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Learn English Grammar Direct And Indirect Speech

Direct Speech: We may quote the actual words of a person within inverted commas; this is the ‘direct or reporting speech’.

Indirect speech: We may report what the person has said without quoting his actual words, this is the indirect or reported speech.

It will be noticed that in the direct speech we use inverted commas to mark the exact words of the speaker. But in the indirect form of speech we use ‘that’ in place of the inverted commas and change the verb of the reported speech into the past; for example here is another piece of direct speech.

How to change from Direct to Indirect

  1. In all forms of indirect speech inverted comas are invariably removed a simple reported speech is generally introduced by adding conjunction ‘that’ except in commands, exclamations and questions.
  2.  All pronouns are changed according to the tense of the verb and the sense of the sentence.
  3. The verb ‘am’ is changed to’ was’. (Present tense to past tense)
  4. The adverb now is changed to then.

Learn English Grammar Direct And Indirect Speech

Rules for changing Direct Speech into Indirect Speech

  1. 1.   When the reporting or principle verb is in the past tense, all the present tenses of the Direct are changed into the corresponding Past Tenses. Thus:

(a). A Simple present becomes a simple past.

Direct: He said, ‘I am well’.

Indirect: He said (that) he was unwell.

(b). A present Continues becomes a past continues.

Direct: He said,’ my master is writing letters.

Indirect: He said (that) his master was writing letters.

(c). A present perfect becomes a past perfect.

Direct: He said, ‘I have passed the examination.

Indirect: He said (that) he had passed the examination.

Note: The ‘shall’ of the future Tense is changed into should.

The will of the Future Tense is changed into would or should.

As a rule, the simple past in the Direct becomes the past perfect in the Indirect.

Direct: He said,’ The horse died in the night.’

Indirect: He said that the horse had died in the night.

(2). the tenses may not change if the statement is still relevant or if it is a universal truth. We can often choose whether to keep the original tenses or change them.

Direct: ‘The teacher said,’ The earth goes round the sun’.

Indirect: The teacher said that the earth goes/went round the sun.

Direct: ‘German is easy to learn’, she said.

Indirect: She said German is/was easy to learn.

Note: The past tense is often used when it is uncertain if the statement is true or when we are reporting objectively.

(3). If the reporting verb is in the present tense, the tenses of the direct speech do not change. For example we may rewrite the above examples, putting the reporting verb in the present tense, thus;

He says he is unwell.

He says he has passed the examination.

He says the horse died in the night.

(4). the pronouns of the direct speech are changed, where necessary, so that their relations with the reporter and his hearer, rather than with the original speaker, are indicated. Observe the following examples:

Direct: He said to me, ‘I don’t believe you.’

Indirect: He said he didn’t believe me.

Direct: She said to him,’ I don’t believe you’.

Indirect: She said she didn’t believe him.

Direct: I said to him, ‘I don’t believe you’.

Indirect: I said I didn’t believe him.

Direct: I said to you, ‘I don’t believe you’.

Indirect: I said I didn’t believe you’.

(5). Words expressing nearness in time or place are generally changed into words expressing distance. Thus:

Now becomes then

Here becomes there

Ago becomes before

Thus becomes so

Today become that day

Tomorrow becomes the next day

Yesterday becomes the day before

Last night becomes the night before

Direct: He said, ‘I am glad to be here this evening’.

Indirect: He said that he was glad to be there that evening.

The changes do not occur if the speech is reported during the same period or at the same place; e.g.,

Direct: He says, ‘I am glad to be here this evening’.

Indirect: He says he is glad to be here this evening.

(6). similarly, this and these are changed to that and those unless the thing pointed out is near at hand at the time of reporting the speech.


(7). in reporting questions the indirect speech is introduced by some such verbs as asked, inquired, etc.

When the question is not introduced by an interrogative word, the reporting verb is followed by whether or if.

Direct: He said to me,’ What are you doing?’

Indirect: He asked me what I was doing.

Direct: ‘Where do you live?’ asked the stranger.

Indirect: The stranger inquired where I lived.

Direct: The policeman said to us, ‘where are you going?’

Indirect: The policeman inquired where we were going.

Direct: He said, ‘will you listen to such a man?’

Indirect: He asked them whether they would listen to such a man.


(8). in reporting commands and requests, the indirect speech is introduced by some verb expressing command or request, and the imperative mood is changed into the infinitive.

Direct: Ali said to Faisal, ’Go away.’

Indirect: Ali ordered Faisal to go away.

Direct: He said to him, ‘please wait here till I return.’

Indirect: He requested him to wait there till he returned.

Direct: Call the first witness, ‘said the judge.

Indirect: The judge commanded them to call the first witness.

Direct: He shouted, ‘let me go.’

Indirect: He shouted to let him go.


(9). in reporting exclamations and wishes the indirect speech is introduced by some verb expressing exclamation or wish.

Direct: He said, ‘Alas! I am undone.’

Indirect: He exclaimed sadly that he was undone.

Direct: Maria said, ‘How clever I am!’

Indirect: Marie exclaimed that she was very clever.

Direct: He said, ‘Bravo! You have done well.

Indirect: He applauded him, saying that he had done well.

Tahir Malik

I'm an Educational writer with a B.Ed degree having a passion for educating, and delivering my knowledge for the sake of students' growth.

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