¿Cómo aprender el ‘Reported Speech’?

We often have to give information about what people say or think. In order to do this you can use direct or quoted speech, or indirect or reported speech. Today on the blog of Brickfield Centre d’Idiomes we explain you how to use it and we propose you some exercises to do, the answer to the exercises will be next week uploaded in a new post.

Direct Speech / Quoted Speech

Saying exactly what someone has said is called direct speech (sometimes called quoted speech)

Here what a person says appears within quotation marks (“…”) and should be word for word.

For example:

She said, “Today’s lesson is on presentations.” or “Today’s lesson is on presentations,” she said.

Indirect Speech / Reported Speech

Indirect speech (sometimes called reported speech), doesn’t use quotation marks to enclose what the person said and it doesn’t have to be word for word.

When reporting speech the tense usually changes. This is because when we use reported speech, we are usually talking about a time in the past (because obviously the person who spoke originally spoke in the past). The verbs therefore usually have to be in the past too.

For example:


Direct speech Indirect speech
“I’m going to the cinema”, he said. He said he was going to the cinema.


Tense change

As a rule when you report something someone has said you go back a tense: (the tense on the left changes to the tense on the right):

Direct speech   Indirect speech
Present simple 
She said, “It’s cold.”
Past simple 
She said it was cold.
Present continuous 
She said, “I’m teaching English online.”
Past continuous 
She said she was teaching English online.
Present perfect simple 
She said, “I’ve been on the web since 1999.”
Past perfect simple
She said she had been on the web since 1999.
Present perfect continuous 
She said, “I’ve been teaching English for seven years.”
Past perfect continuous 
She said she had been teaching English for seven years.
Past simple 
She said, “I taught online yesterday.”
Past perfect 
She said she had taught online yesterday.
Past continuous 
She said, “I was teaching earlier.”
Past perfect continuous 
She said she had been teaching earlier.
Past perfect 
She said, “The lesson had already started when he arrived.”
Past perfect 
NO CHANGE – She said the lesson had already started when he arrived.
Past perfect continuous
She said, “I’d already been teaching for five minutes.”
Past perfect continuous 
NO CHANGE – She said she’d already been teaching for five minutes.

Modal verb forms also sometimes change:

Direct speech   Indirect speech
She said, “I’ll teach English online tomorrow.”
She said she would teach English online tomorrow.
She said, “I can teach English online.”
She said she could teach English online.
She said, “I must have a computer to teach English online.”
had to 
She said she had to have a computer to teach English online.
She said, “What shall we learn today?”
She asked what we should learn today.
She said, “May I open a new browser?”
She asked if she might open a new browser.

!Note – There is no change to; could, would, should, might and ought to.


Direct speech Indirect speech
“I might go to the cinema”, he said. He said he might go to the cinema.

You can use the present tense in reported speech if you want to say that something is still true i.e. my name has always been and will always be Lynne so:-


Direct speech Indirect speech
“My name is Lynne”, she said. She said her name was Lynne.


She said her name is Lynne.

You can also use the present tense if you are talking about a future event.


Direct speech (exact quote) Indirect speech (not exact)
“Next week’s lesson is on reported speech “, she said. She said next week’s lesson is on reported speech.


Time change

If the reported sentence contains an expression of time, you must change it to fit in with the time of reporting.

For example we need to change words like here and yesterday if they have different meanings at the time and place of reporting.


Today + 24 hours – Indirect speech
“Today’s lesson is on presentations.” She said yesterday’s lesson was on presentations.


Expressions of time if reported on a different day
this (evening) that (evening)
today yesterday …
these (days) those (days)
now then
(a week) ago (a week) before
last weekend the weekend before last / the previous weekend
here there
next (week) the following (week)
tomorrow the next/following day

In addition if you report something that someone said in a different place to where you heard it you must change the place (here) to the place (there).

For example:-


At work At home
“How long have you worked here?” She asked me how long I’d worked there.


Pronoun change

In reported speech, the pronoun often changes.

For example:


Me You
teach English online.” She said she teaches English online.


Reporting Verbs

Said, told and asked are the most common verbs used in indirect speech.

We use asked to report questions:-

For example: I asked Lynne what time the lesson started.

We use told with an object.

For example: Lynne told me she felt tired.

!Note – Here me is the object.

We usually use said without an object.

For example: Lynne said she was going to teach online.

If said is used with an object we must include to ;

For example: Lynne said to me that she’d never been to China.

!Note – We usually use told.

For example: Lynne told me that she’d never been to China.

There are many other verbs we can use apart from said, told and asked.

These include:-


accused, admitted, advised, alleged, agreed, apologised, begged, boasted, complained, denied, explained, implied, invited, offered, ordered, promised, replied, suggested and thought.

Using them properly can make what you say much more interesting and informative.

For example:

He asked me to come to the party:-


He invited me to the party.
He begged me to come to the party.
He ordered me to come to the party.
He advised me to come to the party.
He suggested I should come to the party.


Use of ‘That’ in reported speech

In reported speech, the word that is often used.

For example: He told me that he lived in Greenwich.

However, that is optional.

For example: He told me he lived in Greenwich.

!Note – That is never used in questions, instead we often use if.

For example: He asked me if I would come to the party.

Reported Speech Mixed Exercise 1

Make reported speech. Start all your answers with ‘she’, and use the past simple of ‘ask’, ‘say’ or ‘tell’. It’s the same day, so you don’t need to change the time expressions.

1) “Don’t do it!” .
2) “I’m leaving tomorrow” .
3) “Please get me a cup of tea” .
4) “She got married last year” .
5) “Be quick!” .
6) “Could you explain number four, please?” .
7) “Where do you live?” .
8) “We went to the cinema and then to a Chinese restaurant” .
9) “I’ll come and help you at twelve” .
10) “What are you doing tomorrow?” .
11) “Don’t go!” .
12) “Do you work in London?” .
13) “Could you tell me where the post office is?” .
14) “Come here!” .
15) “I’ve never been to Wales” .
16) “Have you ever seen ‘Lord of the Rings’?” .
17) “I don’t like mushrooms” .
18) “Don’t be silly!” .
19) “Would you mind waiting a moment please?” .
20) “How often do you play sport?” .

Reported Speech Mixed Exercise 2

Make reported speech. Start all your answers with ‘she’, and use the past simple of ‘ask’, ‘say’ or ‘tell’. It’s the same day, so you don’t need to change the time expressions.

1) “Come quickly!” .

2) “Did you arrive before seven?” .

3) “How was your holiday?” .

4) “I would have visited the hospital, if I had known you were sick” .

5) “Don’t touch!” .

6) “Do you usually cook at home?” .

7) “They had never been to Scotland until last year” .

8) “Make sure you arrive early!” .

9) “I should have studied harder for the exam” .

10) “Would you mind telling me how to get to the art gallery, please?” .

11) “Please don’t forget my book” .

12) “Make sure you arrive at six!” .

13) “Remember to study hard!” .

14) “Where do you want to eat tonight?” .

15) “I usually drink coffee in the mornings” .

16) “Do you like studying English?” .

17) “I’ll come and help you on Saturday” .

18) “Please buy some bread on your way home” .

19) “Please give this to John” .

20) “Could you give me the glass on the table, please?” .

thanks for reading brickfieldidiomas

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