"I recently heard that"?


Do I need to treat the phrase "I recently heard that" as a reported speech?

"I recently heard that you went to Paris in 2000."

I'm not sure if this phrase can be completed by using simple past since I'm referencing a specific time (2000), or if this phrase should be treated as a reported speech and therefore be completed with past perfect, like this:

I recently heard that you had gone to Paris in 2000."

It seems like I can treat this phrase as a reported speech because I am talking about something I heard from someone, but I'm not sure which sentence is more grammatically correct and sounds more natural.


Posted 2013-07-28T16:06:58.183

Reputation: 995

1Present tense *I recently hear that...* is extremely unlikely. As to using the past perfect - most native speakers wouldn't do this. What makes you think you should? – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2013-07-28T18:40:36.457

1@FumbleFingers: That might just be a typo – an inadvertently omitted "d". – J.R. – 2013-07-28T20:26:19.270

@FumbleFinders: Oops, that was a typo. It was supposed to be "heard". To me, past perfect doesn't seem right, but I just want to know if native speakers would use past perfect in this sentence. You know, since you are going back in time to 2000? – jess – 2013-07-28T21:24:17.500


@jess: By that logic, Genesis should definitely start with *In the beginning God had created the heaven and the earth*, since that's going back in time all the way to 23 October 4004 BC :)

– FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2013-07-29T03:17:15.853



You can replace I recently heard that ... with an expression such as John told me yesterday that ..., so this can be regarded as an instance of reported speech.

As to the tense, it is possible you have learned some rules about backshift which makes you uncertain which tense to use in the reported clause. Swan, in Practical English Usage, has some useful advice here:

Words that are spoken or thought in one place by one person may be reported in another place at a different time ... . Because of this, there are often grammatical differences between direct and indirect speech. These changes are mostly natural and logical, and it is not necessary to learn complicated rules about indirect speech in English.

So if Mary told you:

John went to Paris in 2000

you would naturally report this back to John as:

I recently heard that you went to Paris in 2000.

The past perfect is used to emphasise that something happened before another past event. So this is possible:

I recently heard that you had gone to Paris for a few months in 2000 before starting your new job.

But even here I suspect that most native speakers would use the simple went.


Posted 2013-07-28T16:06:58.183

Reputation: 2 793


Good question! In the example you gave, the same rules we use for reported speech apply here. You need to keep in mind the tense shift, which you mention with the past perfect. However, remember that the simple past is often left in the simple past, even when we report it.

What really matters is whether there is a cause and effect relationship between the actions in the past. Is there some outcome of his or her having gone to Paris in 2000? That is:

"I recently heard that you had gone to Paris in 2000, so you weren't interested in this year's trip."


"I recently heard that you went to Paris in 2000. What was it like?"

In the first sentence, there is a focus on the outcome of going to Paris, while in the second sentence, there is not. The focus is on the action itself.

This is a tricky part of reported speech, but it's quite important. The same thing happens with the past progressive, which can be reported as the past progressive or the past perfect progressive.

Really Learn English

Posted 2013-07-28T16:06:58.183

Reputation: 41


"I recently heard that you went to Paris in 2000" is fine.

There is no need for a past participle because reported speech doesn't establish that kind of relationship between two events grammatically!

Of course the event of hearing about the trip is causally connected to the trip. Because one person went on a trip, there is a chain of events which leads to the other person hearing about it, years later. However, the causal chain only exists if the report is true! It is possible to hear about someone having gone to Paris in 2000, such that the report is fabricated, exaggerated or mistaken. It could have the wrong year, the wrong person, the wrong city.

It may help to study this sentence:

The reason I recently heard that you went to Paris in 2000 is that you had, in fact, gone to Paris in 2000".

"that you went to Paris in 2000" is reported speech, and so it exists in a kind of bubble which is causally disconnected to receiving the speech: it's a quoted idea which may or may not be true, and so isn't considered in a causal relation to real events, like receiving the report.

But "that you had, in fact, gone to Paris in 2000" is not reported speech: it is the reason why the speaker received the reported speech and so it is connected to the report.

Also, another example for good measure:

I heard that you went to Paris in 2000. And so I did some digging and confirmed that, in fact, you had gone to Paris in 2000.


Posted 2013-07-28T16:06:58.183

Reputation: 6 114