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Thread: About Reported Speech

  1. #1
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    About Reported Speech

    Hey guys,

    This is my first post on here, and forgive me for it being perhaps a strange, even pedantic, question, but I've been wondering about reported speech in Russian, and none of the material I've found online has really answered this. I understand that tenses don't change in Russian in reported speech. But, basically, I'm an English teacher, and these are some examples I use to explain why the tenses sometimes have to change simply to make sense:

    "He said he'd do something, so he did."

    Now, his original statement would've been, for example:

    "I'll buy a ticket." // "Я куплю билет."

    But reported in Russian that would be:

    Он сказал, что он купит билет, поэтому он купил.

    Simply from a logical standpoint "он купит билет, поэтому он купил" sounds... just bizarre: "He will buy, so he bought."

    **

    I understand "future in the past" works in a similar way:

    When he was a child, John Lennon didn't know he'd be a famous singer.//
    Когда он был ребенком, Джон Леннон не знал, что он будет знаменитым певцом.

    "John Lennon will be" sounds ludicrous because he's been dead for 37 years, how can we use a future tense to talk about him except in some sort of "John Lennon will be the subject of tomorrow's lecture" sense?

    **

    Granted, these are very specific examples, as I said I use such sentences when I'm teaching to highlight why we have to, logically, change the tenses in reported speech and FITP. Is this just, for lack of a better word, a hole in the Russian language because they don't have English's number of tenses to accommodate it? Or is there some rare grammar taught at a level I haven't reached yet for such cases where logic dictates?

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    Почтенный гражданин Soft sign's Avatar
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    The Russian sentences you give are correct.
    There is no logical inconsistency in the Russian way of dealing with the tenses, it’s just a different way.
    A dependent clause in Russian uses tenses relative to the tense of the main clause in such cases, not the absolute tenses like in English. You should take this into account when speaking about semantics.
    English sequence of tenses sounds to the same extent ludicrous for an inexperienced Russian ear.
    fortheether likes this.
    Please correct my English

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    Wow, I didn't even think this matter can differ.
    Well, IMHO, russian point of view follows this pattern:
    - There were writings on the wall: "future will be good".
    - There was thought in his mind: "future will be good".
    We just don't change this pattern. For any kind of subject you just give microphone to him - say that was written exactly as it was written, say that was said as it was said, say that was thought as it was thought, no exceptions.
    fortheether likes this.

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    OK, thanks.

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    Почтенный гражданин Soft sign's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alex80 View Post
    For any kind of subject you just give microphone to him - say that was written exactly as it was written, say that was said as it was said, say that was thought as it was thought, no exceptions.
    Not exactly.
    We do change pronouns and some other words in indirect speech.

    Direct speech: Неделю назад он говорил: «Я приду завтра», но так и не пришёл.
    Indirect speech: Неделю назад он говорил, что он придёт на следующий день, но так и не пришёл.
    Please correct my English

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    Quote Originally Posted by Soft sign View Post
    The Russian sentences you give are correct.
    There is no logical inconsistency in the Russian way of dealing with the tenses, it’s just a different way.
    A dependent clause in Russian uses tenses relative to the tense of the main clause in such cases...
    You probably meant "irrelative". The reference point at the time is temporary shifted to the moment when the reported speech was spoken. The time when we report about the speech doesn't matter.
    Налево пойдёшь - коня потеряешь, направо пойдёшь - сам голову сложишь.
    Прямой путь не предлагать!

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    Does this shift only apply during reported speech, and in dependent clauses? For example, if I'm telling a story in the past, and it's clear I mean the past, would it be perfectly OK to use the present tense as, as you say, the tenses aren't as absolute as in English? We do this often enough in English, actually, but it's very much a colloquial thing and not "correct", per se.

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    Yes, this is common practice, however it's optional and depends on context. Context is very important in russian - for example omitting of words is very common practice (because prefixes, suffixes and endings give a lot of extra information you can reorder and omit as hell) too and heavily relies on it.
    This text is correct lexically:
    Двое солдат шли по городу - past
    И вдруг из-за угла выезжает танк - present.
    И без помощи конец им наступит через 10 минут - future.
    All this story could be rewritten in past tense, but this form is acceptable too. It is a little bit colloquial too, but not wrong/incorrect.

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