form of will." See

J. Doe

Posted 2016-10-02T09:44:02.230

Reputation: 570