Simple Guide to the Reported Speech

Reported Speech Table of Content

What is the reported speech?

Reported speech is a grammatical construction also commonly known as indirect speech. It is used to report what another person has said without directly quoting them. Instead of using quotation marks, reported speech uses words and phrases to convey the speaker’s original message in a different way.

  • A speech can be divided into direct and indirect.

Direct speech: “They are building a new school here“
Indirect speech: He said that they were building a new school there.

  • It can also be divided into :
  1. Statement: “they have just finished the exam“
  2. Question: “what were you doing when they came?“
    “Have you finished the exercise?“
  3. Command: “stop teasing me“
    “You must not smoke here“
    “ you needn’t come“

Reporting verbs in reported speech

  • If the reporting verb is in the present simple, present perfect, or future simple then we report the sentence as it is. In other words, we make no changes.

For example:

Direct speech: “they will move from here next week “
Indirect speech: He says/is saying /will say that they will move from here next week

  • But if the reporting verb is in simple past then certain changes are necessary. These changes affect:
    • Verbs
    • Pronouns ( I, you …. My, your …., mine, their …..)
    • Time indicators ( yesterday, tomorrow, now, next ……)
    • Place indicators ( here, there, this place …..)

NB: these changes take place when the reporting verb is in simple past and they are applied to statements, questions, and command

What are the changes in reported speech?

When we report what someone said, there are certain changes that have to be made. We must adjust verb tenses, pronouns, time and place indicators, and word order.

1. Verbs and modal verbs in reported speech

1.1. Verbs and tenses in reported speech

  • Direct: Present Simple: “I love pizza,” she said.
  • Indirect: past simple: She said that she loved pizza.
  • Direct: present continuous: “I am watching a movie,” she said.
  • Indirect: past continuous: She said that she was watching a movie.
  • Direct: present perfect: “I have eaten breakfast,” she said.
  • Indirect: past perfect: She said that she had eaten breakfast.
  • Direct: past simple: “I visited Paris last year,” he said.
  • Indirect: past perfect: He said that he had visited Paris the previous year.
  • Direct: past continuous: “I was studying for three hours,” she said.
  • Indirect: past perfect continuous: She said that she had been studying for three hours.
  • Direct: past perfect: “I had already eaten,” he said.
  • Indirect: past perfect: He said that he had already eaten.

1.2. Modal verbs in reported speech

  • Direct: will: “I will call you tomorrow,” she said.
  • Indirect: Would: She said that she would call me the next day.
  • Direct: can: “I can speak French,” he said.
  • Indirect: could: He said that he could speak French.
  • Direct: may: “I may be late,” he said
  • Indirect: might: He said that he might be late.
  • Direct: must/have to: “I must leave,” he said
  • Indirect: had to: He said that he had to leave.

2. Time and place indicators

  • Direct: Today: “I’m busy today,” she said.
  • Indirect: That day: She said that she was busy that day.
  • Direct: Yesterday: “I went to the store yesterday,” he said.
  • Indirect: The day before/the previous day: He said that he had gone to the store the day before/the previous day.
  • Direct: The day before yesterday: “I saw him the day before yesterday,” she said.
  • Indirect: Two days before: She said that she had seen him two days before.
  • Direct: Tomorrow: “I will see you tomorrow,” he said.
  • Indirect: The next/following/coming day: He said that he would see me the next day/the following day/the coming day.
  • Direct: The day after tomorrow: “I will meet you the day after tomorrow,” she said.
  • Indirect: In two days’ time: She said that she would meet me in two days’ time.
  • Direct: Next week, year…: “I am traveling to New York next week,” he said.
  • Indirect: The following week, year…: He said that he was traveling to New York the following week.
  • Direct: Last week, year…: “I went to Hawaii last year,” she said.
  • Indirect: The previous week, year …: She said that she had gone to Hawaii the previous year.
  • Direct: A day/weak/month/year… ago: “I saw him a week ago,” she said.
  • Indirect: A day before / the previous week: She said that she had seen him a week before.
  • Direct: Here: “I am here,” she said.
  • Indirect: There: She said that she was there.
  • Direct: This place/city: “I love this city,” he said.
  • Indirect: That place/city …: He said that he loved that city.

3. Pronouns

The changing of pronouns depends on who is speaking. Notice the two examples below:

1.  “I am not leaving with you,” Katherine said to her

Suppose that Katherine reported her statement. then:

I said to her that I was not leaving with her

But suppose that Bill reported Katherine’s statement then :

Bill said that she was not leaving with her

4. Statements in reported speech

When reporting statements, we need to change the tense of the original statement and use appropriate reporting verbs and reporting clauses. Here is an example of how we can report a statement in a reported speech:

  • Direct speech: “ I saw her the day before yesterday, here, “ he said
  • Indirect speech:  he said that he had seen her two days before, there.

We can report statements in a similar way by changing the tense of the verb and using appropriate reporting verbs and reporting clauses. Other examples of reporting verbs that we can use include “told,” “informed,” “mentioned,” “explained,” “noted,” “pointed out,” and “asserted.” The choice of reporting verb depends on the context and the meaning that we want to convey.

5. Questions in reported speech

When reporting questions, we can use two types of questions: Wh-questions and yes/no questions. Wh-questions begin with a wh-word like what, where, when, why, or how. Yes/no questions, on the other hand, require a simple yes or no answer. But both of them share this structure: Verb+subject

5.1. Wh –questions

These are questions that begin with a wh-word: what, where….)

  • Direct speech: “where is she going?”
  • Indirect speech: she asked where she was going.

Notice: Verb+subject becomes subject+verb and the question mark is omitted.

The interrogative form of the verb becomes affirmative :

Where is she => where she was

5.2. Yes/no questions

These are questions whose answers are either yes or no.

  • Direct speech: “will you participate in the ceremony?” Kamal asked me
  • Indirect speech: he wondered if/whether if/whether I would participate in the ceremony.

Notice: Verb+subject becomes subject+verb and the question mark is omitted.

The interrogative form of the verb becomes affirmative :

Will you participate => I would participate

6. Commands in reported speech

  • Direct speech: “revise your lessons,” the mother said to her son.
  • Indirect speech: the mother ordered her son to revise his lessons.

  • Direct speech: “ don’t smoke here, “ said the doctor
  • In Direct speech: he ordered him not to smoke there

Notice: in the indirect speech

Affirmative: reporting verb + pronoun + to verb (infinitive)
Negative: reporting verb + pronoun +  not + to verb (infinitive)

7 COMMENTS