Direct and Indirect Speech (MATERI)

 

We often have to give information about what people say or think. In order to do this you can use direct or quoted speech, or indirect or reported speech.

Direct Speech / Quoted Speech

Saying exactly what someone has said is called direct speech (sometimes called quoted speech)

Here what a person says appears within quotation marks (“…”) and should be word for word.

For example:

She said, “Today’s lesson is on presentations.”

or

“Today’s lesson is on presentations,” she said.

Indirect Speech / Reported Speech

Indirect speech (sometimes called reported speech), doesn’t use quotation marks to enclose what the person said and it doesn’t have to be word for word.

When reporting speech the tense usually changes. This is because when we use reported speech, we are usually talking about a time in the past (because obviously the person who spoke originally spoke in the past). The verbs therefore usually have to be in the past too.

For example:

Direct speech

Indirect speech

“I’m going to the cinema”, he said. He said he was going to the cinema.

Tense change

As a rule when you report something someone has said you go back a tense: (the tense on the left changes to the tense on the right):

Direct speech

 

Indirect speech

Present simple
She said, “It’s cold.”
Past simple
She said it was cold.
Present continuous
She said, “I’m teaching English online.”
Past continuous
She said she was teaching English online.
Present perfect simple
She said, “I’ve been on the web since 1999.”
Past perfect simple
She said she had been on the web since 1999.
Present perfect continuous
She said, “I’ve been teaching English for seven years.”
Past perfect continuous
She said she had been teaching English for seven years.
Past simple
She said, “I taught online yesterday.”
Past perfect
She said she had taught online yesterday.
Past continuous
She said, “I was teaching earlier.”
Past perfect continuous
She said she had been teaching earlier.
Past perfect
She said, “The lesson had already started when he arrived.”
Past perfect
NO CHANGE – She said the lesson had already started when he arrived.
Past perfect continuous
She said, “I’d already been teaching for five minutes.”
Past perfect continuous
NO CHANGE – She said she’d already been teaching for five minutes.

Modal verb forms also sometimes change:

Direct speech

 

Indirect speech

will
She said, “I’ll teach English online tomorrow.”
would
She said she would teach English online tomorrow.
can
She said, “I can teach English online.”
could
She said she could teach English online.
must
She said, “I must have a computer to teach English online.”
had to
She said she had to have a computer to teach English online.
shall
She said, “What shall we learn today?”
should
She asked what we should learn today.
may
She said, “May I open a new browser?”
might
She asked if she might open a new browser.

!Note – There is no change to; could, would, should, might and ought to.

Direct speech

Indirect speech

“I might go to the cinema”, he said. He said he might go to the cinema.

You can use the present tense in reported speech if you want to say that something is still true i.e. my name has always been and will always be Lynne so:-

Direct speech

Indirect speech

“My name is Lynne”, she said. She said her name was Lynne.

or

She said her name is Lynne.

You can also use the present tense if you are talking about a future event.

Direct speech (exact quote)

Indirect speech (not exact)

“Next week’s lesson is on reported speech “, she said. She said next week’s lesson is on reported speech.

Time change

If the reported sentence contains an expression of time, you must change it to fit in with the time of reporting.

For example we need to change words like here and yesterday if they have different meanings at the time and place of reporting.

Today

+ 24 hours – Indirect speech

“Today’s lesson is on presentations.” She said yesterday’s lesson was on presentations.

 

Expressions of time if reported on a different day

this (evening) that (evening)
today yesterday …
these (days) those (days)
now then
(a week) ago (a week) before
last weekend the weekend before last / the previous weekend
here there
next (week) the following (week)
tomorrow the next/following day

In addition if you report something that someone said in a different place to where you heard it you must change the place (here) to the place (there).

For example:-

At work

At home

“How long have you worked here?” She asked me how long I’d worked there.

Pronoun change

In reported speech, the pronoun often changes.

For example:

Me

You

I teach English online.” She said she teaches English online.

Reporting Verbs

Said, told and asked are the most common verbs used in indirect speech.

We use asked to report questions:-

For example: I asked Lynne what time the lesson started.

We use told with an object.

For example: Lynne told me she felt tired.

!Note - Here me is the object.

We usually use said without an object.

For example: Lynne said she was going to teach online.

If said is used with an object we must include to ;

For example: Lynne saidto me that she’d never been to China.

!Note – We usually use told.

For example: Lynne told me that she’d never been to China.

There are many other verbs we can use apart from said, told and asked.

These include:-

accused, admitted, advised, alleged, agreed, apologised, begged, boasted, complained, denied, explained, implied, invited, offered, ordered, promised, replied, suggested and thought.

Using them properly can make what you say much more interesting and informative.

For example:

He asked me to come to the party:-

He invited me to the party.
He begged me to come to the party.
He ordered me to come to the party.
He advised me to come to the party.
He suggested I should come to the party.

Use of ‘That’ in reported speech

In reported speech, the word that is often used.

For example: He told me that he lived in Greenwich.

However, that is optional.

For example: He told me he lived in Greenwich.

!Note – That is never used in questions, instead we often use if.

For example: He asked me if I would come to the party.

 

 

Direct and Indirect Speech

When using indirect or reported speech, the form changes. Usually indirect speech is introduced by the verb said, as in I said, Bill said, or they said. Using the verb say in this tense, indicates that something was said in the past. In these cases, the main verb in the reported sentence is put in the past. If the main verb is already in a past tense, then the tense changes to another past tense; it can almost be seen as moving even further into the past.

 

Verb tense changes also characterize other situations using indirect speech. Note the changes shown in the chart and see the table below for examples. With indirect speech, the use of that is optional.

 

Direct Speech Þ Indirect Speech
simple present
He said, “I go to school every day.”
Þ simple past
He said (that) he went to school every day.
simple past
He said, “I went to school every day.”
Þ past perfect
He said (that) he had gone to school every day.
present perfect
He said, “I have gone to school every day.”
Þ past perfect
He said (that) he had gone to school every day.
present progressive
He said, “I am going to school every day.”
Þ past progressive
He said (that) he was going to school every day.
past progressive
He said, “I was going to school every day.”
Þ perfect progressive
He said (that) he had been going to school every day,
future (will)
He said, “I will go to school every day.”
Þ would + verb name
He said (that) he would go to school every day.
future (going to)
He said, “I am going to school every day.”
Þ present progressive
He said (that) he is going to school every day.
  past progressive
He said (that) he was going to school every day
Direct Speech Þ Indirect Speech
auxiliary + verb name
He said, “Do you go to school every day?”
He said, “Where do you go to school?”
Þ simple past
He asked me if I went to school every day.*
He asked me where I went to school.
imperative
He said, “Go to school every day.”
Þ infinitive
He said to go to school every day.

 

*Note than when a Yes/No question is being asked in direct speech, then a construction with if or whether is used. If a WH question is being asked, then use the WH to introduce the clause. Also note that with indirect speech, these are examples of embedded questions.

The situation changes if instead of the common said another part of the very to say is used. In that case the verb tenses usually remain the same. Some examples of this situation are given below.

 

Direct Speech Þ Indirect Speech
simple present + simple present
He says, “I go to school every day.”
Þ simple present + simple present
He says (that) he goes to school every day.
present perfect + simple present
He has said, “I go to school every day.”
Þ present perfect + simple present
He has said (that) he goes to school every day.
past progressive + simple past
He was saying, “I went to school every day.”
Þ past progressive + simple past
He was saying (that) he went to school every day.
  past progressive + past perfect
He was saying (that) he had gone to school every day.
future + simple present
He will say, “I go to school every day.”
Þ future + simple present
He will say (that) he goes to school every day.

 

Another situation is the one in which modal constructions are used. If the verb said is used, then the form of the modal, or another modal that has a past meaning is used.

 

Direct Speech Þ Indirect Speech
can
He said, “I cango to school every day.”
Þ could
He said (that) he couldgo to school every day.
may
He said, “I may go to school every day.”
Þ might
He said (that) he might go to school every day.
might
He said, “I might go to school every day.”
   
must
He said, “I must go to school every day.”
Þ had to
He said (that) he had to go to school every day.
have to
He said, “I have to go to school every day.”
   
should
He said, “I should go to school every day.”
Þ should
He said (that) he should go to school every day.
ought to
He said, “I ought to go to school every day.”
Þ ought to
He said (that) he ought to go to school every day.

 

While not all of the possibilities have been listed here, there are enough to provide examples of the main rules governing the use of indirect or reported speech. For other situations, try to extrapolate from the examples here, or better still, refer to a good grammar text or reference book.

Some other verbs that can be used to introduce direct speech are: ask, report, tell, announce, suggest, and inquire. They are not used interchangeably; check a grammar or usage book for further information.

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