Reported Speech

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.

  1. The reporting verb:

Say
Tell
Ask

     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?

Orders:

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.

Another example:

  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.

Requests:

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.

Questions:

Yes/no questions:

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

Example:

      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.