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There are two ways of relating what a person has said: direct and indirect.
In direct speech we repeat the original speakers exact words:
He said, I have lost my umbrella.
Direct speech is found in conversations in books, in plays, and in quotations.
In indirect speech we give the exact meaning of a remark or a speech, without necessarily using
the speakers exact words:
He said (that) he had lost his umbrella.
There is no comma after say in indirect speech.
That can be omitted after say and tell + object.
It should be kept after other verbs: complain, explain, object, point out, protest etc.
When we turn direct speech into indirect, some changes are usually necessary.
These are most easily studied by considering statements, questions, and commands
2.STATEMENTS IN INDIRECT SPEECH: tense changes necessary
A. Indirect speech can be introduced by a verb in a present tense: He says that This is usual
when we are:
a. reporting a conversation that is still going on
b. reading a letter and reporting what it says
c. reading instructions and reporting them
d. reporting a statement that someone makes very often, e.g. Tom says that hell never get
When the introductory verb is in present, present perfect or future tense we can report the direct
speech without any change of tense:
PAUL (phoning from the station): Im trying to get a taxi.
ANN (to Mary, who is standing beside her): Paul says he is trying to get a taxi.
B. But indirect speech is usually introduced by a verb in the past tense. Verbs in the direct
speech have then to be changed into a corresponding past tense. The changes are shown in the
following table.
Present Simple
Past Simple
I never eat meat, he explained.
He explained that he never ate meat.
Present Continuous
Past Continuous
Im waiting for Ann, he said.
He said (that) he was waiting for Ann.
Present Perfect
Past Perfect
I have found a flat, he said.
He said (that) he had found a flat.
Present Perfect Continuous
Past Perfect Continuous
He said Ive been waiting for ages.
He said he had been waiting for ages.
Past Simple
Past Perfect
I took it home with me, she said.
She said she had taken it home with her.
He said, I will/shall be in Paris on
He said he would be in Paris on Monday.
But: Conditional
I said, I would/should like to see it.
I said I would/should like to see it.

shall/should become would in indirect speech

Past perfect

Past perfect

She said, "The lesson had already started

NO CHANGE - She said the lesson had already started

when he arrived."

when he arrived.

Past perfect continuous

Past perfect continuous

She said, "I'd already been teaching for five

NO CHANGE - She said she'd already been teaching


for five minutes.

Modal verb forms also sometimes change:

Direct speech

Indirect speech

She said, "I'll teach English online tomorrow."
She said, "I can teach English online."
She said, "I must have a computer to teach

She said she would teach English online tomorrow.
She said she could teach English online.
had to
She said she had to have a computer to teach

English online."

English online.

She said, "What shall we learn today?"
She said, "May I open a new browser?"

She asked what we should learn today.
She asked if she might open a new browser.

Note - There is no change to; could, would, should, might and ought to.
"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:"My name is Lynne", she said.

She said her name was Lynne. Or She said her name is Lynne.

C. Unreal past tenses (subjunctives in indirect speech)

Unreal past tenses after wish, would rather/sooner and it is time do not change:
1. We wish we didnt have to take exams, said the children.
The children said they wished they didnt have to take exams.

2. Its time we began planning our holidays, he said.

He said that it was time they began planning their holiday.
D. I / he / she / we / they had better remains unchanged.
You had better can remain unchanged or be reported by advise + object + infinitive.
1. The children had better go to bed early, said Tom. =
Tom said that the children had better go to bed early.
2. Youd better not drink the water, she said. = She advised/warned us not to drink the water.

used to doesnt change:

I know the place well because I used to live here, he explained. =

He explained that he knew the place well because he used to live there.
F. The advice form If I were you I should/would . is normally reported by advise +
object +infinitive:
If were you Id wait, I said. = I advised him to wait.
Time change - Exceptions
Backshift of Simple Present is optional if the situation is still unchanged or if you agree with the original speaker.

Canberra is the capital of Australia.

She said that Canberra is / was the capital of Australia.
Backshift of Simple Past and Past Progressive is optional if they cannot be mistakenly taken for backshift of
Present Tense. So backshift is not necessary if there is a time expression indicating past.

She left Boston on Monday.
He said that she left / had left Boston on Monday.
Simple Past and Past Progressive do not normally change in sentences with when / if.

When I was having breakfast, the telephone suddenly rang.
She said that when she was having breakfast, the telephone suddenly rang.
If I had more time, I would learn French.
He said that if he had more time, he would learn French.

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.


+ 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)
these (days)
(a week) ago
last weekend
next (week)

that (evening)

yesterday ...

those (days)


(a week) before
the weekend before last / the previous weekend


the following (week)

the next/following day

the day before

At work

At home

"How long have you worked here?"

She asked me how long I'd worked there.

Pronoun change: In reported speech, pronouns and possessive adjectives usually change from
first or second to third person except when speaker is reporting his own words: For example:

1. He said, Ive forgotten the combination of my safe.

He said that he had forgotten the combination of his safe.
2. I said, I like my new house.
I said I liked my new house. (speaker reporting his own words)
This and these
- this used in time expressions usually becomes that
He said, She is coming this week. = He said she was coming that week
- otherwise this and that used as adjectives usually change to the
He said, I bought this pearl/these for my mother =
He said he bought the pearl/pearls for his mother.

1. She said, "I am reading." She said that_she was reading_____
2. They said, "We are busy." They said that they were busy
3. He said, "I know a better restaurant." He said that he knew a better restaurant.
4. She said, "I woke up early." She said that she had woken up early.

5. He said, "I will ring her." He said that he would ring her.
6. They said, "We have just arrived." They said that they had just arrived.
7. He said, "I will clean the car." He said that he would clean the car
8. She said, "I did not say that." She said that she hadnt said that.
9. She said, "I don't know where my shoes are." She said that she didnt know where her shoes were.
10.He said: "I won't tell anyone." He said that he wouldnt tell anyone.
11.They said, "This is our book." They said that it was their book.
12. She said, "I went to the cinema yesterday." She said that she had gone to the cinema yesterday.
13. He said, "I am writing a test tomorrow." He said that he was writing a test the following day.
14. You said, "I will do this for him." You said that you would do that for him.
15. She said, "I am not hungry now." She said that she was not hungry then.
16.They said, "We have never been here before." They said that they had never been there before.
17.They said, "We were in London last week." They said that they had been in London last week.
18.He said, "I will have finished this paper by tomorrow." He said that he would have finished that paper by the next
19.He said, "They won't sleep." He said that they wouldnt sleep.
20. She said, "It is very quiet here." She said that it was very quiet there.

Questions in Reported Speech

When transforming questions, check whether you have to change:


present tense verbs (3rd person singular)

place and time expressions

tenses (backshift)
Also note that you have to:

The interrogative form of the verb changes to the affirmative form.transform the question into an indirect

use the interrogative or if / whether

Besides, note that instead of that you use the interrogative.

If there is no interrogative, use whether / if.
Direct Speech

He said: She lives in London.

Reported Speech
He said that she lived in London

Direct Speech
question with interrogative

He asked: Where does she live?

question without interrogative He asked: Does she live in London?

Reported Speech
He asked where she lived.
He asked whether she lived in London.
He asked if she lived in London.

It is also important that you use an indirect question in reported speech, i.e. after the interrogative or whether / if
you continue the sentence as if it were a statement (subject-verb etc.). The auxiliary verb do is not used in indirect
questions. Example: He asked: Where does she live? He asked where she lived
When transforming questions, check whether you have to change: pronouns or place and time expressions.

If the introductory verb is say, it must be changed to a verb of inquiry:

e.g. ask, inquire, wonder, want to know,

When transforming questions, check whether you have to change:


direct speech


place and time expressions


Carol, speak English.

reported speech He told Carol to speak English.

The basic rule for requests is: introductory clause + to + infinite verb. Example:

Say hello to your mum. = She asked me to say hello to my mum.

Advise expressions with must, should and ought are usually reported using advise / urge. Example:

You must read that book. = He advised / urged me to read that book.
The expression lets is usually reported using suggest. In this case, there are various possibilities for reported
speech: gerund or statement with should. Example:

Lets go to the cinema. = He suggested going to the cinema. Or

He suggested that we should go to the cinema.

-Introductory verbs: advise, ask, beg, command, encourage, forbid, invite, order, urge..


They said, "This is our book." They said ..


She said, "I went to the cinema yesterday." She said that she had gone


He said, "I am writing a test tomorrow." He said


You said, "I will do this for him." You said


She said, "I am not hungry now." She said


They said, "We have never been here before." They said


They said, "We were in London last week." They said


He said, "I will have finished this paper by tomorrow." He said


He said, "They won't sleep." He said ....

10. She said, "It is very quiet here." She said .

Questions - Exercise 1
1 "Where is my umbrella?" she asked. She asked
2"How are you?" Martin asked us. Martin asked us ..
3He asked, "Do I have to do it?" He asked if he had to do it.
4"Where have you been?" the mother asked her daughter.
The mother asked her daughterwhere she had
5"Which dress do you like best?" she asked her boyfriend.
She asked her boyfriend
6"What are they doing?" she asked. She wanted to know
7"Are you going to the cinema?" he asked me. He wanted to know ...
8"How do you know that?" she asked me. She asked me.
9"Has Caron talked to Kevin?" my friend asked me.
My friend asked me ..........................................

Questions - Exercise 2
"What's the time?" he asked. He wanted to know..
"When will we meet again?" she asked me. She asked me
"Are you crazy?" she asked him. She asked him .
"Where did they live?" he asked. He wanted to know.
"Will you be at the party?" he asked her. He asked her ..
"Can you meet me at the station?" she asked me. She asked me .
"Who knows the answer?" the teacher asked. The teacher wanted to know .
"Why don't you help me?" she asked him. She wanted to know ..
"Did you see that car?" he asked me. He asked

"Have you tidied up your room?" the mother asked the twins.
The mother asked the twins

Exercise 2 Requests (negative)

"Don't touch it," she said to him. She told him .
"Don't do that again," he said to me. He told me..
"Don't talk to me like that," he said. He told her..
"Don't repair the computer yourself," she warned him.
She warned him ..
"Don't let him in," she said. She told me..
"Don't go out without me," he begged her.
He begged her .
"Don't forget your bag," she told me. She told me .
"Don't eat in the lab," the chemistry teacher said.
The chemistry teacher told his students
"Don't give yourself up," he advised her.
He advised her .
"Don't hurt yourselves, boys," she said.
She told the boys

Exercise 3 Requests (mixed)

She said, "Go upstairs." She told me.
"Close the door behind you," he told me.
He told me
"Don't be late," he advised us.
He advised us
"Stop staring at me," she said. She told him
"Don't be angry with me," he said.
He asked her ..
"Leave me alone," she said. She told me ..
"Don't drink and drive," she warned us.
She warned us .....
"John, stop smoking," she said. She told John.
"Don't worry about us," they said. They told her..
"Meet me at the cinema." he said. He asked me .

Mixed Exercise 1
He said, "I like this song." He said
"Where is your sister?" she asked me. She asked me
"I don't speak Italian," she said. She said .
"Say hello to Jim," they said. They asked me
"The film began at seven o'clock," he said. He said ..

"Don't play on the grass, boys," she said.

She told the boys ..
"Where have you spent your money?" she asked him.
She asked him ...
"I never make mistakes," he said.
He said ..
"Does she know Robert?" he wanted to know.
He wanted to know .
"Don't try this at home," the stuntman told the audience.
The stuntman advised the audience .

Mixed Exercise 2
"I was very tired," she said.
She said ..
"Be careful, Ben," she said.
She told Ben ..
"I will get myself a drink," she says.
She says
"Why haven't you phoned me?" he asked me.
He wondered
"I cannot drive them home," he said.
He said ..
"Peter, do you prefer tea or coffee?" she says.
She asks Peter ..
"Where did you spend your holidays last year?" she asked me.
She asked me
He said, "Don't go too far."
He advised her ..
"Have you been shopping?" he asked us.
He wanted to know ..
"Don't make so much noise," he says.
He asks us .


1. Ive no idea what the time is but Ill dial 8081 and find out, said his daughter.
2. I have a German lesson this afternoon and I havent done my homework yet, said the small boy.
3. Im going fishing with mother this afternoon, said the small boy, and we are going into the garden
now to dig for worms.

4. This is quite a good model, madam. I use one of these myself, said the salesman.

5. I wish my children would eat vegetables, she said.

6. I couldnt get into the house because I had lost my key, so I had to break a window, he said.

7. Youd better slow down. Theres a speed limit here, she said to me.

8. Its time we began training for our next match, the coach said to them.

9. Bill should do very well at the university, Mrs. Smith, said the headmaster. Hes done very well here.

10. If you saw my father, youd recognize him at once. He is the most extraordinary-looking man, she
said to me.

1. Which of his sons inherited his estate? asked Susan

2. Who is going to live in the big house? enquired Tim.

3. When does it arrive in York? he asked.

4. How can I get from the station to the airport? said Bill.

5. Do puppies travel free? asked a dog owner.

6. Can I bring my dog into the compartment with me? she asked.

7. Are there smoking compartments? said the man with the pipe.

8. Would you mind if I looked inside your bag, Madam? said the policeman.

9. Do you know that the shoes you are wearing arent a pair? I asked him.

10. Where were you last night, Mr. Jones? he said.

1. Switch off the TV, he said to her.

2. Shut the door, Tom, she said.

3. Lend me your pen for a moment, I said to Mary.

4. Please fill up this form, the secretary said.

5. Dont hurry, I said.

6. Dont touch that switch, Mary, I said.


7. Dont make too much noise, children, he said.