Grammar: Direct and Reported Speech

 

Direct and reported speech

Study this example:

 

John

person

"I am very happy"

 

If you want to tell somebody what John said, there are two ways of doing this. You can use direct or reported speech.

  • John said, "I am very happy" (direct speech)
  • John said that he was very happy (reported speech)

 

You use reported speech when you give information about what people say or think. The main verb and the rest of the sentence are usually in the past tense.

  • Maria said (that) she went to London yesterday
  • I told her (that) we couldn't go to her party

(*) You can leave out "that"

  • Maria said she went to London yesterday

 

As a rule, the present form in direct speech changes to the past form in reported speech:

Present simple
Past simple
 
 
am / is
was
are
were
can
could
do / does
did
have / has
had
will
would
 
 
 
help
helped
finish
finished
 
 

 

However, if what you are reporting is still true at the time of reporting, you do not need to change the verb.

  • John said "Maria is a shy person" (direct speech)
  • John said that Maria is a shy person (reported speech)
  • Maria said "I want to go to Marbella next summer" (direct speech)
  • Maria said that she wants to go to Marbella next summer (reported speech)
  • Note that it is also correct to change the verb into the past:
  • John said that Maria was a shy person
  • Maria said that she wanted to go to Marbella next summer

 

In reported speech, the past simple can stay the same or you can change it to the past perfect:

Past simple
Past perfect
 
 
could
had been able
 
did
had done
 
had
had had
 
was
had been
 
 
 
 
  • James said, "I went to Paris for the weekend" (direct speech)
  • James said (that) he went to Paris for the weekend (reported speech)

Or:

  • James said (that) he had been to Paris for the weekend (direct speech)

 

These verbs are often used to report statements:

Add
Explain
Shout
Admit
Find out
State
Announce
Inform someone
Suggest
Answer
Reply
Tell someone
Complain
Say
Whisper

 

 

Remember: When you're reporting times and places, these words sometimes change.

Direct speech
Reported speech
 
 
Here
There
 
Now
Then
 
This
The
 
Tomorrow
The next day
 
Yesterday
The day before
 
This week
That week
 
Last week
The week before
 
 

 

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