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Direct and Indirect (or reported)

There are two ways in which we can report what someone has said:

• Direct speech: Sara said, “I don’t eat beef.”

• Indirect speech: Sara said that she did not beef.

February 25th March 4th

I’m going home Direct speech

She said, “I’m going home”.

Indirect speech
She said (that) she was going home.

One way of reporting what someone has said is to repeat their actual words.
'I don't know much about music,' Jameel said.
A sentence like this is called a direct structure.
Instead of repeating Jameel’s words, the writer could have said, 'Jameel said that she didn't
know much about music'. This is called an Indirect or Reported structure.
In Direct speech:
• We repeat the original speaker's exact words.
• Direct speech is sometimes called quoted speech.
• In this case what a person says appears within quotation marks.
He said, 'I have lost my umbrella.'

In Indirect speech:
Developed by: English Faculty 1

• We don’t use quotation marks to enclose what a person said and it doesn’t have to be
word for word.
• Indirect speech is sometimes called reported speech.
• We often omit that after say and tell, but keep it after other reporting verbs such as
explain, complain, etc.
She explained that she was angry.

One guest said, ‘The food is excellent.’

One guest said that the food was excellent.

When changing from quoted speech to reported speech, several changes occur.

1. In all sentences, the quotation marks and the comma immediately before the first
quotation mark are removed.
2. Next, the word "that" is usually inserted after the reporting verb (Accused,
Admitted, Advised, Alleged, Agreed, Apologised, Begged, Boasted, Complained,
Denied, Explained, Implied, Invited, Offered, Ordered, promised, Replied,
Suggested and Thought. Ask, Told, etc.)
3. Then, the subject pronoun is changed so that the meaning of the quote is not
4. Lastly, the tense of the verb is changed, or shifted.

• She said, "I'm teaching English online."

• She said she was teaching English online.

1. Tense changes

a. Basic tense changes

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

Developed by: English Faculty 2


Present simple Past simple

She said, "It's cold." She said that it was cold.

Present continuous Past continuous

She said, "I'm teaching English online." She said that she was teaching English online.

Present perfect simple Past perfect simple

She said, "I've been in UK since 1999." She said that she had been in UK since 1999.

Present perfect continuous Past perfect continuous

She said, "I've been teaching English for She said that she had been teaching English for
seven years." seven years.

Past simple Past perfect

She said, "I taught online yesterday." She said that she had taught online yesterday.

Past continuous Past perfect continuous

She said, "I was teaching earlier." She said that she had been teaching earlier.

Past perfect Past perfect

She said, "The lesson had already started NO CHANGE - She said that the lesson had
when he arrived." already started when he arrived.

Past perfect continuous Past perfect continuous

She said, "I'd already been teaching for NO CHANGE - She said that she'd already been
five minutes." teaching for five minutes.

b. Other tense changes

Modal verb forms also sometimes change:

Direct speech Indirect speech
Will Would
She said, "I'll teach English online She said that she would teach English online
tomorrow." tomorrow.
Can Could
She said, "I can teach English online." She said that she could teach English online.
Must Had to
She said, "I must have a computer to She said that she had to have a computer to
teach English online." teach English online.
Shall Should
She said, "What shall we learn today?" She asked what we should learn today.

May Might
She said, "May I open a new browser?" She asked if she might open a new browser.

Developed by: English Faculty 3


2. Time and place changes

Time and place references often have to change:

• If the reported sentence contains an expression of time, you must change it to fit in
with the time of reporting.
Direct speech Reported speech
here there
this week/month/year that week/month/year
now then
today that day
tonight that night
tomorrow the next/following day
the day after tomorrow in two days’ time/two days later
yesterday the day before/the previous day
the day before yesterday two days before/earlier
three days ago three days before/earlier
next Monday the following Monday
last Monday the previous Monday

Possible Changes:
• Tense of Verb changes.
He said, “I love you”
He said (that) he loved me.
• Order of Verbs changes
Mum says, “Why aren’t you at school?”
Mum wants to know why you aren’t at school.
• Pronoun changes
In reported speech, the pronoun often changes.
For example:

Me You

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

• Time words or phrases changes

Peter said, “I’m seeing the doctor tomorrow”.
Peter said (that) he was seeing the doctor the following day.

Tense of Verb changes:

Direct speech Reported speech

• Present simple Past simple
‘I like peaches’. He said he liked peaches.
Developed by: English Faculty 4

• Present continuous Past continuous

‘Is it raining?’ He asked if it was raining.

• Past simple Past simple / Past Perfect

‘I didn’t recognize you’. She explained that she hadn’t recognized /didn’t
recognize me.

• Past continuous Past perfect continuous

‘I was joking about the price.’ He said he had been joking) about theprice.

• Past perfect Past perfect

‘I hadn’t seen her before that day.’You said you hadn’t seen her before that day.

• shall / will should / would

‘We’ll be late.’ I told him we’d be late.

• can, may could, might

‘I can swim.’ She thought she could swim.

• must must or had to

‘I must go.’ He said he must / had to go.

Reporting questions
Two kinds of questions
1. Yes / No questions
‘Are you leaving?’ he said.
aux s v
He wanted to know if / whether I was leaving.

s aux v

2. Wh-questions

‘Where is the President staying?’ the reporter said.

Wh-word aux s v

The reporter asked where the President was staying.

Wh-word s aux v

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Reported questions
• tenses, determiners, pronouns, etc. change in the same way as in reported statements
• in reported questions, we use the introductory verbs asked, wondered, wanted to
know, tried to find out, etc. instead of said, tell, etc. After asked, we need an object
(asked me, asked Tony, asked the time, asked the way to Sai Kung, etc.)
• the interrogative word order (verb + subject) changes to the affirmative word order
(subject + verb) and the sentence ends with a full stop, not a question mark
• if a direct question begins with a question word (who, what, how, etc.), the question word
is kept in the reported question
“Where do you live?” the policeman asked the boy.
The policeman asked the boy where he lived.
• if there is no question word, we normally use if or whether
“Do you like my dress?” she asked Tony.
She asked Tony if/whether he liked her dress.

Reported commands, requests, advice, etc

• we often report orders, requests, warnings, advice and invitations by using the
structure verb + object + to-infinitive
positive imperative tell + infinitive
Shut up! He told me to shut up.
negative imperative tell + not + infinitive
Don't do that again! He told me not to do it again.
imperatives as requests ask + infinitive
Please give me some money. He requested me to give him some

Developed by: English Faculty 6


Developed by: English Faculty 7