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What is Reported Speech

Definition :

In order to report a dialogue, one should be well-versed in changing sentences from Direct Speech to Indirect Speech. Of course, we need not reproduce the actual words of the speaker exactly. We are more concerned with the sense of the utterance than in the literal repetition of the words. The following guidelines will help you to refresh what you have studied about the transformation of sentences from Direct to Indirect Speech.

Statements: When the utterance of the speaker is a statement we use the reporting verbs – say, tell. The conjunction used is – that. In order to preserve the original tone of the speaker ‘say’ or ‘tell’ can be replaced with:- suggest, agree, mutter, admit, insist, whisper, boast, state, remark, claim, object, protest, etc.


What are the differences between the direct speech and the indirect speech?

There are several differences between a sentence with direct speech and a sentence with indirect speech.

  • We no need to use quotation marks with indirect speech.
  • We have to change the tense of the verb.
  • We have to change the pronouns and determiners.


Dialogue Reported form
He said, I can speak four language. He boasted that he could speak four languages.

Some more examples.

Dialogue Reported form
“Let’s go out for a walk,” She suggested going out for a walk.
“That mobile is mine”, He claimed that that mobile was him.
“Yes, I took the mobile”, He admitted that he had taken the mobile.
“You can’t arrest me”, He protested that they could not arrest him.
“You shouldn’t take my laptop” He objected that I shouldn’t take his atlas.

We can replace ‘tell’ with the following verbs suited to the context: complained, stammered, sneered, snapped, explained, declared, announced, groaned, promised, gasped, conceded, etc.

Some Important Rules to Report the Dialogue:


Direct Speech Indirect Speech
The boy said to his friend, “I am waiting for you here now.” The boy told his friend that he was waiting for him there then.

Changes to be noted:

Kinds Dialogue Reporting
Reporting Verb said to told
Pronouns I he
you him
Tense am waiting was waiting
Place Concept here there
Time Concept now then


A. Pronouns:

Direct Speech Indirect Speech (Reported Speech)
I, you he, she, it
my, mine, your, yours his, her, hers, its
we they
our, ours their, theirs
us them

B. Tense:

Direct Speech (speaker’s words) Indirect Speech (Reporter or Listener)
Present tense Past tense
am, is, are was, were
make, makes made
am / is / are eating was / were eating
will / can / may eat would / could / might eat
has, have had
has / have eaten had eaten
Direct Speech (speaker’s words) Indirect Speech (Reporter or Listener)
Present tense Past perfect tense
was / were had been
ate had eaten
was / were eating had been eating

C. Expressions of time and place indicating nearness are changed into one of distance:

Direct Speech Indirect Speech (Reported Speech)
now then
today that day
tonight that night
yesterday the previous day / the day before
tomorrow the next / following day
the day before yesterday two days before
the day after tomorrow in two days
last week the previous week or the week before
last month the previous month or the month before
last year the previous year or the year before
next week / month / year the following week / month / year
a week / month a week / month
last night the previous night
here there
this / it that
these those
thus so
ago before


Kind of Sentences Reporting Verbs Conjunctions
Statement said, told, suggested, admitted, remarked that

a. Ordinary statements:


Direct Speech Rosy said, “I have a habit of reading before I go to bed”.
Indirect Speech Rosy said that she had a habit of reading before she went to bed.
Direct Speech David said, ‘Here is the pen I borrowed yesterday, John.”
Indirect Speech David said to John that there was the pen he had borrowed the previous day.

In reported speech people often leave out the conjunction that.

Reported Speech
Sarah said that she felt ill.
Malika said that she couldn’t find her pendrive
Peter said that David was hitting him.

b. When the reporting verb is in the present or future tense there is no change in the tense of the reported clause:


Direct Speech Sarah says, “I like kids”.
Indirect Speech Sarah says that she likes kids.

c. When the reporting verb is in the past tense the verb of the reported clause is changed into the corresponding past tense:


Direct Speech Mohan said, “I have written a novel”.
Indirect Speech Mohan said that he had written a novel.

d. Present Progressive used as a future form becomes would be + present participle, not Past Progressive:


Direct Speech She said, “I am seeing the dentist next week”.
Indirect Speech She said that she would be seeing the dentist the following week.

e. Simple Past / past Progressive in adverb clauses of time do not usually change into the corresponding past tense:


Direct Speech She said, “When I lived / was living in a village I faced a lot of hardships”.
Indirect Speech She said that when shelived / was living in a village she faced a lot of hardships. (Don’t use had lived / had been living)

f. Unreal past tense (subjunctive mood) after wish / it is time remains unchange :


Direct Speech She said, “I wish I were an angel.”
Indirect Speech She said that she wished she were an angel. (Don’t use had been)

g. Would rather / would sooner / had better remains unchanged:


Direct Speech He said, “I would rather starve than beg.”
Indirect Speech He said that he would rather starve than beg.

h. Verbs used in clauses expressing improbable or impossible condition remain unchanged:


Direct Speech He said, “If won the election I would become a minister.”
Indirect Speech He said that if he won the election he would become a minister.

i. When the direct speech expresses universal truth (fundamental truths of science) saying / provers / habitual action, the tense does not change:


Direct Speech He said, “Habit is a second nature.”
Indirect Speech He said that habit is a second nature.

j. A noun / pronoun in the vocative case is made the object of a reporting verb or left out:

Likewise a comment clause (parenthesis) is left out


you see, as you know, to tell you frankly etc.

k. Words of expressions used just to introduce a sentence are left out:

Well, very well, now, so etc.

Likewise a comment clause (parenthesis) is left out


The teacher asked the children to lision to him. (now left out)

l. A statement employing all the techniques:

Well, very well, now, so etc.

Likewise a comment clause (parenthesis) is left out


Direct Speech My neighbour said, “My guests arrived last evening. They are staying with us today. They will be leaving early tomorrow morning.”
Indirect Speech My neighbour told me that her guests had arrived the previous evening and they were staying with them that day but they would be leaving early the following morning.

Sentence with the same concept should be joined with ‘and’ but when there is a contract use ‘but’. 


a. The reporting verbs for questions are:

Kind of Sentences Reporting Verbs Conjunctions
Questions (1) W/H type asked, enquired, wanted to know if / whether
Questions (2) Verbal asked, enquired, wanted

b. Auxiliary questions should begin with:

if / whether


Direct Speech My friend said, “Are they coming with us?”
Indirect Speech My friend asked me whether they were coming with us.
Direct Speech I said, “Were they angry with you?”
Indirect Speech I asked him whether they had been angry with him.
Direct Speech Sarah said to her mother, “Can the milkman bring milk in this heavy rain?”
Indirect Speech Sarah asked her mother if the milkman could bring milk in that heavy rain.

c. Do / Does / Did Questions:

When using;
do, does (present tense) – the main verb converts
into the past (does / do go -> went)
did (past tense) – the main verb converts
into past perfect. (did go -> had gone)


Direct Speech “Does David study late at night?” said Sonia.
Indirect Speech Sonia asked me whether David studied late at night.
Direct Speech Jems said,“Do college students use cellphones?”
Indirect Speech Jems asked me whether college students used cellphones.

d. The question form will change into a statement form:

“Is he here?” Whether he was there

e. W/h Questions:

These questions begin with a question word (Who, What, When, Why, Where, How, How long …). While changing such a question into reported form we do not use any conjunction. We simply invert the word order (Verb + Subject is changed into Subject + Verb). Do not use if/whether in W/h Questions.


Verb + Subject She said to me, “What do you want?”
Subject + Verb She asked me what I wanted.
Direct Speech My neighbour said, “when did the men catch the stray dogs”
Indirect Speech My neighbour asked me when the men had caught the stray dogs.
Direct Speech My friend said, “Which colour will you choose?”
Indirect Speech My fiend asked me which colour I would choose?
Direct Speech Father said to mother, “Why was Angelina crying when she returned from school?”
Indirect Speech father asked mother why Angelina had been crying when she had returned from school.

f. Verbal Questions:

These are questions begining with a verb. (Are you ready? Is it true?)
Here we use the conjunction ‘if’ or ‘whether’. The word order is changed as mentioned earlier.


Verb + Subject She said to me, “Is Tom at home?”
Subject + Verb Sh asked me if Tom was at home.


To report a command we can use a number of verbs

Reporting Verb:

Kind of Sentences Reporting Verbs Conjunctions
Commands & Requests told, asked, requested, warned, advised, instructed, ordered to – not to

We use the conjunction to. When the command is a negative one beginning with “Don’t” we change it to ‘not to’.


Direct Speech The Captain said, “Get ready to board the ship.”
Indirect Speech The Captain commanded his sailors to get ready to board the ship.
Direct Speech Teacher said to Jems, “Get out”
Indirect Speech Teacher told Jems to get out.
Direct Speech The Judge said to the culprit, “Tell me the truth.”
Indirect Speech The Judge ordered the culprit to tell the truth.
Direct Speech Headmaster said to the students, “Don’t copy in the examination”.
Indirect Speech Headmaster asked the students not to copy in the examination.


Please – requested + whom + to + v

Direct Speech The teacher said, “Please improve your knowledge.”
Indirect Speech The teacher requested the student to improve his knowledge.
Direct Speech Robert said to me, “Please post these letters”.
Indirect Speech Robert requested me to post those letters.
Direct Speech Mother said, “Please keep your room neat.”
Indirect Speech Mother requested me to keep my room neat.


Exclamations can be reported with adverbs of manner.

Kind of Sentences Reporting Verbs Conjunctions
Exclamations exclaimed with joy /
exclaimed with sorrow

a) Reporting Verb: exclaimed with (emotion)
b) The exclamation should be changed into a statement.
c) Use suitable emotions to the exclamation. 

Direct Speech Rosy said to David, “How wonderfully you sang!”
Indirect Speech Rosy exclaimed with happiness that David had sung wonderfully.
Direct Speech The foreigner said, “What a man Obama is!.”
Indirect Speech The foreigner exclaimed in wonder that Obama was a great man.
Direct Speech John said, “That I should see you here!”
Indirect Speech John was surprised to see me there.
Alas!- exclaimed with sadness / regret / disappoinment.
Direct Speech The reporter said, “Alas! Many lives have been lost due to tsunami”
Indirect Speech The reporter exclaimed sadly that many lives had been lost due to tsunami.
May you!- blesses / wished.
Direct Speech The grandmother said, “May you meet with success wherever you go
Indirect Speech The grandmother blessed her grandson that he should meet with success wherever he goes.
Don’t / never – warned or forbade. (when using forbid do not use negatives)
Direct Speech Father said, “Shakshi, don’t play in dirty water!”
Indirect Speech Father forbade his daughter Sakshi to play in dirty water.
O God! – called upon God with regret / sadness / disappointment.
Direct Speech The beggar said, “O God! I have been cheated”.
Indirect Speech The beggar called upon God with regret that he had been cheated.



Dialogue Reporting Examples

Read the following examples and find out how the utterance of the speaker is reported.

30+ Examples.

Teacher “Can you read French?”
Student No Madam, I find French very difficult
Ans: The teacher asked the student if he could read French. The student replied in the negative stating that he found it very difficult.
Father “Is tomorrow a holiday?”
Son Yes, it is Sunday and so it is a holiday.
Ans: Father asked son if the next day was a holiday. Son replied in the positive and added that being Sunday it was a holiday.
Monica “Return me my laptop if you have worked.”
Sania Here it is, Thank you!
Ans: Monica asked Sania to return her laptop if she had worked. Sania returned it, thanking her.
Antony Where are you going?
Peter To the market, …
Antony May I join you?
Peter It will be a pleasure
Ans: Antony asked Peter where he was going. Peter replied that he was going to the market. Antony asked if he could join him. Peter said that it would be pleasure.
David What kind of a man is your teacher?
John Why don’t you meet him?
Ans: David asked John what kind of man his teacher was. John suggested to David that he should meet him.
Thomas My moped is giving trouble.
Tom It may be a good idea to get it repaired.
Ans: Thomas said that his moped was giving trouble. Tom suggested that Thomas should get it repaired.
Khan I have a toothache.
Abdul If I were you, I should see a dentist.
Ans: Khan said that he had a toothache. Abdul advised him to see a dentist.
Senthil Could you have dinner with me tomorrow?
Kamal No, thank you. I have an engagement tomorrow.
Ans: Senthil invited Kamal to have dinner with him the next day. Senthil politely declined because he had an engagement the next day.
Jems Did you see the film?
Antony Yes.
Ans: Jems asked Antony if he had seen the film. Antony replied that he had.
Soniya Do you love dogs?
Sarah No.
Ans: Soniya asked Sarah if she loved dogs. Sarah replied that she didn’t
Father Here’ the money you asked for.
Son Thank you.
Ans: Father gave Son the money he had asked for. Son thanked him.
Son I’ve passed my M.B.A. in first class.
Mom Congratulations!
Ans: Son told Mom that he had passed his M.B.A. in first class. Mom congratulated him.
Ricky Could you lend me some money?
Sachin I’m afraid I can’t help you.
Ans: Ricky requested Sachin to lend him some money. Sachin was sorry that he couldn’t help him.
Passenger Can I have two first class tickets, please?
Conductor I’m afraid it’s full.
Ans: Passenger asked the conductor for two first class tickets. The conductor was sorry that it was full.
Mother So you have been hitting Antony again?
Martin “No I haven’t. Who told you that?”
Mother “Don’t tell lies! You have.”
Ans: Mother angrily called Martin out that he had been hitting Antony again. Martin angrily answered back, asserting that he had not beaten Antony, and inquired as to who had told her that. His mother warned him loudly not to tell lies and persisted in saying that he had beaten Antony.
Allen “Why don’t you get up? We can go for a long walk”.
Ben “If you like, you can go”.
Allen “Why? Are you not well?”.
Ans: Allen suggested to Ben to get up and they could go for a long walk. Ben told him curtly than if he liked, he could go. Allen enquired whether he was not well.
Sam “Elizabeth! Our friends are waiting for us outside, Atleast lower your voice”.
Sarah Let them be there, when you don’t care for the people why should I.
Sam What is wrong with you today?
Ans: Sam reminded Elizabeth that their friends were waiting for them outside. He also requested her to lower her voice. Sarah replied loudly that she did not care for them. Then she asked him why she should bother for the people when he didn»t. Sam asked her what with her that day was wrong.
Policeman “I hope your friend comes around all right” “Are you going to wait for sometime.”
Daniel “I’ll give him half an hour”
Policeman “Goodnight Sir” said the policeman passing on along is beat, examining doors as he went.
Ans: The policeman told Daniel that he hoped his friend would come around all right. Then he asked him fi he was going to wait for sometime. Daniel replied that he would give him half an hour. the policeman bade him goodnight, passing on along his beat, examining doors as he went on.
Jems The day after tomorrow you will receive the money.
Robert I need the money today, not the day after tomorrow.
Jems Forgive me, I can’t pay you today.
Ans: Jems tells Robert that he would receive the money the day after the next. Robert tells him that he needs the money that very day, not the day after next. Jems, asking him to forgive him, tells him that he cannot pay that day.
Robert “What’s the matter Rodger”?
Rodger “I’ve got a headache”.
Robert “You better go back to bed”
Ans: Robert asked Rodger what the matter was. Rodger, replied that he had a headache. Robert advised him to go back to bed.
Teacher Akram, why were you absent yesterday?
Akram Yesterday I had cold and fever, sir. I couldn’t inform you beforehand.
Teacher That’s okay. Take care your health.
Ans: The teacher asked Akram why he was absent the previous day. Akram replied that he had cold and fever the previous day and added that he couldn’t inform him beforehand. The teacher advised him to take care of his health.
Passenger Please give me three tickets to Paris. How much is it?
Conductor Six dollors a ticket.
Passenger Okey. Here’s six dollors.
Ans: The passenger requested the conductor to give him three tickets to Paris and asked how much it was. The conductor replied that it was six dollors a ticket. The passanger paid six dollors.
Rosy When will you return my pendrive?
Malika In a day or two …
Ans: Rosy asked Malika when she would return her pendrive. Malika replied that she would in a day or two.
Vani Did you enjoy your trip to Agra?
Rani Yes, it was wonderful …
Ans: Vani asked Rani if she had enjoyed her trip to Agra. Rani replied that she had and added that it had been wonderful.
John How old are you?
Peter I’m ten years old
Ans: John asked Peter how old he was. Peter replied that he was ten years old.
Jems Are you aiming for a State rank?
David Yes I am… My teachers are guiding me to get my aim fulfilled.
Ans: Jems asked David if he was aiming for a State Rank. David replied in the positive and told him that his teachers were guiding him to get his aim fulfilled.
Rita “Have you seen the film ‘Avator’?”
Renu Yah! It was wonderful… it has become a hit at the box-office…
Ans: Rita asked Renu if he had seen the film ‘Avator’. Renu replied that she had and it had been wonderful. She furter added that it had become a hit at the box office.
Manager “Why are you late? Be punctual or you’ll be punished.”
Staff Sorry Sir! I shall not repeat in future.
Ans: Manager asked the staff why he was late. He warned him to be punctual, failing which he would be punished. The staff apologised and promised not to repeat that in future.
Teacher “What are you doing? If you do not pay attention I shall send you to the Head Master.”
Student “Forgive me Madam. I’m sorry.”
Ans: The teacher asked the student what he was doing. She warned that she would send him to the HM if he did not pay attention. The student apologised to his teacher saying that he was sorry.
Father “I shall be coming late. Have your dinner and go to bed. Do not wait for me.”
Ans: The father asked them to have their dinner and go to bed and not to wait for him as he would be coming late.
Teacher “Stella … Why have you not paid the fees till now? Do not come to the class tomorrow without paying fees”
Ans: The teacher asked Stella the reason for not having paid the fees till then. She asked him not to attend the class the next day without paying the fees.
Judge “I find that the evidence against the accused is not sufficient pronounce him guilty. I therefore acquit him.”
Ans: The judge said that he found that the evidence against the accused was not sufficient to pronounce him guilty and therefore he acquitted him.
Mother “What is the matter? Why are you crying?”
Daughter I want chocolates…
Ans: The Mother asked her daughter why she was crying. The daughter replied that she wanted chocolates.
Patient “I slipped I have pain in my ankle. It is aching”
Doctor Your ankle is swollen badly. It looks like a sprain. You better go in for an X’Ray.
Ans: The Patient told the doctor that he had slipped and as a result had pain in his ankle which was aching. The doctor said that it looked like a sprain as his ankle was swollen badly. He suggested to him to take an X Ray.
Jems “Good morning Robert… Are you going to the class?”
Robert “No Jems… I am going home for I am sick.”
Ans: Jems greeted Robert and asked if he was going to the class. Robert replied that he wasn’t and further added that he was going home as he was sick.
Princess “What are you doing, good old woman?”
Old woman “I’m spinning my pretty child.”
Ans: The Princes asked the old woman what she was doing. The old woman replied the princes, calling her, her pretty child, that she was spinning.
Goat 1 “What would you do if you were a lion?”
Goat 2 I would pounce on you…
Ans: Goat1 aksed Goat2 what he would do if he were a lion. Goat2 replied that he would pounce on him.
Crow 1 “What would you do if you were a Peacock?”
Crow 2 I would dance to my heart’s content.
Ans: Crow1 asked Crow2 what she would do if she were a Peacock. Goat2 replied that she would dance to her heart’ content.
Man 1 “What would you do if you were poor?”
Man 2 I would work hard to be prosperous.
Ans: Man1 asked Man2 what he would do if he were poor. Man2 replied that he would work hard to be prosperous.
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