Direct and indirect speech

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Have I changed the direct speech into indirect correctly?

Direct:

He said,"If I had a pen,I could write the answer."

Indirect:

He said if he had had a pen,he could have written the answer."

The part that says "he could have written the answer" implies an impossible case however "could write" is improbable not impossible, so we have changed an improbable case into in an impossible and it doesn't make sense to me! However, I'm not that sure,could you help please. Thanks.

user18905

Posted 2015-05-27T12:43:05.927

Reputation: 203

1It would help us if you could explain why you aren't sure. Which part of the sentence do you think is not right? – ColleenV – 2015-05-27T12:48:14.590

1@ColleenV The part that says "he could have written the answer",it implies an impossible case however "could write" is improbable not impossible so we have changed an improbable case into in an impossible and it doesn't make sense to me! – user18905 – 2015-05-27T12:54:01.717

2Thanks - that makes it a lot easier to write an answer that might help. Would you edit your question to add that? The indirect sentence looks OK, although I might write it as "He said that if he had had a pen, he could have written the answer." I think someone might be able to explain about why "could have written" is OK. – ColleenV – 2015-05-27T12:57:23.520

1Avoid the modal and use "to be" + "able". Conjugate "to be" accordingly, and hey presto: "He would have been able to write the answer". – JMB – 2015-05-27T13:35:55.213

1@JMB Yes you're right.could have written is basically incorrect for its meaning because it means he could write but he didn't do that deliberately. Yes? – user18905 – 2015-05-27T13:42:59.217

@JMB I'm still wondering if changing an improbable case into an impossible is correct. – user18905 – 2015-05-27T13:46:15.047

@user18905 How do you know it's an impossible case? "Could have" expresses both opportunity and ability. To cover all bases, we would need to be sure of the context. "I might have written the answer" is also possible for example. – JMB – 2015-06-23T08:27:24.933

Answers

1

He said that if he had had a pen, he could have written the letter. (= possibility)

This means that if he had had a pen at that point in time, he would've had the possibility to have written the letter, but not neccessarily have written the letter. It implies that he would've had the choice to write or not write the letter (if a pen had been available to him).

If you say

He said that if he had had a pen, he would have been able to write the letter.(= ability)

This implies that he would have had the ability to write the letter, and says nothing about his choice to do or not do so.

Vlammuh

Posted 2015-05-27T12:43:05.927

Reputation: 4 988