Reported Speech

Reported Speech

What is Reported Speech?

Reported speech is used when we want to report back what somebody said. That is to say, to tell someone what you have been told. We usually use reporting verbs like “say” or “tell” in the sentence. To do this, we use direct speech or indirect speech.

Example

Reported Speech In English (Video)

In this example, the present tense verb (like) stays the same, except for the change of the subject from “I” to “he”. We have the option of adding the word “that” in reported speech, which doesn’t change the meaning.

In indirect speech, usually, we use a tense which is further back in the past rather than the original one from direct speech. This is called backshift. However, when we are reporting general truth or facts, we don’t need to change the tense in indirect speech.

More Examples:

As you can see, the tense backshifts one step to the past in indirect speech example. To help you understand this better, we are going to cover every tense with examples.

Tense Changes in Reported Speech

1- Reported Speech in the Present Tense:

When using the present tense in direct speech, the present simple becomes the past simple. The present continuous changes to past continuous. The present perfect changes to the past perfect in indirect speech.

Examples:

2- Reported Speech in the Past Tense:

When using the past tense in direct speech, past simple changes to past perfect. The past continuous changes to past perfect continuous in indirect speech.

Examples:

3- Reported Speech in the Past Perfect:

The past perfect doesn't change in indirect speech doesn’t change.

Examples:

Questions in Reported Speech

When talking about questions in reported speech, the changes of tense remain the same as above. However, the words “say/said” or “tell/told” become “asked” in indirect speech. See the following example:

Examples:

As you notice, the present simple verb “to be” in the direct question is inverted with the subject “Tom” in indirect speech. In addition, the tense is backshifted. Let’s see more examples:

Direct question Indirect question
What are you doing? She asked me what I was doing.
Where do you live? He asked me where I lived.
Where is the police officer, please? He asked me where the police officer was.

To report ‘yes / no’ questions, we use ‘if’, and as usual the tense changes remain the same. Check out these examples:

Direct question Indirect question
Do you like me? She asked me if I liked her.
Have you ever been to Paris? He asked me if I had ever been to Paris.
Are you living with him? He asked me if I was living with him.

Requests in Reported Speech

We often want to report to our friends when someone asked us for favors in a polite way. We could say for example:

Examples:

To report requests like these all we have to do is use this formula:

Ask me + to + infinitive

Example:

More Examples:

Direct request Indirect request
Please help me. He asked me to help him.
Could you please hand me the book? She asked me to hand her the book.
Could you pass the salt, please? She asked me to pass the salt.
Can you pick up my son from school? She asked me to pick up her son from school.
Would you mind coming early today? She asked me to come early today.

The negative form of a request in reported speech is easy to make:

Example:

Making Orders in Reported Speech

We form orders in reported speech the same way we do for request. The only difference is instead of using “asked,” we use “told”. See the following examples:

Direct order Indirect order
Sit down! He told me to sit down.
Don’t worry! He told her not to worry.
Be on time! He told me to be on time.
Don’t smoke! He told us not to smoke.
Keep quiet! She told us to keep quiet.

Time Expressions in Reported Speech

We often change time expressions when moving from direct speech into reported speech:

Example:

Here’s a list of phrases of time in direct speech and their equivalent in reported speech:

Direct speech Indirect speech
Today That day
Yesterday The day before
Tomorrow The next/following day
Day before yesterday Two days before
The day after tomorrow In two days' time/two days later
Next week/month/year The following week/month/year
Last week/month/year The previous week/month/year
Ago Before

Place and Demonstrative Expressions in Reported Speech

Here’s a list of phrases of place in direct speech and their equivalent in reported speech:

Direct question Indirect question
Here There
I was born here. He told me he had been born there.

Demonstrative expressions in reported speech:

Direct question Indirect question
This That
This is my book. She said that was her book.

Direct question Indirect question
These Those
These are my friends. He said those were her friends.

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