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Reported Speech

1) Definition
2) The general changes
3) Tense of the reporting verb and the changes
4) Reporting questions

1) Definition:
- Consider the following sentence:
John said: “I am ill”.
* This sentence is in the direct speech style because we reproduce the exact words of the speaker. When we want to report what the speaker said indirectly a time after he said it, we use the indirect or reported speech style. For the sentence, the result will be:
John said that he was ill.

2) The general changes:
* The general changes that occur when a speech is reported are:
-The omission of the colon (:).
-The omission of the inverted commas (“...”).
-The introduction of that.
-The change of the persons:
"I " changes into "he" or "she"; "You" changes into "we" or "I"; "We" changes into "they".
-Change in the possessive adjectives:
"my" changes into "his" or "her"; "your" changes into "my" or "our"; "our" changes into "their".

3) Tense of the reporting verb and the changes:
When the reporting verb ( say; tell; announce; ask; confess; inform; ... ) is in the present simple, present perfect, or future simple tenses, there is no change of tense in the words reported, but the changes are only in the persons and possessives.
e.g. * He confesses: “I am guilty”.
         He confesses that he is guilty.
      * He has told me: : “I went to the beach last week”.
        He has told me that he went to the beach last week.
      * He will tell you: “I have given up drinking”.
        He will tell you that he he has given up drinking.

b) When the reporting verb is in the past simple or past perfect tense, or is a should/would form, the words reported are viewed in a different perspective. The speech is now remote, and seen as relating a sequence of events happening in the past. So, changes of tenses, adverbials of time, adverbial of place, and demonstrators are required accordingly:

Changes in adverbials and demonstrators:

Direct Speech


Reported Speech



that day


the previous day


the next day; the day after



last week

the previous week

next month

The following month

5 years ago

5 years before







- Changes of tenses with examples:

Tense of the Direct Speech



The Tense to be changed to in the Reported Speech



The Present Simple

He said: “I practise jogging everyday”


The Past Simple

He said that he practised jogging everyday.


The Present Continuous

She told me: “I am reading poetry now.”


Past Continuous

She told me that she was reading poetry then.


The Present Perfect

“We have done the work ourselves.” John announced.


Past Perfect

John announced that they had done the work themselves.


The Past Simple

“I stayed here yestersay.” She confessed.


Past Perfect

She confessed that she had stayed there the previous day.


The Past Continuous

“I was watching television.” He told me.


Past Perfect Continuous

He told me that he had been watching television.


The Past Perfect

“ I had studied English for five years.” He declared.


Past Perfect

He declared that he had studied English for five years.


The Future Simple

“ I will help you.” He suggested.



He suggested that he would help me.


Conditional 1st  type: (would/should + stem)

“I would come to the feast” He replied.


Conditional 2nd type: (would/should have + past participle


He replied that he would have come to the feast.



He said: “I can help you”.


He said that he could help me.



“ You must stop smoking” He recommended.


Had to

He recommended that I had to stop smoking.


Affirmative Imperative

He asked me : “Bring me that book.”


Infinitive Phrase

He aked me to bring him that book.


Negative Imperative

Do not do it” He advised me.


Negative Infinitive Phrase

He advised me not to do it.


4) Reporting questions:  
The word-order of reported questions is the same as a simple statement; there is no inversion as in a simple question.
- In wh questions (introduced by a question-word: who, what, how, when, where, or why) this word (not that) serves as a link between the reporting verb and the reported question.
e.g. He asked me: “What is your name?”  
      He asked me what my name was.
- In yes or no questions (those which can take yes or no for an answer), whether or if  (not that) is used as link between the reporting verb and the reported question.
e.g. He asked him: “Have you seen my friend?”
      He asked him if (or whether) she had seen his friend.

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