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What is reported speech?

Reported speech is when you tell somebody else what you or a person said before.


Direct speech vs Reported speech:

Direct speechReported speech
She says: "I like tuna fish."She says that she likes tuna fish.
She said: "I’m visiting Paris next weekend"She said that she was visiting Paris the following weekend.

Different types of sentences

When you use reported speech, you either report:

  • Statements
  • questions
  • requests / commands
  • other types

A. Reporting Statements

When transforming statements, check whether you have to change:

  • pronouns
  • tense
  • place and time expression

1- Pronouns

In reported speech, you often have to change the pronoun depending on who says what.


She says, “My dad likes roast chicken.” – She says that her dad likes roast chicken.

2- Tenses

  • If the sentence starts in the present, there is no backshift of tenses in Reported speech.
  • If the sentence starts in the past, there is often backshift of tenses in Reported speech.
 Direct speechReported speech
(no backshift)“I write poems.”He says that he writes poems.
(backshift)“I write poems.”
He said that he wrote poems.

No backshift

Do not change the tense if the introductory clause is in a present tense (e. g. He says). Note, however, that you might have to change the form of the present tense verb (3rd person singular).

He says, “I write poems.” – He says that he writes English.


You must change the tense if the introductory clause is in a past tense (e. g. He said).

He said, “I am happy.” – He said that he was happy.

Examples of the main changes in tense:

Direct SpeechReported Speech
Simple Present
He said: "I am happy."
Simple Past
He said that he was happy.
Present Progressive
He said: "I’m looking for my keys."
Past Progressive
He said that he was looking for his keys.
Simple Past
He said: "I visited New York last year." 
Past Perfect Simple
He said that he had visited New York the previous year.
Present Perfect 
He said: "I’ve lived here for a long time."
Past Perfect 
He said that he had lived there for a long time.
Past Perfect 
He said: "They had finished the work when I arrived."
Past Perfect 
He said that they had finished the work when he had arrived."
Past Progressive
He said: "I was playing football when the accident occurred."
Past Perfect Progressive
He said that he had been playing football when the accident had occurred.
Present Perfect Progressive
He said:"I have been playing football for two hours."
Past Perfect Progressive
He said that he had been playing football for two hours.
Past Perfect Progressive
He said: "I had been reading a newspaper when the light went off."
Past Perfect Progressive
He said that he had been reading a newspaper when the light had gone off.
Future Simple (will+verb)
He said: "I will open the door."
Conditional (would+verb)
He said that he would open the door.
Conditional (would+verb)
He said: "I would buy a castle if I were rich"
Conditional (would+verb)
He said that he would buy a castle if he had been rich.

The verbs could, should, would, might, must, needn’t, ought to, used to do not normally change.
He said, “She might be right.” – He said that she might be right.

3- Place, demonstratives and time expressions

Place, demonstratives and time expressions change if the context of the reported statement (i.e. the location and/or the period of time) is different from that of the direct speech.

In the following table, you will find the different changes of place; demonstratives and time expressions.

Direct SpeechReported Speech
Time Expressions
todaythat day
yesterdaythe day before
… days ago… days before
last weekthe week before
next yearthe following year
tomorrowthe next day / the following day


B. Reporting Questions

When transforming questions, check whether you have to change:

  • pronouns
  • place and time expressions
  • tenses (backshift)

Also note that you have to:

  • transform the question into an indirect question
  • use the question word (where, when, what, how) or if / whether
Types of questionsDirect speechReported speech
With question word (what, why, where, how...)"Why don’t you speak English?”He asked me why I didn’t speak English.
Without question word (yes or no questions)“Do you speak English?”He asked me whether / if I spoke English.

C. Reporting requests / commands

When transforming requests and commands, check whether you have to change:

  • pronouns
  • place and time expressions
Direct speechReported speech
“Nancy,do the exercise.“He told Nancy to do the exercise.
"Nancy, give me your pen, please."He asked Nancy to give him her pen.


She said, “Sit down." - She asked me to sit down.

She said, "don’t be lazy" - She asked me not to be lazy

For affirmative use to + infinitive (without to)

For negative requests, use not to + infinitive (without to).


D. Other transformations

  • Expressions of advice with mustshould and ought are usually reported using advise / urge.
    “You must read this book.“
    He advised / urged me to read that book.
  • The expression let’s is usually reported using suggest. In this case, there are two possibilities for reported speech: gerund or statement with should.
    “Let’s go to the cinema.“=
    1. He suggested going to the cinema.
    2. He suggested that we should go to the cinema.

Exercises on the reported speech



09/05/2018 09:40 miprimerzarzablog #. ENGLISH No hay comentarios. Comentar.

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