Direct and indirect speech
English Grammars English Structures

Direct and indirect speech (Definition, rules & exercises)

A) Definition:

We use direct and indirect speech (quoted speech) to convey the speaker’s words without any changes or sometimes with some changes. There are two different times/occasions when we need to speak differently. 1st face-to-face. When there are two persons or groups of people talking about anything require active and passive voice sentences. Like I want to speak English. I went to the park yesterday. In these situations, two persons are involved. For Instance:

First-person pronoun and second-person pronoun:    “I, we & you.”
But sometimes we needed to share stories, describe events, or report something about the past. On such occasions, we use direct and indirect speech. And mostly third-person pronoun is involved.

Third-person Pronoun: he, she, it, they, or a single name.

1) DIRECT SPEECH/QUOTED SPEECH

Repeating exactly the same words of the speaker without any change is called direct speech. In this situation, mostly we speak About the third person, any other event, or tell any story about the past. These kinds of conversations are listed inside quotation marks. 

Ex.

  • She said, “She will go to school.”
  • “I will find the paper,” he said.
  • “They will drink the water,” John said.
  • She asked, “Can I open the door?”
  • They told, “Open your books.”
  • They said, “We may help him.”

2) INDIRECT SPEECH/REPORTED SPEECH

Sharing the words of another person in your own words is called indirect speech.  We do not put them in quoted marks that’s why it is called reported speech too.

Ex.

  • She said that she would go to school.
  • He said that he would find the paper.
  • They said that they would drink the water.
  • She asked if she could open the door.
  • They ordered me to open the door.
  • They said (that) they might help them.

Special Notes (Rules)

While we change a direct (quoted speech) into an indirect speech (reported speech), the following rules should be kept in mind.

  • The reporting verb changes.
Direct Speech Indirect Speech
She says. She said.
He tellsHe told
AskIf / weather
said to metold me
  • Tense changes: we need to go back one tense back while changing into reported speech.
  • Pronoun Changes.
Direct speechIndirect speech
They said, “we will find you.”They said that they would find me.
He said, “I can do my work.”He said that He could do his work.
He said, “You will be lifted by them.”He said that I would be lifted by them.
She said, “she brings the apples for us.”She said that she brought the apples for them.

There is a simple formula in order to remember Pronoun change everlasting. check out the picture.

How to change pronoun

Time words change

Direct SpeechIndirect Speech
She said, “They may bring the table tomorrow.”She said that they might bring the table the next day.
He said, “we have to solve the matter, now.”He said that they had to solve the matter, then.
He said, “I got him, yesterday.”She said she had gotten him the previous day.
They said, “we did our job today.They said that they had done their job that day.
She said, “I will do my M.Sc. next year.”She said that she would do her M.Sc. the following year.
He said, “I found it last week.He said that he had found it the previous week.
They said, “it is difficult to get him these days.”They said it was difficult to get him, those days.
He said, “A week ago, there was a painting here.”He said a week before, there had been a painting there.

How to change a question into reported speech.

Changing the Interrogative sentences (questions) into reported speech has some specific rules.

We have two kinds of questions.

  • Yes & No question: use if/whether instead of the auxiliary verb & the question will be changed into a statement. The reporting verb said changes into asked.
  • WH questions:  The WH word will remain the same.  Reporting verb changes into asked.
Yes/no questionsWH questions
Direct speech:    He said, “Do you study English?” Indirect speech: He asked if you studied English.Direct speech: She said, “who are you?” Indirect speech: she asked who I was.
Direct speech:    She asked, “Did you find him” Indirect speech: She asked whether I had found him.Direct speech:  He asked, “what did you find?” Indirect speech: He asked what I had found.
Direct speech: They said, “are you a student?” Indirect speech: They asked whether I was a student.Direct speech: They said, “why I am late?” Indirect speech: They asked why I was late.
Direct speech: she said, “can they play football?” Indirect speech: she asked if they could play football.Direct speech: She asked, “how are you?” Indirect speech: she asked how I was.

When we should not change direct speech into indirect speech.  

A) Whenever the reporting verb is in the present tense.

EX.

  • He says, “I played football very well.”
  • He said that he played football very well.
  • She has said, “They are united.”
  • She said that they are united.

B) If the direct speech talks about general truth, universal truth & gender.

Ex.

  • He said, “The wall is white.”
  • He said that the wall is white.
  • She said, “The sun rises from the east.”
  • She said that the sun rises from the east.
  • They asked, “Are you a boy?”
  • They asked if I am a boy.

Some Exercises

Direct speechIndirect speech
He said, “I have a lot of work to do.”He said (that) he had a lot of work to do.
She said, “I am checking the home works.”She said (that) she was checking the homework.
They said, “We have changed our thoughts.”They said (that) they had changed their thoughts.
She said, “He has been living here.”she said (that) he had been living there.
He said, “I served my nation.”He said (that) he had served his nation.
He said, “I was paying attention to the lecture.”He said (that) he had been paying attention to the lecture.
She said, “She will apply for the job.”She said (that) she would apply for the job.
They said, “We may help them.”They said (that) they might help them.
He said, “We must get back to work.”He said (that) they had to get back to work.

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