Direct speech repeats, or quotes, the exact words spoken. When we use direct speech in writing, we place the words spoken between inverted commas (“….”) and there is no change in these words. We may be reporting something that’s being said NOW (for example a telephone conversation), or telling someone later about a previous conversation
- She says “What time will you be home?”
- She said “What time will you be home?”
and I said “I don’t know! “
- “There’s a fly in my soup!” screamed Simone.
- John said, “There’s an elephant outside the window.”
Indirect Speech (Reported Speech)
Reported speech is usually used to talk about the past, so we normally change the tense of the words spoken. We use reporting verbs like ‘say’, ‘tell’, ‘ask’, and we may use the word ‘that’ to introduce the reported words. Inverted commas are not used.
She said, “I saw him.” She said that she had seen him.
- ‘That’ may be omitted:
She told him that she was happy.
She told him she was happy.
- ‘Say’ and ‘tell’:
Use ‘say’ when there is no indirect object:
He said that he was tired.
Always use ‘tell’ when you say who was being spoken to (i.e. with an indirect object):
He told me that he was tired.
‘Talk’ and ‘speak’ are used:
– to describe the action of communicating:
He talked to us.
She was speaking on the telephone.
– with ‘about’ to refer to what was said:
He talked (to us) about his parents.
*Reported Speech: Hopes and Promises
a. “I’ll be back by lunchtime.”
He promised to be back by lunchtime.
He promised that he would be back by lunchtime.
b. “We should arrive in London before nightfall.”
They hoped to arrive in London before nightfall.
They hoped they would arrive in London before nightfall.
*Reported Speech : Requessts and Suggestions
1. Requests for objects are reported using the pattern ask + for + object:
a. “Can I have an apple?”, she asked. She asked for an apple.
b. “Can I have the newspaper, please?”. He asked for the newspaper.
c. “May I have a glass of water?” he said. He asked for a glass of water.
d. “Sugar, please.” She asked for the sugar.
e. “Could I have three kilos of onions?”. He asked for three kilos of
2. Suggestions are usually reported with a that-clause. ‘That’ and ‘should’
are optional in these clauses:
She said: “Why don’t you get a mechanic to look at the car?” She suggested
that I should get a mechanic to look at the car. OR She suggested I get a
mechanic to look at the car.Other reporting verbs used in this way are:
insist, recommend, demand, request, propose.
a. “It would be a good idea to see the dentist”, said my mother.
My mother suggested I see the dentist.
b. The dentist said, “I think you should use a different toothbrush”.
The dentist recommended that I should use a different toothbrush.
c. My manager said, “I think we should examine the budget carefully at this
My manager proposed that we examine the budget carefully at the
d. “Why don’t you sleep overnight at my house?” she said.
She suggested that I sleep overnight at her house.
*Reported Speech : Questions
1. Normal word order is used in reported questions, that is, the subject comes before the verb, and it is not necessary to use ‘do’ or ‘did’:
“Where does Peter live?” She asked him where Peter lived.
2. Yes / no questions: This type of question is reported by using ‘ask’ + ‘if /
whether + clause:
a. “Do you speak English?” He asked me if I spoke English.
b. “Are you British or American?” He asked me whether I was British or
c. “Is it raining?” She asked if it was raining.
d. “Have you got a computer?” He wanted to know whether I had a
e. “Can you type?” She asked if I could type.
f. “Did you come by train?” He enquired whether I had come by train.
g. “Have you been to Bristol before?” She asked if I had been to Bristol
3. Question words:
This type of question is reported by using ‘ask’ (or another verb like ‘ask’)
+question word + clause. The clause contains the question, in normal word order and with the necessary tense change.
a. “What is your name?” he asked me. He asked me what my name was.
b. “How old is your mother?”, he asked. He asked how old her mother was.
c. The mouse said to the elephant, “Where do you live?” The mouse asked the
elephant where she lived.
d. “What time does the train arrive?” she asked. She asked what time the
*Reported Speech : Tenses
Normally, the tense in reported speech is one tense back in time from the tense in direct speech:
She said, “I am tired.” She said that she was tired.
The changes are shown below:
|Simple present||Simple past|
|“I always drink coffee”, she said||She said that she always drank coffee.|
|Present continuous||Past continuous|
|“I am reading a book”, he explained.||He explained that he was reading a book|
|Simple past||Past perfect|
|“Bill arrived on Saturday”, he said.||He said that Bill had arrived on Saturday|
|Present perfect||Past perfect|
|“I have been to Spain”, he told me.||He told me that he had been to Spain|
|Past perfect||Past perfect|
|“I had just turned out the light,” he explained.||He explained that he had just turned out the light.|
|Present perfect continuous||Past perfect continuous|
|They complained, “We have been waiting for hours”.||They complained that they had been waiting for hours.|
|Past continuous||Past perfect continuous|
|“We were living in Paris”, they told me.||They told me that they had been living in Paris.|
|“I will be in Geneva on Monday”, he said||He said that he would be in Geneva on Monday.|
|Future continuous||Conditional continuous|
|She said, “I’ll be using the car next Friday”.||She said that she would be using the car next Friday.|