Reported Speech: Direct and Indirect speech

Reported Speech: Whenever you are quoting someone else’s words, you use two kinds of speeches – Direct or Indirect speech. In this chapter, we will learn all about Direct and Indirect speech and how to convert one into another.

Reported speech- How does it work?

Reported speech- How does it work

Whenever you report a speech there’s a reporting verb used like “say” or “tell”. For example:

Direct speech: I love to play football.

Reported speech: She said that she loves to play football. (Note 1 : Assume a gender if not mentioned already.

Note 2: Using “that” is optional. This sentence could also have been written as “She said she loves to play football.”)

The tense doesn’t have to be changed in this case of reported speech. But of the reporting verb is in the past tense, we do change the tense of the sentence.

Reported speech- Play of the tenses:

Direct speech tense Indirect/Reported speech tense
Simple present simple past
present continous past continuous
simple past past perfect
past continuous past perfect continuous
present perfect tense past perfect tense
past perfect tense past perfect tense

This is a summary table that will be crystal clear to you as you read further. Just come back to this table after this section and use this as a summary table:

Tense Direct speech Reported speech Changed tense
Simple present I like to swim in the ocean She said she liked to swim in the ocean Simpe past
Simple present I live in New Orleans He said he lived in New Orleans Simpe past
Past simple I went to school in the morning She said she had gone to school that morning Past perfect
Present continuous I was going to the Himalayas He said he was going to the Himalayas Past continuous
Past continuous I was walking near the beach She said that she had been walking near the beach past perfect continuous
Present perfect I have caught a few fishes She said she had caught a few fishes past perfect
Past perfect I had trekked the Himalayas this time last year He said he had trekked the Himalayas this time last year Past perfect

Some word transitions from direct to reported speech that will come in handy:

  • Will becomes would
  • Can becomes could
  • would stays would
  • should stays should
  • must stays must or had to(matter of choice)
  • shall becomes should

Exception: A present tense in direct speech may not become a past tense in the reported speech if it’s a fact or something generic we are talking about in the sentence. For example-

Direct speech: The sun rises from the East.

Reported speech: She said that the sun rises/rose from the East.

Reported speech- Handling questions:

What happens when the sentence we are trying to report was actually a question? That’s something we are going to deal with in this section. Reported questions- It’s quite interesting. let’s get into it:

Well the good news is that the tense change you learnt above stays the same in reported speech for questions. The only difference is that when you report a question, you no more report it in the form of a question but in the form of a statement. For example:

Direct speech: Where do you want to eat?

Reported speech: She asked me where I wanted to eat.

Notice how the question mark is gone from the reported speech. The reported speech is a statement now. Keep that in mind as you read further.

Remember the tense change? Let’s apply that to a few questions now.

Direct speech Reported speech
Are you going to my house? She asked me if I was going to her house.
Where were you going? He asked me where I was going.
Where have you been? She asked me where had i been.

Now these are questions that have wordy answers to them. What about the questions that has yes/no answers to them? In these type of questions just add “if” before asking the question. For example:

  • Direct speech: Would you like to eat some cupcakes?
  • Reported speech: He asked me if i would like to eat some cupcakes.
  • Direct speech: Have you ever seen the Van Gogh paintings?
  • Reported speech: She asked me if I had ever seen the Van Gogh paintings.
  • Direct speech: Are you eating your vegetables?
  • Reported speech: She asked if I was eating my vegetables.

Reported speech- Reported requests:

Well not all questions require answers. Some questions are polite requests. Remember? Could you please try to remember? And then there are request statements. Let’s see how do we convert these into reported speech.

Reported request = ask me + to + verb or requested me + to +verb

Just add this rule to your reported speech and you have what is called a reported request.

Direct speech Reported speech
Could you please shut the door? She asked me to shut the door.
Can you please help me? She requested me to help her.

Reported speech- Reported orders:

Well, not everyone is going to be polite. Sometimes, we get orders. Now how will you report them? Unlike the request, the reporting verb isn’t ask but told or tell. Also, when in orders, sometimes subjects are omitted but while reporting we have to revive the subjects. Let’s see a few examples:

  • Direct speech: Sit down!
  • Reported speech: She told  me to sit down.
  • Direct speech: don’t worry!
  • Reported speech: She told me not to worry.

Reported speech- Time transitions:

Direct speech Reported speech
now then / at that time
today yesterday / that day / Tuesday / the 27th of June
yesterday the day before yesterday / the day before / Wednesday / the 5th of December
last night the night before, Thursday night
last week the week before / the previous week
tomorrow today / the next day / the following day / Friday

With that, you have everything it takes to understand reported speech. you are all se to change the direct to reported speech. Go ahead and try a few examples. All the best!