Reported Speech

Learn how to use reported speech in English. Reported speech is also known as indirect speech and is used to tell somebody else what another person said. Using reported speech in English can sometimes be difficult for non-native speakers as we (usually) change the verbs, pronouns and specific times.

Keep reading to understand how to use reported speech and download this free English lesson!

Reported Speech

Let’s study reported speech!

Reported Speech vs. Direct Speech

When we want to tell somebody else what another person said, we can use either direct speech or reported speech.

When we use direct speech, we use the same words but use quotation marks, “_”. For example:

Scott said, “I am coming to work.  I will be late because there is a lot of traffic now.”

When we use reported speech, we usually change the verbs, specific times, and pronouns. For example:

Scott said that he was coming to work.  He said that he would be late because there was a lot of traffic at that time.

How do we use reported speech?

Since reported speech is usually talking about the past, we usually change the verbs into the past. It is always necessary to change the verbs when the action has finished or is untrue.

We do not always change the verbs.  When you are reporting an action that is still current or true, it is not necessary to change the verb tense. For example:   

How old are you?  “I am twenty-seven years old.” She said she is twenty-seven years old.

We usually follow the rules below.  When we are reporting speech, we are usually talking about the past; therefore, we change the verbs into the past.

Direct Speech

Reported Speech

Simple Present:  “I eat pizza.”

Simple Past:  He said (that) he ate pizza.

Present Continuous:  “I am eating pizza.”

Past Continuous:  He said (that) he was eating pizza.

Future (will):  “I will eat pizza.”

Would + Verb:  He said (that) he would eat pizza.

Future (be going to):  “I am going to eat pizza.”

Past Continuous:  He said (that) he was going to eat pizza.

When we are reporting past actions, it is not always necessary to change the verb tense. We can usually leave the verbs in the same tense and just change the pronouns. However, we sometimes need to use the past perfect to clarify the time order of events.

Note: the past perfect never changes in reported speech.

Simple Past: “I ate pizza.”

“I ate pizza, so I am not hungry.”

Simple Past:  He said (that) he ate pizza.

Past Perfect:  He said (that) he had eaten pizza, so he wasn’t hungry.”

Past Continuous:  “I was eating pizza.”

“I was eating pizza when she called.”

Past Continuous:  He said (that) he was eating pizza.

Past Perfect:  He said (that) he had been eating pizza when she called.

Reporting Questions

We use a special form when we report questions:  

WH-Questions:    

Where is + Tom’s house?   He asked where Tom’s house + was.

Where does Tom live?  He asked where Tom lived.

 

Yes/No Questions:  

Does Tom live in Miami?  She asked if Tom lived in Miami.

Is Tom happy?  She asked if Tom was happy.

Say vs. Tell

Say Something

June:  “I love English.”

June said (that) she loved English.

Tell Someone Something

June:  “I love English.”

June told me (that) she loved English.

Modal Verbs and Reported Speech

Must, might, could, would, should, and ought to stay the same in reported speech.  We usually change may to might.

Infinitives and Reported Speech

Infinitives  stay the same in reported speech:

I am going to the store to buy milk.”  He said he was going to the store to buy milk.

We also use infinitives when reporting orders and commands, especially when using tell.

Do  your homework.  Don’t use a dictionary!!”  He told me to do to my homework and not to use a dictionary.

Reporting Suggestions

When we are reporting another speakers suggestions, we can use a special form with suggest, recommend, or propose.

SUGGEST/ RECOMMEND/PROPOSE   +   (*THAT)   +    SUBJECT PRONOUN   +   **V1

SUGGEST/ RECOMMEND/PROPOSE   +   V1 + ING

“I think you should visit Viscaya.”     He suggested we visit Viscaya.  He suggested visiting Viscaya.

“Try to get there early to get good seats.”   →  He recommended we get there early to get good seats.

*That is often omitted in speech.

**The verb is always in the base form. We do not use third person.

Reporting Statements

A reported statement begins with an introductory clause and is followed by the ‘information’ clause.  The speaker may choose different words, but the meaning remains unchanged.  Some formal words to introduce a reported statement or response are: declared, stated, informed, responded, replied, etc.

“I don’t agree with these new rules. I am not going to accept this change!”  He declared that he was in disagreement with the new rules and stated that he would not accept the changes.

Reported Speech ~ Exercises and Practice

A. Change each direct speech example into the reported speech. The first one has been done for you.

  1. Michelle said, “I love my Chihuahua, Daisy.”

Michelle said that she loved her Chihuahua, Daisy.

2. Republicans said, “We don’t support Obama’s plan to raise taxes.”

__________________________________________________________.

3.With her mouth full, Sarah said, “I am eating mashed potatoes.”

__________________________________________________________.

4. John Lee said, “This year, I will not pay my taxes.”

__________________________________________________________.

5. Lebron said, “I am going to win the championship next year.”

__________________________________________________________.

6. Patty said, “I can’t stomach another hamburger. I ate one yesterday.”

__________________________________________________________.

B. Rewrite the sentences/questions below using reported / indirect speech. Always change the tense, even though it is not always necessary. You can use ‘said’, ‘told me’, or ‘asked’.

1. Sarah:  “I am in the shower right now.”

_____________________________________________________________________________

2. John:  “I dropped my son off at school this morning.”

_____________________________________________________________________________

3. Samuel: “I am going to the beach with my sister this afternoon.”

_____________________________________________________________________________

4. John: “Jessica will call you later.”

_____________________________________________________________________________

5. The girls: “Who does John live with?”

_____________________________________________________________________________

6. Our classmate: “Did we have any homework last night?”

_____________________________________________________________________________

7. Sarah: “I am moving to Tokyo because I want to learn Japanese.”

_____________________________________________________________________________

8. John: “Why do you have an umbrella?”

_____________________________________________________________________________

9. The students: “Our teacher can’t find her books anywhere.”

_____________________________________________________________________________

10. Sarah and Jillian: “Is John British?”

_____________________________________________________________________________

11. Steve: “I’m going to the beach so that I can play volleyball.”

__________________________________________________________________________________

12. Ann: “Where is the bathroom?”

__________________________________________________________________________________

13. My parents: “What are you going to do with your life?”

__________________________________________________________________________________

14. Sarah: “I ate breakfast before I came to school.”

__________________________________________________________________________________

C. Your friend Megan is very nosy (she always wants to know what’s going on) so she constantly asks questions about your life and the lives of your friends. Rewrite her questions using the reported questions form. The first one has been done for you.

1. Why do you date Ryan?

She asked me why I dated Ryan.

2. How much money do you make at your new job?

________________________________________________________________________________

3. Does Ryan think I’m pretty?

________________________________________________________________________________

4. Where is your favorite restaurant?

________________________________________________________________________________

5. Do I look good in these jeans?

________________________________________________________________________________

6. Can I borrow some twenty bucks?

________________________________________________________________________________

D. Your American grandfather is telling you about how things used to be. Using the reported speech, tell your friends what he said.

“In the 1930s, people were very poor. They ate watery soup and hard bread. Many people lost their jobs. To make matters worse, a horrible drought ruined most of the farmland in the American midwest. People went to California to look for a better life. They picked strawberries in the hot California sun.”

Did you download this lesson? If not, don’t forget to download this free English lesson.

If you have any questions about English grammar, please contact us via email us or just comment below. I hope this lesson helped you understand how to use reported speech in English.

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