Reply to "was / is"

All of those sentences refer to routine actions. This is not the case with one's name, and the same would apply to one's nationality: permanent features that will not normally change. When reporting such questions, the interest lies in reporting what the person asked, not in asserting that one's name or nationality continues to be the same. See this question I found in the grammar section of the Cambridge dictionary when asking somebody's identity:

‘Who are you?’ she asked.

She asked me who I was.

It would just not sound right to say:

- ?She asked me who I am. (There is no doubt that I continue to be the same person I was when she asked me -- what needs to be done is to report the question correctly, not to indicate that my identity has not changed by using the present tense!)

See what Michael Swan says on page 249 of his Practical English Usage:

Notice he says it is often (not always) also possible to keep the present tense in the reported sentence, and that is mainly when the statement or question being reported is recent or, as I tried to explain to the best of my knowledge, when there is a valid reason to avoid backshifting, which is not the case here.


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Last edited by Gustavo, Contributor