Indirect Speech


Indirect Speech Explanation

We use indirect speech to tell someone else about what we have already heard from another person. Let's see the following situation :

Direct Speech :
George said,"I'm lonely."

If you want to tell somebody else about what George said.  We use indirect speech / reported speech :

George said (that) he was lonely.
George told me ( that ) he was lonely.

Generally, when we use indirect / reported speech, we are usually talking about the past.

Reporting Verbs

We usually use the verb told, said, asked in indirect speech. Let's see the following examples :
  1. John told me (that) he was sick.
  2. My father said he would go to Paris tomorrow. 
  3. The girl asked me where I lived.
We use tell if you say who you are talking to. Otherwise, we use said. The following examples are the wrong sentences.
  • John told he was sick.
  • John said me he was sick.
Notice the following example. We can use said + to to make a good indirect speech.
  1. John said to me he was sick.
  2. She said to me she loved me.

The Change of Tenses / Verbs

When we report to someone about what someone said to you, you have to pay attention to the rules of the change of tenses below.

 Direct / Quoted Speech  Indirect / Reported Speech 
 Simple Present Tense 
 He said,"I work five days a week."
 Simple Past Tense
 He said he worked five days a week.
 Present Continuous Tense
 He said,"I'm learning German."
 Past Continuous Tense
 He said he was learning German.
 Present Perfect Tense
 He said,"I have taken the pills."
 Past Perfect Tense
 He said he had taken the pills.
 Present Perfect Continuous Tense
 He said,"I have been writing a letter."
Past Perfect Continuous Tense
He said he had been writing a letter.
 Simple Past Tense
 He said,"I went to London last year."
Simple Past Tense / Past Perfect
He said he went to London last year.
He said he had gone to London last year.
 Past Continuous Tense
 He said,"I was having dinner."
Past Perfect Continuous Tense
He said he had been having dinner.
 Past Perfect Tense
 He said,"I had written 10 pages when she came."
Past Perfect Tense
He said he had written 10 pages when she came.
 Past Perfect Continuous Tense
 He said,"I had been sitting for three hours when she came back."
Past Perfect Continuous Tense
He said he had been sitting for three hours when she came back.

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The Modals That Change In Indirect Speech

The following modals have to be changed when used in indirect speech : 

 Direct Speech  Indirect Speech
 can
 will
 shall
 may
 could
 would
 should
 might

Let's see the following examples :

 Direct Speech  Indirect Speech
She said,"I can sing well."
She said,"I will give you my number."

She said,"We shall dance."
She said,"she may be late."
She said she could sing well.
She said she would give me her number.
She said we should dance.
She said she might be late.


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The Modals That Do Not Change In Indirect Speech

The following modals do not change in indirect speech : must, might, could, would, should, and ought. Let's see the following examples :
 Direct Speech  Indirect Speech
They said,"We would play well."
They said,"They must work hard.

She said,"I could run fast when I was two.
He said,"I might not come back."
He said,"We should leave the city."
He said,"I ought to take you with me."
They said they would play well.
They said they must (had to) work hard.
She said she could run fast when she was two.
He said he might not come back.
He said we should leave the city.
He said he ought to take me with him.

Orders / Commands and Requests In Indirect Speech

Orders and Requests are usually changed into infinitive in indirect speech. It is usually preceded by the verb told or asked. Let's see the following examples.
 Direct Speech Indirect Speech
The doctor said to me,"Avoid fatty food.
Paul said,"Don't cry."
The girl asked,"Can you help lift the bag?"
The doctor told me to avoid fatty food.
Paul told me not to cry.
The girl asked me to help her lift the bag.

Changing Yes/No Questions Into Indirect Speech

When we change yes/no questions into indirect speech, we have to change the auxiliary into if  or whether. Let's see the following examples.
 Questions   Indirect Speech
He asked me,"Do you like apples?"

I asked John,"Can you play chess?"

Brad asked me,"Do you go to work by car?"

He asked me if (whether ) I liked apples.
I asked John if (whether ) he could play chess.
Brad asked me if (whether ) I went to work by car.


Changing Question-word Questions Into Indirect Speech

 Question Word Question  Indirect Speech
The teacher asked me,"Where do you live?"
The teacher asked me,"When were you born?"
The teacher asked me,"How do you go to school?"
The teacher asked me where I lived.

The teacher asked me when I was (had been) born.
The teacher asked me how I went to school.

Direct Indirect Speech Exercises : told or said  ? 

In this exercise you have to complete the indirect speech with told or said !
  1. Jill ...... me she was happy with her new boyfriend.
  2. The doctor ........that I had to avoid alcohol.
  3. Don .... she was a very nice girl.
  4. Jane .... her husband she didn't like their new neighbors.
  5. Jack .....he wanted to go to Dublin.

Changing Direct Into Indirect Speech Exercises 

In this exercise you have to change the direct speech provided into a good indirect speech.
  1. He said,"I am glad to be here."
  2. She said,"I may not come back early this evening."
  3. Tom told me,"I didn't like Rachel."
  4. George said,"I'll get the phone."
  5. Sue told me," I saw Peggy in the party."

Order and Request Indirect Speech Exercise

In this exercise you have to change the order and request into indirect speech.
  1. The doctor said,"Eat more fruit and vegetables."  The doctor told me .....
  2. He said to me,"Clean the glass properly." He told me ..........
  3. Father said,"Close the door slowly." Father asked me .........
  4. I said to him,"Don't come late." I asked him...............
  5. Bill said,"Can you open the gate?" Bill asked me ..............

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