The clique of Afrikaans


By Nadine Fouché-Karsten

The indirect speech can be considered as the clicker mouth of Afrikaans, because this form of the sentence is used when someone else’s words are retold.

The use of the indirect reason at school level is characterized by conversion rules (cf. Kapp 2023; Parrot 2004:257). For example, in an English source, such as the Oxford Modern English Grammar (Aarts 2011) it is indicated that the verb must “backshift” to another tense, for example from the present tense (as in I no longer love you ) to the past tense form (as in Then the next day he said that he no longer loved Ms). Such conversion rules are also observed in school materials for the subject Afrikaans, such as the Mind the Gap revision guide (DBO pg:29), in which, for example, it is indicated that pronouns and adverbs must change.

One of the questions that is often asked is when words indicating time and place indicating words should be modified.

In this blog I attempt to answer this question by referring to the general subject literature and the feedback from subject advisors. I conclude the blog with examples of how the assessment of the indirect speech can be adjusted slightly, so that it is clearer for learners why certain time-indicating/place-indicating expressions must change in the indirect speech.

What does the general literature say?

Larsen-Freeman and Celcia-Murcia (2015:735) explain that time expressions such as tomorrow can be alternated with the next day “depending on the relation of the time of the original utterance to the time of reported utterance”. These linguists therefore suggest that the relationship between the time the person’s words are retold (ie the time of the retelling) and the time these words were uttered (ie the utterance time) determines which changes must be made.

Suppose someone said the following: I fly to Johannesburg tomorrow. For example, the person said these words on October 30, and the person to whom they were told recounts them on the same day, October 30. The reporter’s tomorrow is therefore the same as the speaker’s. In such a case it makes sense that tomorrow used by the reporter. But if these words are retold on November 1, can tomorrow is not used because the original speaker’s tomorrow (October 31) and the reporter’s tomorrow (November 2) no longer match. In such a case should the next day to be used by the reporter. Why? The narrator’s future is now for the reporter a future-in-the-past (“future-in-past”), therefore the same time-indicating word cannot be used.

The same principle regarding the choice of place expressions also applies (Quirk et al. 1985:1029). If the place where the reporter retells the message is the same as the place where the speaker uttered the original message, the same locative expression can be used. Larsen-Freeman and Celcia-Murcia (2015:736) also say “(i)f the two places remain identical, then there is no shift; if they lack identity, there is a shift”. Compare the following example:

Direct reason Indirect reason: place is the same Indirect reason: place is different
“I’ve been making all day this room / here clean.” She says that she all day this room / here clean. She says that she all day that room / there clean.

Context therefore plays an important role. Compare the following English sentence where the introductory verb (“reporting verb”) is in the past tense, although the pronoun “this” does not change to “that”.

  • Smith predicted that no school budget cuts would occur during this

Although the introductory verb is in the past tense, the recession is still in question, and therefore the pronoun “this” is used.

What do subject advisors say?

To determine whether context is relevant in the school curriculum when time-indicating and place-indicating expressions are to be used in the indirect speech, two subject advisors were approached. Anita Vogel is a subject advisor of the Intermediate and Senior Phase for the Lejweleputswa District in the Free State, and Monica Potgieter is the subject advisor of the FET phase for the Gauteng District.

Anita Vogel says:

“We teach the children that the adverbs of time change. Expand on it a little each year and learn more words. It doesn’t make sense not to teach it to them, because in the end they have to be able to do it in high school.” (Bird 2023)

Monica Potgieter says:

“The times in the indirect speech are changing. I always explain it in terms of ‘gossip’. A person can gossip at any stage, so for example you cannot refer to ‘yesterday’. It could have been the day before or even weeks/months/years ago.” (Potgieter 2023)

From this it is therefore clear that time-indicating and place-indicating expressions must be changed immediately.

How do we reconcile the view in the subject literature with that of subject advisors?

If this is the premise at school level, assignments on the indirect reason of a context to be provided, so that it is clear to learners why certain time-indicating/place-indicating words must change. Perhaps a context is already created by the fact that the introductory verb is indicated in the past tense in many typical school textbook sentences, for example He said… Although I have never read it pertinently, it is possible that school textbooks actually indicate by means of the past tense form of the verb that there is a difference in time between the original utterance time and the reporting time (and also between the place where the utterance took place has). The modification of time-indicating and place-indicating words can already be made clearer and less mechanical by pointing to this function of the past tense form of the verb. The question is whether I am reasoning correctly, and if so, whether this piece of “context” is communicated to the learners.

This piece of information about the introductory verb can be combined with a explicit context which is created for the learners. Below I give two examples of such a context: a context created for older learners with more words and a context created by means of a cartoon.

Compare the following example from Fouché et al. (2021) which I slightly modified. It is suitable for older learners.

Jaap is tidying the gardens at the Fransen Hotel when he sees a beautiful lady, who immediately makes him forget about Jony. He asks the lady a question: “Do you want to go have a milkshake with me tomorrow?”

Jony, who also works at the Fransen Hotel, hears this. She is so happy that Jaap has found someone else that he can possibly be crazy about, and she tells her friend the next day over WhatsApp. See the following WhatsApp messages exchanged between Jony and her friend, Janine.

Pretend to be Jony and retell this message by completing the sentence at 11:25.

For younger learners, comics may be a suitable text choice, because the place where actions took place, as well as the time course of events, can be depicted in different ways (written and visual). In the cartoon below, the learners can complete Jackal’s speech bubble with … that she the farmer the previous day helped to get rid of plant-eating pests. It is clear that yesterday cannot be used by Jakkalsie. Why not? Jackal tells Ladybug’s words on Tuesday morning, and her yesterday is therefore Monday. Ladybug’s yesterday, on the other hand, is Sunday. Therefore Jackal’s yesterday is not the same as Ladybug’s and a different word must be used. Inside school textbooks are the previous day the convention. Again, it will not technically be wrong if the learner Sunday instead of the previous day would not write, because this is after all the day that Ladybug helped the farmer. In this connection, I quote Kapp (2018): “Language users must be able to generate texts in ‘real life’, and they must know how dialogue, time and adverbial clauses are handled in different types of texts.” If learners then Sunday instead of the previous day used, they generated, in accordance with Kapp (2019), a text where time was handled correctly.

The idea is not that teachers have to create cartoons themselves again and again for this purpose. Existing school textbooks’ striking cartoons can simply be used for this or slightly adapted to teach and/or assess the indirect reason.

A final thought

Van Schoor (1983:343) makes an important comment that the direct and the indirect reason actually stylistic issues is, although we have grammatical aids, such as specific punctuation marks for the direct speech and the use of that for the indirect reason, used to mark them. The following table can be used to make our learners aware of the stylistic difference between direct and indirect speech.

Direct reason Indirect reason
Direct speech is someone’s exact words in spoken or written communication. The indirect speech is the reporter’s interpretation of someone’s words. It only reports someone’s words.
Because someone’s exact words are used, direct speech is more personal and immediate. It is used when we want to focus on the words of the speaker/writer. Because the indirect speech is not someone’s exact words, the indirect speech is more distant and less personal.
It is also used when the author wants to give greater liveliness and dramatic power to the narrative. When we are not interested in the words someone has chosen, but in the information conveyed, we use the indirect speech.
This avoids ambiguity. Compare the ambiguous indirect speech with the combination of the indirect speech with the direct speech to avoid ambiguity. The use of the indirect speech can lighten the color of a narrative. Read the following two sentences, the first of which involves the direct reason and the second the direct reason.
  • According to the receptionist at the casino, Mr Ashton said the young woman with the provocative low-necked dress was his wife. (Who says she’s wearing the low-necked dress: Mr. Ashton or the receptionist?)
  • Stofberg looks a little surprised. After a while he told his boss that he didn’t know about such a file. The secretary frowned. He puts it to Stofberg that perhaps he forgot about it; it was sent to him a month before.
  • The receptionist at the casino said that Mr Ashton introduced the young woman as his spouse. The casino employee added: “She was wearing quite a provocative low-necked dress.”
  • Stofberg looks a little surprised. “I don’t know of such a file, sir,” he said after a while. The secretary frowned. “Maybe you forgot – it was sent to you a month ago.”

VivA greetings
Nadine Fouché-Karsten

  • Viva’s blog is proudly sponsored by the AONtwerk.
  • Nadine Fouché-Karsten is attached to the Virtual Institute for Afrikaans (VivA) as an education expert.

Source list

Aarts, B. 2011. Oxford Modern English Grammar. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Faasen, F. 2018. Pharos Afrikaans guide. Cape Town: Pharos Dictionary.

Fouché, N., Pedro, M. & Van der Merwe, M. 2021. Focused tasks in the Afrikaans Home Language classroom for the communicative teaching of Afrikaans grammar: a first exploration. LitNet Academics18(3): 500-537.

Kapp, S. 2019. Direct and Indirect Reason: A Wandering in the Dark. Date of use: 4 December 2023.

Larsen-Freeman, D. & Celcia-Mercia, M. 2016. The grammar book: Form, meaning and use for English language teachers. Boston: National Geographic Learning.

Potgieter, M. 2023. Changing adverbs of time in indirect speech (email correspondence). 25 Aug

Quirk, R., Greenbaum, S., Leech, G. & Svartvik, J. 1985. A comprehensive grammar of the English language. London: Longman.

Vogel, A. 2023. Adverbs of time in indirect speech (WhatsApp correspondence). 23 Aug