Reported Speech (Indirect Speech)

There are two ways of reporting what a person has said.

a) Direct speech
b) Indirect speech

Also See:

Indirect Speech Questions
Reported Requests/Exclamations


Reported Speech Practice
More Complex Sentences
Reported Speech Imperatives Exercise
Direct speech:

We repeat the speaker’s words.
He said, "I have lost my key."

Indirect speech:

We give the exact meaning of a speech without necessarily using the speaker's exact words. If we want to mention who the speaker talked to, we use told, otherwise we use said.

She said that she had lost her wallet.

She told me that she had lost her wallet.

How to put direct speech into indirect speech

A. Put the tense one step in the PAST: See Reported Speech Tense Shift

B. Expressions of Time and Place in Reported Speech

Direct SpeechIndirect Speech
Pronouns and possessive adjectivesWe usually change from first or second to third person except when the speaker is reporting his own words.
todaythat day
yesterdaythe day before (the previous day)
Tomorrow / the next dayThe following day
The day before yesterdayTwo days before / earlier
Yesterday morningThe previous morning
A year / month / week agoA year before / earlier
The day after tomorrowIn two days' time
Next week / month / yearThe following week / month / year
tonightthat night
herehere / there
thisthat, it
have to / has tohad to
ought to / shouldought to / should

If the main verb is in the present tense, we don't change the tense in the direct speech.


Direct: Paul says, "I don't like coffee."
Indirect: Paul says that he doesn't like coffee.

Direct: Dwayne says, "I didn't do my homework."
Indirect: Dwayne says that he didn't do his homework.

Pronouns and possessive adjectives normally change from first or second person to third person except when the speaker is reporting his own words.


Direct : He said, "You don't know my language."
Indirect : He said that I didn't know his language.
Direct : I said, "I sold my book."
Indirect : I said that I had sold my book.
Direct : She said to me, "Your brother is bothering me."
Indirect : She told me that my brother was bothering her.

Indirect Speech Statements

We join the indirect and the direct parts of a sentence with that. Sometimes we may omit that.


Direct : They said, "We love our teacher."
Indirect : They said that they loved their teacher.

Direct : Mr. Jones said to me, "I educated myself by reading widely."
Indirect : Mr. Jones told me that he had educated himself by reading widely.

Direct: The teacher said to her, "You have done your homework well."
Indirect: The teacher told her that she had done her homework well.

Direct: Mr. Woods said, "There are many boats in the harbor." Indirect: Mr. Woods said that there were many boats in the harbor.

Mixed Types

If a direct speech consists of mixed types, each section requires its own introductory verb.


Direct: Theresa said, "I can't understand this lesson, mother. Please help me."
Indirect: Theresa told her mother that she couldn't understand that lesson and wanted her mother to help her.

Direct: Tia said to me, "I can't help you now. I am very tired."
Indirect: Tia told me that she couldn't help me then as she was very tired.

Direct: Carl said, "It's hot in here. Isn't the AC on?"
Indirect: Carl said that it was hot in there and asked if the AC was on or not.

Direct: Mr. Jefferson said to Helen, "Didn't you hear what I said? You must be quiet when I talk."
Indirect: Mr. Jefferson asked Helen if she had heard what he had said or not, and added that she must / had to be quiet when he talked.

Direct: David said, "Let's go to the movie theater!"
Indirect: David suggested that they should go to the movie theater.
Dave suggested going to the move theater.

Direct: Penny said, "How about going for a walk?"
Indirect: Penny suggested that we might go for a walk.

Common Verbs used with Reported Speech









point out








Assure + Object





You will feel comfortable at this hotel.
The travel agent assured us that we would feel comfortable at that hotel.

I can’t finish all this work.
She protested that she couldn't finish all that work.


Deny can’t be used in negative.

I didn't steal the money.
He denied that he had stolen the money.
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