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Reported Speech - Indirect Speech

By Kenneth Beare, Guide

See More About:

  • intermediate english

  • grammar review

  • indirect speech

  • intermediate level english

  • sentence structure


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Indirect Speech (also referred to as 'reported speech') refers to a sentence reporting what someone has said. It is almost always used in spoken English.

  • If the reporting verb (i.e. said) is in the past, the reported clause will be in a past form. This form is usually one step back into the past from the original.

For example:

    • He said the test was difficult.

    • She said she watched TV every day.

    • Jack said he came to school every day.

  • If simple present, present perfect or the future is used in the reporting verb (i.e. says) the tense is retained.

For example:

    • He says the test is difficult.

    • She has said that she watches TV every day.

    • Jack will say that he comes to school every day.

  • If reporting a general truth the present tense will be retained.

For example:The teacher said that phrasal verbs are very important.

Changing Pronouns and Time Signifiers

When changing from direct speech to indirect speech, it is often necessary to change the pronouns to match the subject of the sentence.

For example:

  • She said, "I want to bring my children." BECOMES She said she wanted to bring her children.

  • Jack said, "My wife went with me to the show." BECOMES Jack said his wife had gone with him to the show.

It is also important to change time words (signifiers) when referring to present, past or future time to match the moment of speaking.

For example:

  • She said, "I want to bring my children tomorrow." BECOMES She said she wanted to bring her children the next day.

  • Jack said, "My wife went with me to the show yesterday." BECOMES Jack said his wife had gone with him to the show the day before.

Indirect Questions

When reporting questions, it is especially important to pay attention to sentence order. When reporting yes/ no questions connect the reported question using 'if'. When reporting questions using question words (why, where, when, etc.) use the question word.

For example:

  • She asked, "Do you want to come with me?" BECOMES She asked me if I wanted to come with her.

  • Dave asked, "Where did you go last weekend?" BECOMES Dave asked me where I had gone the previous weekend.

  • He asked, "Why are you studying English?" BECOMES She asked me why I was studying English.

The following chart includes sentences changed from quoted speech to reported speech using a past form. NoteSimple past, present perfect, and past perfect allchange to past perfect in the reported form.

Check your understanding with this reported speech quiz:

Reported Speech Transformations Quiz

Advanced Reporting Verbs

He said, "I live in Paris."

He said he lived in Paris.

He said, "I am cooking dinner."

He said he was cooking dinner.

He said, "I have visted London twice."

He said he had visited London twice.

He said, "I went to New York last week."

He said he had gone to New York the week before.

He said, "I had already eaten."

He said he had already eaten.

He said, "I am going to find a new job."

He said he was going to find a new job.

He said, "I will give Jack a call."

He said he would give Jack a call.

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kenneth beare

Kenneth Beare
English as 2nd Language Guide

S Reporting Verbs

When using reported speech, most students learn to use "say" and "tell":


John told me he was going to stay late at work.
Peter said he wanted to visit his parents that weekend.

These forms are perfectly correct for reporting what others have said. However, there are a number of other reporting verbs which can more accurately describe what someone has said. These verbs take a variety of structures. The following list gives you reporting verbs in various categories based on sentence structure. Notice that a number of verbs can take more than one form.

verb object infinitive

verb infinitive

verb (that)

verb gerund

verb object preposition gerund

verb preposition gerund







Examples:Jack encouraged me to look for a new job.

They invited all their friends to attend the presentation.

Examples:She offered to give him a lift to work.

My brother refused to take no for an answer.

Examples:Tom admitted (that) he had tried to leave early.

She agreed (that) we needed to reconsider our plans.

Examples:He denied having anything to do with her.

Ken suggested studying early in the morning.

Examples:They accused the boys of cheating on the exam.

She blamed her husband for missing the train.

Examples:He apologized for being late.

She insisted on doing the washing up.

Related Grammar

Basic Reported (Indirect) Speech

Indirect Speech Transformations Quiz 1

Indirect Speech Transformations Quiz 2

More Grammar Reference

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Reported Speech Worksheet

By Kenneth Beare, Guide

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  • printable esl quizzes

  • indirect speech

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Reported speech is also known as indirect speech. Reported speech is used to relate what others have said. There are two main ways to use related speech:

Said and Told - Past Tense

The verbs say and tell in the past tense (said and told) are commonly used to related a conversation that you have had with someone. In this case, the verb that you are relating moves one step back into the past. For example:

Tom: I'm working hard these days.

You (relating this statement to a friend): Tom said he was working hard lately.

Annie: We bought some truffles for a fancy dinner.

You (relating this statement to a friend): Annie told me they had bought some truffles for a fancy dinner.

Here is a chart of the most common verb changes for reported speech. For more details use this guide to reported speech.

present simple -> past simple

Original Statement: I work hard.
Reported Statement: He said he worked hard.

present continuous -> past continuous

Original Statement: She is playing the piano.
Reported Statement: He said she was playing the piano.

future with 'will' -> future in the past with 'would'

Original Statement: Tom will have a good time.
Reported Statement: He said Tom would have a good time.

future with 'going to' -> future in the past with 'was / were going to'

Original Statement: Anna is going to attend the conference.
Reported Statement: Peter said Anna was going to attend the conference.

present perfect -> past perfect

Original Statement: I have visited Rome three times.
Reported Statement: He said he had visited Rome three times.

past simple -> past perfect

Original Statement: Frank bought a new car.
Reported Statement: She said frank had bought a new car.

Changing Pronouns and Time Expressions

Remember to change pronouns and time expressions when using reported speech. For example:

Original Statement: I'm going to visit Tom tomorrow.
Reported Statement: Ken told me he was going to visit Tom the next day.

Original Statement: We are working on our end of the year report right now.
Reported Statement: She said they were working on their end of the year report at that moment.

Say - Present Tense

The use of reported speech is generally used in the past tense, but can be used at times in the present tense to report to someone else who perhaps has not heard the original statement. When reporting with say in the present tense, keep the tense the same as the original statement, but make sure to change the appropriate pronouns and helping verbs. For example:

Original Statement: I am giving my opinion.
Reported Statement: He says he is giving his opinion.

Original Statement: I moved back into my parents house two years ago.
Reported Statement: Anna says she moved back into her parents house two years ago.

Reported Speech Worksheet

Put the verb in brackets into the correct tense by moving the reported verb one step back into the past when necessary.

  1. I'm working in Dallas today. / He said he _____ (work) in Dallas that day.

  2. I think he will win the election. / She said she _____ (think) he _____ (win) the election.

  3. Anna lives in London. / Peter says Anna _____ (live) in London.

  4. My father is going to visit us next week. / Frank said his father ______ (visit) them the following week.

  5. They bought a brand new Mercedes! / She said they _____ (buy) a brand new Mercedes.

  6. I have worked at the company since 1997. / She said she _____ (work) at the company since 1997.

  7. They are watching TV at the moment. / She said they _____ (watch) TV at that moment.

  8. Francis drives to work every day. / He said Francis _____ (drive) to work every day.

  9. Alan thought about changing his job last year. / Alan said that he _____ (thought) about changing his job the previous year.

  10. Susan is flying to Chicago tomorrow. / Susan said she _____ (fly) to Chicago the next day.

  11. George went to the hospital last night. / Peter said that George _____ (go) to the hospital the preceding night.

  12. I enjoy playing golf on Saturdays. / Ken says that he _____ (enjoy) playing golf on Saturdays.

  13. I will change jobs soon. / Jennifer told me she _____ (change) jobs soon.

  14. Frank is getting married in July. / Anna tells me that Frank ______ (get married) in July.

  15. October is the best month of the year. / The teacher says that October _____ (be) the best month of the year.

  16. Sarah wants to buy a new house. / Jack told me that his sister ______ (want) to buy a new house.

  17. They are working hard on the new project. / The boss told me that they _____ (work) hard on the new project.

  18. We've lived here for ten years. / Frank told me that they _____ (live) there for ten years.

  19. I take the subway to work every day. / Ken tells me he _____ (take) the subway to work every day.

  20. Angela prepared lamb for dinner yesterday. / Peter told us that Angela ______ (prepare) lamb for dinner the day before.


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Related Reported Speech

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kenneth beare

Kenneth Beare
English as 2nd Language Guide

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