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  ENGLISH GRAMMAR for ESL learners  


Reported (Indirect) Speech

Reporting what another person says.



In reported (indirect) speech, we report an idea expressed by someone, without quoting the exact words used.
Direct Speech: Tom : "I like football."
Mary: "What did Tom say?"
Indirect speech Bill :   "Tom said (that) he liked football."

  • We use verbs such as : say, tell, announce, promise, explain.
  • The verb tenses become more past
  • We can omit 'that' : Tom said (that) he liked football.


Direct Speech:
You talk to Mr. Smith and he tells you the following things :
  • I clean my car every Friday.
  • I'm doing a computer course this year.
  • I visited a museum yesterday.
  • I will be 30 tomorrow.
Indirect or Reported Speech:
You report your conversation with Mr. Smith to your husband/wife/friend :
  • Mr. Smith said (that) he cleaned his car every Friday.
  • He said (that) he was doing a computer course this year.
  • He said (that) he had visited a museum yesterday.
  • He said (that) he would be 30 tomorrow.
Questions :
In indirect or reported questions, the word order changes.
    Direct :
  • When is your husband starting his new job?
    Indirect :
  • He asked me when my husband was starting his new job.
Orders, requests, advice and suggestions:
Orders, requests, advice and suggestions are often reported by using the infinitive.
    Direct :
  • Be careful!
  • Don't drive too fast.
    Indirect :
  • I told him to be careful.
  • I told him not to drive too fast.

Direct Speech Reported Speech
Present Simple
• Sophie said:
"I want to go home."
Past Simple
Sophie said (that) she wanted to go home.
Present Continuous
Pedro said:
“I am doing my homework.”
Past Continuous
Pedro said (that) he was doing his homework.
Present Perfect
• Eva said:
“I have seen the film.”
Past Perfect
Eva said (that) she had seen the film.
Present Perfect Continuous 
• The boss said:
"I have been waiting for you."
Past Perfect Continuous 
My boss said (that) he had been waiting for me.
Past Simple
Dad said:
“I mowed the garden.”
Past Perfect
Dad said (that) he had mowed the garden.
Past Continuous 
Tom said:
"I was talking to Bob."
Past Perfect Continuous 
Tom said (that) he had been talking to Bob.
Past Perfect  
Julie said:
"I had read the book."
Past Perfect (no change)
• Julie said (that) he had read the book.
Past Perfect Continuous
Paul said:
I had been gardening."
Past Perfect Continuous (no change)
• Paul said (that) he had been gardening.
Will
She said:
“I will never leave you.
Would
His wife said (that) she would never leave him
Can
• Billy said:
“I can swim 500 metres.”
Could
Billy said (that) he could swim 500 metres.
May
Eva said:
“It may be too expensive.”
Might
Eva said (that) it might be too expensive.
Must
The teacher said:
“Everyone must arrive on time.”
Had to
The teacher said (that) everyone had to arrive early.
Have to
Carla said:
“I have to lock the door.”
Had to
Carla said (that) she had to lock the door.
Orders, advice, suggestions
His mother said: “Be careful!”
She said: ”Don’t drive too fast!”
The infinitive is used in reporting
His mother told him to be careful.
She told him not to drive too fast.
The following modal verbs do not change in reported speech:
might, could, would, should, ought to. 


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