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Direct Speech and Reported Speech

There are two ways to report what someone says or thinks:

Direct Speech

Direct speech shows a person's exact words. Quotation marks ("....") are a sign that the words are the exact words that a person used.


Hai asked, "Where are you going?"

Manny replied, "I'm going home."

Reported Speech

Reported speech puts the speaker's words or ideas into a sentence without quotation marks. Noun clauses are usually used. In reported speech, the reader does not assume that the words are the speaker's exact words; often, they are a paraphrase of the speaker's words.


Hai asked Manny where he was going.

Manny said he was going home.

Note: Use of the word "that" is optional in reported speech. Both of the following sentences are correct:

  • The child said that they were lost.
  • The child said they were lost.

Verb Tense in Reported Speech

When you report what someone said in the past, you usually shift back a verb tense from the tense the speaker used. These are some examples of verb shifts:

  • simple present to simple past
  • past to past perfect
  • present perfect to past perfect
Quotation Reported Speech
"I am hungry." She stated that she was hungry.
"I saw them leave." Aidan said that he had seen them leave.
"Where have they gone?" Felicite wondered where they had gone.
"Will you help me?" I asked Silvio if they would help me.
"I can't remember your name." Soungyoung said she couldn't remember my name.
"The exam will be next week." Dr. Park said the exam will be next week.*
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*If the reported information is still true, you may use the same tense.

Questions in Reported Speech

Word order: The word order in a reported question is the same as in a statement. The subject comes before the verb.

  • Question: Are you ready?
  • Statement: I am ready.
  • Question in reported speech: She wanted to know if I was ready.

Punctuation: If the sentence is a statement, end it with a period even if it contains a reported question.

  • Statement containing a reported question: She asked me what I thought of the book.
  • Question containing a reported question: Did she ask what you thought of the book?

Yes or No Questions

To change a yes/no question to a noun clause in reported speech, introduce the noun clause "if" or "whether." "Whether or not" may also be used.


Reported Speech

"Did you turn off the coffee pot?" I asked Evelyn if she had turned off the coffee pot.
"Is supper ready?" Dakhon wanted to know whether supper was ready.
"Will you be at the party?" Hildene asked me whether or not I would be at the party.
"Should I tell her the news?"

Emra wondered whether she should tell Hai the news.

Emra wanted to know if she should tell Hai the news.

Emra asked whether or not she should tell Hai the news.

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Information Questions

To change an information question to a noun clause in reported speech, begin the noun clause with the question word and remember to use sentence word order.

Quotation Reported Speech
"Where do they live?" Abdul wanted to know where they live.
"What time is it?" Do you know what time it is?
"Why did you say that?" Pedro asked me why I had said that.
"Where will you stay?" Have you decided where you will stay?
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The person who is reporting what someone said is usually different from the person who made the original statement. As a result, pronouns in reported speech often change.


Reported Speech

"I am hungry." Hongzia said she was hungry.
"Where will you be?" Anastasia wanted to know where I would be.
"Have you seen my glasses?" Aiden asked me if I had seen their glasses.
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Place and Time

Changes in the situation between direct and reported speech can result in changes to words indicating place and time.


Reported Speech

"I don't like this book." Seon said he didn't like that book.
"I'll see you tomorrow" (spoken on Thursday) Michiko said she would see me yesterday. (reported on Saturday)
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Recommend and Suggest

The subjunctive, or base, form of the verb (no tense, without "to") is used in reported speech when the main verb is "recommend" or "suggest."


Reported Speech

"You should arrive early." Alex recommended that we arrive early.
"Don't wait to apply." Hai recommended that I not wait to apply.
"Shema should call me." I will suggest that Shema call you.
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Infinitives (to + the simple form of the verb) may sometimes be used instead of noun clauses, especially in commands and in requests for action or permission.


Commands can be reported two ways:

  • A noun clause with a modal (usually "should")
  • An infinitive


Reported Speech

"Call me when you get home."

Mom said we should call her when we get home.

Mom said to call her when we get home.

"Plan ahead."

My father told me that I should plan ahead.

My father told me to plan ahead.

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Requests for Action or Permission

Requests for action or permission can be reported two ways:

  • A noun clause with "if"
  • An infinitive


Reported Speech


"Will you carry the box for me?"

She asked if I would carry the box for her.

She asked me to carry the box for her.


"Can I make an appointment?"

Durand asked if he could make an appointment.

Durand asked to make an appointment.

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