What is reported speech?
“Reported speech” (also known as “indirect speech”) is the grammatical function we apply when we say (or report) what someone else said in another time and/or place. As opposed to “reported speech”, we have “direct speech”. Let’s see an example of transformation between “direct” and “reported speech”.
Direct Speech: “I’m not going to the match today,” said Jill.
Reported Speech: Jill said that she was not going to the match that day.
In the example above, you can see that there are certain transformations when changing from “direct” to “reported speech”. We will now see these transformations and the three types of sentences we transform.
Elements to transform
1. Verb tenses
When we change from “direct” to “reported speech”, this is what happens to verb tenses:
Direct Speech: “I have already seen that film,” said John. (present perfect)
Reported Speech: John said that he had already seen that film. (past perfect)
Direct Speech: Alan told me, “I may go out tonight.”
Reported Speech: Alan told me that he might go out that night.
2. Time expressions
Time expressions usually have to change, although this depends on the context we are using them.
Direct Speech: “I saw that film yesterday,” said John.
Reported Speech: John said that he had seen that film the day before/the previous day.
Direct Speech: Alan told me, “Can we meet next week?”
Reported Speech: Alan asked me if we could meet the week after/the following week.
3. Pronouns & others
Pronouns will change according to people involved in the original sentence. For example:
Direct Speech: “Could (1)you pick (2)me up from school?” Liam asked his mother.
Reported Speech: Liam asked his mother if (1)she could pick (2)him up from school.
Other changes may include: this –> that, these –> those, here –> there, etc.
1. Regular statements
When we talk about statements, we are referring to general sentences that are not questions, exclamations or commands.
When we report a statement, we must simply follow the rules above (Elements to transform).
Verbs and patterns: say (that)…, tell someone that…. NEVER:
say someone that… or tell that...
For a full explanation on how to use “say” and “tell”, check out this post!
Direct Speech: “I love you, Amy.” said Liam.
Reported Speech: Liam told Amy that he loved her.
When we report a question, we must take into account that there are two types of questions: YES/NO-questions and WH-question. Also, we need to follow the rules above (Elements to transform).
Verb and pattern: Y/N-questions: ask (someone) if/whether…; Wh-questions: ask (someone) wh-…
For more information on these types of questions, check out this post.
Important: when we report a question we don’t use “?” and there is no subject-auxiliary inversion.
Direct Speech: “Did you finish your homework?” the teacher asked. (Y/N-question)
Reported Speech: The teacher asked if/whether we had finished our homework.
Direct Speech: “Where did you see me yesterday?” Jamie asked me. (Wh-question)
Reported Speech: Jamie asked me where I had seen him yesterday.
3. Commands / Polite requests
Command is an order, that is, when we tell someone to do something for us. If we do this in the form of a question, we can call it a polite request.
Verbs and patterns: tell someone to do something (commands); ask someone to do something (polite requests).
Important: verb changes do not apply here. We must always use the infinitive form in the reported sentence.
Direct Speech: “Just be quiet, will you?” the teacher said to the students. (command)
R. Speech: The teacher told the students to be quiet.
Direct Speech: “Could you pass me the salt, please?” my mother asked me. (polite request)
R. Speech: My mother asked me to (please) pass her the salt.
This article was originally published as a post here.