Reported Speech (Indirect Speech)

If we report what another person has said, we usually do not use the speaker’s exact words (direct speech), but reported (indirect) speech. Therefore, you need to learn how to transform direct speech into reported speech. The structure is a little different depending on whether you want to transform a statement, question or request.

Statements

When transforming statements, check whether you have to change:

  • pronouns
  • present tense verbs (3rd person singular)
  • place and time expressions
  • tenses (backshift)
Type Example
direct speech “I speak English.”
reported speech
(no backshift)
He says that he speaks English.
reported speech
(backshift)
He said that he spoke English.

more on statements in reported speech

Questions

When transforming questions, check whether you have to change:

  • pronouns
  • present tense verbs (3rd person singular)
  • place and time expressions
  • tenses (backshift)

Also note that you have to:

  • transform the question into an indirect question
  • use the interrogative or if / whether
TypeExample
with interrogative direct speech “Why don’t you speak English?”
reported speech He asked me why I didn’t speak English.
without interrogative direct speech “Do you speak English?”
reported speech He asked me whether / if I spoke English.

more on questions in reported speech

Requests

When transforming questions, check whether you have to change:

  • pronouns
  • place and time expressions
Type Example
direct speech “Carol, speak English.“
reported speech He told Carol to speak English.

more on requests in reported speech

Additional Information and Exeptions

Apart from the above mentioned basic rules, there are further aspects that you should keep in mind, for example:

  • main clauses connected with and / but
  • tense of the introductory clause
  • reported speech for difficult tenses
  • exeptions for backshift
  • requests with must, should, ought to and let’s

more on additional information and exeptions in reported speech

Exercises on Reported Speech

Statements in Reported Speech

Questions in Reported Speech

Requests in Reported Speech

Mixed Exercises on Reported Speech

Grammar in Texts