Indirect Speech

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Indirect Speech

To give information about what people say or think, we can use direct speech or indirect speech.

Saying exactly what someone has said is called direct speech.

Indirect speech is used to tell someone what someone said.

direct

indirect

She said, ‘I live in New York now.’

She said (that) she lived in New York now.

She said, ‘Ryan is ill.’

She said (that) Ryan was ill.

She said, ‘I am working for a multinational company.’

She said (that) she was working for a multinational company.

*that is optional

The present form in direct speech usually changes to the past form:

Present simple 
She said, "Ryan is ill."

Past simple 
She said Ryan was ill. 

Present continuous 
She said, "I'm working for a multinational company." 

Past continuous 
She said she was working for a multinational company. 

Present perfect simple 
She said, "I've been a teacher since 2001."

Past perfect simple 
She said she had been a teacher since 2001. 

Present perfect continuous 
She said, "I've been teaching for fifteen years."

Past perfect continuous 
She said she had been teaching for fifteen years. 

The past form in direct speech usually changes to one tense back: Past Simple to Past Perfect and Past Continuous to Past Perfect Continuous:

Past simple 
She said, "I went to school yesterday."

Past perfect 

She said she had gone to school yesterday. 

Past continuous 
She said, "I was reading earlier." 

Past perfect continuous 
She said she had been reading earlier. 

For some tenses, there is no change between direct speech and indirect speech. These are Past Perfect and Past Perfect Continuous:

Past perfect 
She said, "Tom had already left when she arrived."

Past perfect 
She said Tom had already left when she arrived.

Past perfect continuous
She said, "I'd already been teaching for two hours."

Past perfect continuous 
She said she'd already been teaching for two hours.

How do we use modal verbs in indirect speech?

As it is with the tenses, modals also change to the past form:

will 
She said, "I'll go to school tomorrow."

would 
She said she would go to school tomorrow. 

can 
She said, "I can help with the homework." 

could 
She said she could help with the homework. 

must 
She said, "I must have a car to pick you up."

had to 
She said she had to have a car to pick me up. 

shall 
She said, "Where shall I go?" 

should 
She asked where she should go. 

may 
She said, "May I open the window?"

might 
She asked if she might open the window.

Let’s practice..

Put the following sentences into reported speech.

  1. Ryan and Carolin are getting married.’

________________________________

  1. We went for a walk on the beach.’

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  1. Brazil won the football.’

________________________________

  1. I don’t know what Tom is doing.’

________________________________

  1. I can speak English now!’

________________________________

  1. I will meet you at the cinema.’

________________________________

  1. He was in America last August.’

________________________________

  1. I’m not enjoying my job.’

________________________________

  1. I’ll tell Carolin I saw you.’

________________________________

  1. I’m going to a restaurant tonight.’

________________________________

Answers:

  1. Ryan and Carolin are getting married.’

He said Ryan and Carolin were getting married.

  1. We went for a walk on the beach.’

He said they went for a walk on the beach.

He said they had gone for a walk on the beach.

  1. Brazil won the football.’

He said Brazil won the football.

He said Brazil had won the football.

  1. I don’t know what Tom is doing.’

He said he didn’t know what Tom was doing.

  1. I can speak English now!’

He said he could speak English now.

  1. I will meet you at the cinema.

He said he would meet me at the cinema

  1. He was in America last August.’

He said he was in America last August

He said he had been in America last August

  1. I’m not enjoying my job.’

He said he wasn’t enjoying his job.

  1. I’ll tell Carolin I saw you.’

He said he would tell Carolin he saw me.

  1. I’m going to a restaurant tonight.’

He said he was going to a restaurant tonight.

Examples:

I am moving house.’

She said she was moving house.

My parents are well.’

She said that her parents were well.

I want to buy a flat.’

She said she wanted to buy a flat.

Ryan has a new job.’

She said Ryan had a new job.

I can’t go on holidays, I have too much work.’

She said that she couldn’t go on holidays because she had to much work. 

I don’t have any freetime.’

She said she didn’t have any freetime.

My sister had a baby.’

She said her sister had had a baby.

I have stopped smoking.’

She said that she had stopped smoking.

I will call you at the weekend.’

She said that she would call me at the weekend.

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