Reported Speech

Definition: Reported Speech (also called Indirect Speech) is used to communicate what someone else said, think or believe, but without using the exact words. A few changes are necessary; often a pronoun has to be changed and the verb is usually moved back a tense, where possible.

For example:

  • He said that he was going to come.
    * The person's exact words were "I'm going to come".

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. Reported speech doesn't use quotation marks to enclose what the person said.

For example:

  • Direct speech:
    - "I'm going to the cinema", he said.
  • Reported speech:
    - He said he was going to the cinema.
  • Direct speech:
    - "I'm going to come", he said.
  • Reported speech:
    - He said that he was going to come.
  • Direct speech:
    - She said, "I saw him."
  • Reported speech:
    - She said that she had seen him.

Indirect Questions
When reporting questions, it is especially important to pay attention to sentence order. When reporting yes/ no questions connect the reported question using "if". When reporting questions using question words (why, where, when, etc.) use the question word.

  • She asked, "Do you want to come with me?"
    => She asked me if I wanted to come with her.
  • Dave asked, "Where did you go last weekend?"
    => Dave asked me where I had gone the previous weekend.
  • He asked, "Why are you studying English?"
    => She asked me why I was studying English.

The following chart includes sentences changed from direct speech to reported speech using a past form. Note Simple past, present perfect, and past perfect all change to past perfect in the reported form.

Direct speech Reported speech
He said, "I live in Paris." He said he lived in Paris.
He said, "I am cooking dinner." He said he was cooking dinner.
He said, "I have visted London twice." He said he had visited London twice.
He said, "I went to New York last week." He said he had gone to New York the week before.
He said, "I had already eaten." He said he had already eaten.
He said, "I am going to find a new job." He said he was going to find a new job.
He said, "I will give Jack a call." He said he would give Jack a call.

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