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Essay Reported Speech Statements

We often have to give information about what people say or think. In order to do this you can use direct or quoted speech, or indirect or reported speech.

Direct Speech / Quoted Speech

Saying exactly what someone has said is called direct speech (sometimes called quoted speech)

Here what a person says appears within quotation marks ("...") and should be word for word.

For example:

She said, "Today's lesson is on presentations."

or

"Today's lesson is on presentations", she said.

Indirect Speech / Reported Speech

Indirect speech (sometimes called reported speech), doesn't use quotation marks to enclose what the person said and it doesn't have to be word for word.

When reporting speech the tense usually changes. This is because when we use reported speech, we are usually talking about a time in the past (because obviously the person who spoke originally spoke in the past). The verbs therefore usually have to be in the past too.

For example:

Direct speechIndirect speech
"I'm going to the cinema", he said. He said he was going to the cinema.

Tense change

As a rule when you report something someone has said you go back a tense: (the tense on the left changes to the tense on the right):

Direct speech  Indirect speech

Present simple
She said, "It's cold."

Past simple
She said it was cold.
Present continuous
She said, "I'm teaching English online."
Past continuous
She said she was teaching English online.
Present perfect simple
She said, "I've been on the web since 1999."
Past perfect simple
She said she had been on the web since 1999.
Present perfect continuous
She said, "I've been teaching English for seven years."
Past perfect continuous
She said she had been teaching English for seven years.
Past simple
She said, "I taught online yesterday."
Past perfect
She said she had taught online yesterday.
Past continuous
She said, "I was teaching earlier."
Past perfect continuous
She said she had been teaching earlier.
Past perfect
She said, "The lesson had already started when he arrived."
Past perfect
NO CHANGE - She said the lesson had already started when he arrived.
Past perfect continuous
She said, "I'd already been teaching for five minutes."
Past perfect continuous
NO CHANGE - She said she'd already been teaching for five minutes.

Modal verb forms also sometimes change:

Direct speech  Indirect speech
will
She said, "I'll teach English online tomorrow."
would
She said she would teach English online tomorrow.

can
She said, "I can teach English online."

could
She said she could teach English online.
must
She said, "I must have a computer to teach English online."
had to
She said she had to have a computer to teach English online.
shall
She said, "What shall we learn today?"
should
She asked what we should learn today.
may
She said, "May I open a new browser?"
might
She asked if she might open a new browser.

!Note - There is no change to; could, would, should, might and ought to.

Direct speechIndirect speech
"I might go to the cinema", he said. He said he might go to the cinema.

You can use the present tense in reported speech if you want to say that something is still true i.e. my name has always been and will always be Lynne so:-

Direct speech Indirect speech
"My name is Lynne", she said.

She said her name was Lynne.

or

She said her name is Lynne.

You can also use the present tense if you are talking about a future event.

Direct speech (exact quote) Indirect speech (not exact)
"Next week's lesson is on reported speech", she said.

She said next week's lesson will be on reported speech.

Time change

If the reported sentence contains an expression of time, you must change it to fit in with the time of reporting.

For example we need to change words like here and yesterday if they have different meanings at the time and place of reporting.

Now+ 24 hours - Indirect speech
"Today's lesson is on presentations."

She said yesterday's lesson was on presentations.

or

She said yesterday's lesson would be on presentations.

Expressions of time if reported on a different day
this (evening) that (evening)
todayyesterday ...
these (days) those (days)
now then
(a week) ago (a week) before
last weekend the weekend before last / the previous weekend
here there
next (week) the following (week)
tomorrow the next/following day

In addition if you report something that someone said in a different place to where you heard it you must change the place (here) to the place (there).

For example:-

At workAt home
"How long have you worked here?" She asked me how long I'd worked there.

Pronoun change

In reported speech, the pronoun often changes.

For example:

MeYou

"I teach English online."

Direct Speech

She said, "I teach English online."

"I teach English online", she said.

Reported Speech

She said she teaches English online.

or

She said she taught English online.

Reporting Verbs

Said, told and asked are the most common verbs used in indirect speech.

We use asked to report questions:-

For example: I asked Lynne what time the lesson started.

We use told with an object.

For example: Lynne told me she felt tired.

!Note - Here me is the object.

We usually use said without an object.

For example: Lynne said she was going to teach online.

If said is used with an object we must include to ;

For example: Lynne saidto me that she'd never been to China.

!Note - We usually use told.

For example: Lynne told me (that) she'd never been to China.

There are many other verbs we can use apart from said, told and asked.

These include:-

accused, admitted, advised, alleged, agreed, apologised, begged, boasted, complained, denied, explained, implied, invited, offered, ordered, promised, replied, suggested and thought.

Using them properly can make what you say much more interesting and informative.

For example:

He asked me to come to the party:-

He invited me to the party.
He begged me to come to the party.
He ordered me to come to the party.
He advised me to come to the party.
He suggested I should come to the party.

Use of 'That' in reported speech

In reported speech, the word that is often used.

For example: He told me that he lived in Greenwich.

However, that is optional.

For example: He told me he lived in Greenwich.

!Note - That is never used in questions, instead we often use if.

For example: He asked me if I would come to the party.

The sneaky comma

I'm British, so I only tend to place the comma inside quotation marks when it's part of the sentence being quoted.

"I didn't notice that the comma was inside the quotation marks," Lynne said, "but Hekner did."

That said, I read so much American literature, that even I tuck them away sometimes.

Really, no one has set in stone what the rules of the English language are. It's a diverse language, and the rules that exist have arisen through usage, and they can change in exactly the same way, so maybe it doesn't matter, but it's best to be consistent. (Thanks Hekner.)

1.) James said, “I am watching TV.”

Answer: James said that he was watching TV.

Explanation: The only verb that changes here is the verb am.  The past tense of am is was.  Notice also that I becomes he which is the appropriate pronoun referring to James.  Lastly, the that is always optional in reported speech.  You may use that that if you want to, but it is not necessary.

2.) Professor Jones said, “I worked all day!”

Answer: Professor Jones said he had worked all day.

Explanation: The word worked is already in the past.  Therefore, you must put the word in the past past which is called the past perfect (in English grammar, the word perfect means past).  The past past (or past perfect) of worked is had worked.

3.) The president said, “I will be visiting Italy in December.”

Answer: The president said that he would be visiting Italy in December.

Explanation: This sentence has a modal—the word willWill is the word that changes: the past tense of will is would.  Note: Some modals don’t change at all while other modals completely change.  See below.

4.) The weatherman announced, “It may rain today.”

Answer: The weatherman announced that it might rain. 

Explanation: Again, this sentence has a modal—mayMay is a modal that completely changes.  May becomes might.

5.) My father screamed, “I have to go to the airport, now!”

Answer: My father screamed that he had to go to the airport.

Explanation: The verb here is have which becomes had.  Notice that you can use words other than said, but NOT all words can be used with reported speech.

6.) Then my mother said, “I must take your father.”

Answer: Then my mother said she had to take my father.

Explanation: There is another modal in this sentence which is must.  Since must does NOT have a past tense, just change must to had to.  Notice how your appropriately changes to my to make the sentence logically correct.  Your changes to my because the son or daughter is obviously talking about his or her father.

7.) The psychologist said, “You should calm down.”                                                                 

Answer: The psychologist said that I should calm down.

Explanation:  Should has no past tense and does NOT change. 

8.) I responded, “I ought to leave the office.”

Answer: I responded that I ought to leave the office.

Explanation:  Ought to means should.Ought to does NOT change.

9.) Mark said, “I love visiting China and Korea.”

Answer: Mark said he loved visiting China and Korea.

Explanation: The verb love simply is put in the simple past tense which is loved.

10.) Martin said, “I can be a great president! Really!”

Answer: Martin said that he could be a great president.

Explanation: Can is a modal.  The past tense of can is could.  Use the word could.  Notice that the quoted speech has the word really at the end.  In the reported speech it is not there.  Reported speech is NOT exactly what the speaker says but rather a summary or paraphrase.Because the above quote is a command, said is changed to told and the verb is put in the infinitive (close is changed to to close). 

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