In direct speech, we put a sentence in quotation marks to say what a third person has said. For example,
Mark said, “I will not talk to her again!”
In indirect speech, also known as reported speech, we eliminate the quotation marks, change the first person to third person, and turn the future/present tense into past tense. The above sentence in direct speech will look like this in reported speech:
Mark said that he would not talk to her again.
There are two verbs in reported speech.
- The reporting verb:
2. The verb in the sentence that is being reported. In the above example, it is the verb “talk.”
Both the verbs need to be changed to past tense.
To construct reported speech, we:
1. Change the tense of the reporting verb to past tense.
2. Add “that” between the reporting verb and the reported speech. We can eliminate this as it’s optional.
3. Change the grammatical person from first to third.
4. Change the tense of the verb in the reported speech to past tense.
Let’s look at an example.
Nathan said, “I wish to travel the world.”
To report the above statement in direct speech, we’ll
1. Change the reporting verb. Here, the reporting verb is already in the past tense, so there’s no need to change it.
2. “That” is optional.
3. Change first person “I” to third person “he.”
4. Change the tense of the verb in the reported statement, which is “wish” to past tense. “Wish” becomes “wished.”
Now, the reported speech of the above sentence is:
Nathan said that he wished to travel the world.
Please note that “to travel” is not a verb, but an infinitive in this sentence.
What if a statement that needs to be reported is in the present continuous tense? We use the past continuous tense when reporting it.
Direct Speech: Leslie said, “I’m cooking dinner.”
The reported speech will be:
Leslie said that she was cooking dinner.
Let’s look at what tenses reported verbs change to:
Direct Speech Indirect (Reported) Speech
Simple Present Simple Past
Present Continuous Past Continuous
Present Perfect Past Perfect
Present Perfect Continuous Past Perfect Continuous
Simple Past Past Perfect
Past Continuous Past Perfect Continuous
Past Perfect Past Perfect
Past Perfect Continuous Past Perfect Continuous
Simple Future Simple Past
Future Continuous would + be + continuous form of the verb
Future Perfect would + have + past participle of the verb
Future Perfect Continuous would + have + been + continuous form
What about orders and requests?
From time to time, we do report orders from our teachers, bosses, etc., to our friends, colleagues, etc.
Here’s how we construct reported speech for orders:
Subject + told + object + infinitive
I’ll illustrate this with an example.
Direct Speech: My teacher told me, “Finish your homework!”
This statement, which is an order, will look like this in reported speech:
My teacher told me to finish my homework.
Direct Speech: Cecil told Ricky, “Get a xerox copy of this document!”
Indirect Speech: Cecil told Ricky to get a xerox copy of that document.
People do ask us to do things for them and they do this in the form of requests.
Construction of reported speech for such requests is:
Subject + asked + object + infinitive
We’ll take a look at some examples.
Direct Speech: Dana said, “Please help me.”
This request can be reported in the following manner. We use “ask” as it’s a request.
Dana asked me to help her.
A different example:
Direct Speech: Liberty said to Wade, “Please drop my son at school.”
Indirect Speech: Liberty asked Wade to drop her son at school.
We use if/whether to report questions which can be answered in a yes or a no.
The construction will be:
Subject + asked + object + if/whether + subject pronoun (refers to the object) + verb
Direct Speech: Micah asked, “Could you pick up some groceries on your way home?”
Indirect Speech: Micah asked me if I could pick up some groceries on my way home.
Direct Speech: Harry asked her, “Do you love me?”
Indirect Speech: Harry asked her whether she loved him.