How to say what other people have said?



This question might seem a bit stupid, but I was writing a letter and didn't know how to write it down. Here is the sentence:

"On March 15th Mr. Johnson told me that he has talked to Mr. Kawai and Mr. Kawai has told him that he needs clarification from us."

Is that above example a good sentence? If not, how could I improve it?


Posted 2015-03-17T07:37:07.077

Reputation: 317

"[H]e has talked to Mr.Kwai and Mr.Kawai has told him that he needs clarification from us" is what Mr. Johnson told you. A common way to change tenses after a past report verb is: "will → would, simple present → simple past, present progressive → past progressive, present perfect → past perfect, past → past perfect, can → could, may → might, and past perfect tenses do not change" as I once summarized them from Practical English Usage by Michael Swan (entry 275.2) in this answer: – Damkerng T. – 2015-03-17T08:01:11.283

So the sentence I have written is correct? – john – 2015-03-17T08:06:17.113

With the common rules I gave above, what is your opinion? Do you think it's correct? – Damkerng T. – 2015-03-17T08:08:32.700

By the way, you may find reading about "reported speech" helpful. I tried searching for "reported speech" on Google. Among the top results is this page: I recommend it.

– Damkerng T. – 2015-03-17T08:13:21.403

All i need to do is to change the second "has told" to "had told"... right? – john – 2015-03-17T08:13:41.770

Yes, you got it! Another note, consider changing "needs" to "needed", too. Unless he still "needs" the clarification at the time you write your letter, you need "needed" there. On second thought, I think I'd recommend using "needed" there anyway. Also, I've just noticed that you missed has talked, which is needed to be changed to had talked as well. – Damkerng T. – 2015-03-17T08:16:48.587

Keep in mind that 'people' (as you used it in the title) is plural, and thus takes 'have' instead of 'has'. – Sanchises – 2015-03-17T10:19:17.030

1It's very clear here that john is asking for a correct way to express a specific example of reported speech. I cannot understand why people have moved to close the question as proofreading. If we closed all questions that included a sentence, in which the asker shows what they are trying to do and identifies the issue (as john does here in his title), we would have a very poor place to ask questions regarding the use of English for learners. – Jim Reynolds – 2015-03-17T17:05:32.273

This seems to be a good question with a practical example. Hopefully it will get re-opened soon and someone will provide some rationales as to why some speakers might prefer to retain the present tense verb "needs" in "that he needs clarification from us". :) – F.E. – 2015-03-18T06:53:01.590

Reopened, and answered somewhat opportunistically ;) And thanks @JimReynolds for fighting the good fight - I keep seeing too much policing on a site that's meant to be reassuring and comfortable for English learners. Asking random, even silly question is OK - that's how we learn. – RuslanD – 2015-03-18T07:18:03.793

Also, perhaps consider: *"The fireman told me that your house is on fire!"* – F.E. – 2015-03-18T07:19:22.710

1Also consider: *"I have to leave work now because my co-worker told me that the front desk had told him that my house is on fire!"* – F.E. – 2015-03-18T08:27:18.833



How about something like this:

"On March 15th, Mr. Johnson informed me of his conversation with Mr. Kawai where he was told Mr. Kawai needs further clarification from us."


Posted 2015-03-17T07:37:07.077

Reputation: 11


In English, verb tenses in a sentence need to be in agreement:

Your sentence starts with:

On March 15th, Mr Johnson told me

That sets the stage for the past tense. Thereafter, tense agreement dictates that you should continue with past tenses:

... that he had talked to Mr. Kawai, and Mr. Kawai had told him that he needed clarification from us.


Posted 2015-03-17T07:37:07.077

Reputation: 2 122