Reported Speech

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Reported Speech How Does it Work

Indirect speech or Reported speech is just a way of expressing your intent in questions, statements or other phrases, without essentially quoting them outrightly as the way it is done in direct speech.

Reported Speech Rules

To understand Reported Speech Grammar and Reported Verbs, you need to first understand reported speech rules and how does it work. Here are some types of reported speech:

  • Reported Statements

Reported speech is used when someone says a sentence, like, "I'm going to the movie tonight". Later, we want to tell a 3rd person what the first person is doing.

It works like :

We use a reporting verb i.e 'say' or 'tell'. In the present tense, just put in 'he says'.

Direct Speech: I like burgers.

Reported Speech: He says (that) he likes burgers.

You don't need to change the tense, but you do need to switch the 'person' from 'I' to 'he’. You also need to change words like 'my' and 'your'.

But, in case the reporting verb is in the past tense, then change the tenses in the reported speech itself.

  • Reported Questions

Reported questions go like: 

Direct Speech: Where do you reside?

We make the change to reported speech by-

It is similar to reported statements. The tense changes are exact, and we keep the question’s word. But we need to change the grammar to that normal sentence into positive. For eg:

Direct Speech: Where do you reside?

Reported Speech: He asked me where I resided.

The direct speech question is in the present simple tense. We make a present simple question with 'do' or 'does'. For that, I need to take that away. Then change the verb to the past simple. 

Direct Speech: Where is Jolly?

Reported Speech: He asked me where Jolly was.

The direct question is the present simple of 'be'. We change the question form of the present simple of being by changing the position of the subject and the verb. So, change them back before putting the verb into the past simple.

Here Are Some More Examples:

  • Reported Requests

The reported speech goes a long way. What if a person asks you to do something politely or make a request? It’s called a reported request. For example:

Direct Speech: Close the door, please / Could you close the door please? / Would you mind closing the door, please?

All these requests mean the same, so we don't need to report every word there when we tell a 3rd person about it. 

We can simply use 'ask me + to + infinitive':

Reported Speech: They asked me to close the door.

Direct Speech: Please be punctual.

Reported Speech: They asked us to be punctual.

  • Reported Orders

And lastly, how about when someone doesn't ask that politely? This is known as an 'order' in English, that is when someone tells you to do something pretty much directly. This is called a reported order. For example:

Direct Speech: Stand up right now!

We make this into a reported speech in the same way as that for a request. Just use 'tell' rather than 'ask':

Reported Speech: She told me to stand up right now.

Direct Order             Reported Order

Go to sleep! He told the child to go to sleep

Stop worrying! He told her to stop worrying

Be punctual! He told me to be punctual.

Don't move! He told us not to move.

  • Time Expressions Within the Ambit of Reported Speech

Sometimes when we want to change the direct speech into reported speech, we will have to change the time expressions too. We don't necessarily always have to do that. However, It depends on when we heard the speech in direct form and when we said the speech in reported form. 

For Example:

It's Sunday. Kiran Ma’am says "I'm leaving today".

If You tell someone on Sunday, You will say "Kiran Ma’am said she was leaving today".

If you tell someone on Tuesday, You will say "Kiran Ma’am said she was leaving yesterday".

If you tell someone on Friday, you will "Kiran Ma’am said she was leaving on Sunday ".

If you tell someone a month later, you will say "Kiran Ma’am said she was leaving that day".

So, technically there's no easy way to convert. You need to put in real effort and have to think about it when the direct speech was said.

Here's a Table of How Some Conversions Can Be Made: 

  • now can be converted to then / at that time

  • today can be converted to yesterday / that day / Tuesday / the 27th of June

  • yesterday can be converted to the day before yesterday / the day before / Wednesday / the 5th of December

  • last night can be converted to the night before, Thursday night

  • last week can be converted to the week before / the previous week

  • tomorrow can be converted to today / the next day / the following day / Friday

This is all about reported speech. English grammar is a tricky thing given both the rules and practice. Reading these rules solely will not help you to get a strong grasp on it. You also have to practice reported speech sentences in practical life to know how and when it can be used.