Direct and Indirect speech with Examples

Reported Speech / Indirect speech is a language pattern used to report to someone of what another person has said or thought.


eg:

Jenny said that she was not well yesterday.

In reported speech, we do not do direct quoting. Our major concern here is to convey the intended message to a third party.


  • Reported Speech is often referred to as Indirect Speech as well.
  • Reporting can either happen in conversational language or written language.
  • Reported Speech or Indirect Speech is quite different from the Direct Speech which is also used to report what has been said. Here we do direct quoting as follows.
eg: 1.

Jenny said, “I am not well today”.

eg: 2.

Rani said, “I am hungry”.

Direct Speech

Direct speech is the language pattern in which we always report the original and exact words of the speaker within quotation marks. Therefore, it can be often seen in written language.


eg:

Direct Speech – Jean said, “Larry has already left”.


  • You repeat the exact words
  • In same Tense
  • Inside Quotation marks

We see that Direct Speech is very much used in recording conversations in books or plays.

The following are from the short story; “The Old Man at the Bridge” by Earnest Hemingway.

eg:

“Where do you come from?” I asked him.

“From San Carlos,” he said, and smiled.
“I was taking care of animals.” He explained.


On the other hand, indirect speech is reporting what someone said without quoting his exact words. So we don’t use quotation marks there. What is important here is conveying the meaning to the listener.

Indirect Speech - Jean said that Larry had already left. (Reported Speech)

  • You give the meaning
  • Tense may change
  • No Quotation marks

Indirect speech is often used when you report verbally in conversations. Check this comment made by Larry’s friend in a conversation with Larry.


eg:

Hello! Larry, there you are! ….. I didn’t expect to see you today.
Jean said that you had already left.


Indirect Speech is also often used when you write newspaper articles / reports.


Changes to Make When You Report / Indirect Speech

Let’s discuss with an example.

Steps:

Rani said, “I am hungry”

  1. Use an appropriate reporting verb. (eg: said / told)
    eg: Rani said
  2. You can either add the word “that” or simply omit it.
    eg: Rani said that
  3. Remove quotation marks and change the pronouns appropriately.
    eg: Rani said that she…
  4. Change the tense of the original sentence unless you are reporting a conversation that is still going on.
    eg: Suppose, you are reporting something that happened in the past.
    Rani said, “I am hungry”
    Rani said that she was hungry.
  5. Change the words that express time and places to match the meaning.
    Eg:- John said, “I met Sally here today”
    John said that he had met Sally there that day.

There are instances where you do not change the tense of the original sentence.

Let’s understand with an example.

eg:

Marry says, “I’m trying to call my mother right now.”

Situation 01- Reported Speech – (When you are reporting at the same time)


Marry says that she is trying to call her mother right now.

You probably will have to change the tense if you are reporting the words of a speaker at a later time.

eg:

Marry said, “I’m trying to call my mother right now.”

Situation 02- Reported Speech – (When you are reporting at a later time)


Marry said that she was trying to call her mother.

This process is subject to certain rules.

Rules of Changing the Tense in Indirect Speech

What are the accepted patterns in changing the tense of the original sentence of the speaker when we report?


Tense of the original sentence Change to (tense)
Simple Present Tense Simple Past Tense
Present Continuous Tense Past Continuous Tense
Present Perfect Tense Past Perfect Tense
Present Perfect Continuous Tense Past Perfect Continuous Tense
Simple Past Tense Past Perfect Tense
Past Continuous Tense Past Perfect Continuous Tense
Future “Will” Conditional “Would”
Future “going to” was /were going to
Future Continuous Tense Conditional Continuous Tense

However, in practice there are certain exceptions like we usually do not change Past Continuous Tense when you report.

Let’s check the change of verb according to the tense as detailed above.

verb of the original sentence Change to (verb)
am
is
was
are were
Action verbs :-
write wrote
is writing was writing
has written had written
has been writing had been writing
Verb “be” “:-
was
were
had been
Action verbs :-
wrote had written
was writing had been writing
Verb “be” “:-
will be would be
Action verbs :-
will write would write
will be writing would be writing

10 sentences of direct and indirect speech

eg:

Mala says, “I’m trying to call him” (Reporting at the same time)

Mala says she is trying to call him. (Tense does not change)

“I want to go home” she said. (Simple Present Tense)

She said that she wanted to go home. (Simple Past Tense)

She said, “I am thinking about it”. (Present Continuous Tense)

She said that she was thinking about it. (Past Continuous Tense)

“I have learnt it before,” I explained. (Present Perfect Tense)

I explained that I had learnt it before. (Past Perfect Tense)

He said, “I have been teaching English for many years” (Present perfect Continuous Tense)

He said that he had been teaching English for many years. (Past perfect Continuous Tense)

He said, “I was reading a book when it started raining”. (Past Continuous Tense & Simple Past Tense)

He said that he had been reading a book when it had started raining. (Past Perfect Continuous Tense & Past perfect Tense)

He said, “I will be there tomorrow”. (Simple Future Tense)

He said that he would be there tomorrow. (Conditional Future)

She said, “I’m going to complete the book by next week.” (Future– going to)

She said that she was going to complete the book by the following week. (was/were + going to)

He informed, “Ro will be doing the presentation on the 7th” (Future Continuous Tense)

He informed that Ro would be doing the presentation on the 7th. (Conditional Continuous Tense)

Usage of the Word “that” in Indirect Speech

  • The word “that” introduces the statement made by someone.
  • In formal language you need to use “that” (news reporting)
  • In Informal context / conversations, you can omit “that”.
    eg: Rani said she was hungry.

A list of reporting verbs you can use in Indirect Speech.

You may choose the most suitable verb according to the situation.

  • Said
  • Told
  • Reported
  • Informed
  • Added
  • Explained
  • Replied
  • Answered
  • Responded
  • Suggested
  • Proposed
  • Persuaded
  • Recommended
  • Advised
  • Admitted
  • Mentioned

The most popular reporting verbs are “said’ and ‘told”

When do we use the verb “say / said”?

When we don’t know to whom it was told (Indirect object), we may use the verb “say / said”

eg : 01

Rani said that she was hungry.

When do we use the verb “tell / told”?

When we know to whom it was told (Indirect object), we may use the verb “tell/ told”

eg : 01

Rani told me that she was hungry.
Rani told him that she was hungry.

Rules of Reported Speech english

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