Direct and Indirect Speech
To narrate what a person has said, we can opt two ways:
We may quote the actual words of the perso.
We may report in our words that are same or similar in meaning but not the actual words of the person.
Read the following two sentences:
1. The teacher said, “There are no mistakes in the lesson.”
2. The teacher said that there were no mistakes in the lesson.
In sentence 1, the actual words of the speaker are given. This is called
Direct Speech of Narration.
In sentence 2, the actual words are not reported, only the ‘substance’ of the speaker’s words are conveyed. This is called
Indirect Speech of Narration.
We also notice the difference in the sentence structure of direct and indirect speech.
• In direct speech, inverted commas are used to present the actual words of speaker. These actual words are called
Reported speech. For example;
• “There are no mistake in the lesson.” (Reported speech)
Said is the Reporting Verb that introduces the direct speech. It is followed by a comma (,) in direct speech.
• In indirect speech, as in Sentences 2, the speech is not enclosed within inverted commas. • The comma(,) after
said is replaced by the conjunction that.
• The tense is changed according to the tense of the reported speech and reporting verb.
Change in Assertive Sentences
Notice how the reporting verb changes or does not change in statement sentences:
say(s) to –> tell(s)
say (s) to–> say(s)
will/shall say to <——- will/shall tell
will/shall say <—– —-will/shall say
said to <– told
said <—- said
1: Direct speech : He said to us, “You will lose the match.”
Indirect speech : He told us that we would lose the match.
2: Direct speech : He says, “You always tell lies.”
Indirect speech : He says that we always tell lies.(no change in tense)
The reporting verb can also be changed to
inform/remark/comment etc. depending on reported speech sentence. For example;
Direct speech: She said, “The train will not leave before 4 p.m.”
Indirect speech: She informed that the train would not leave before 4 pm.
2. Direct speech: The barber said, “You Maintain your hair very well.”
Indirect speech : The barber remarked that I maintained my hair very well.
When we change a sentence from direct speech to indirect speech, three types of changes
1. Change in Tense
2. Change in Personal Pronouns
3. Change in words showing Nearness of Time and Place
1. Rules for Change in Tense
Rules for change in tense are as follows:
If reporting verb of direct speech is
present or future tense, the tense of the
verb in reported speech remains unchanged.
Direct speech: Sunil says, “I run fast.”
Indirect speech: Sunil says that he runs fast.
Direct speech: They will say, “Change is essential.”
Indirect speech: They will say that change is essential.
Direct speech: Rita will say, “ I shall go tomorrow.”
Indirect speech: Rita will say that she will go the next day.
Direct speech: My grandfather says, “ You shall work hard.”
Indirect speech: My grandfather says that I shall work hard.
If the reporting verbs is in
past tense, the tense of the reported speech changes into corresponding past tense in the following manner:
Present indefinite tense changes into past indefinite tense.
Direct speech: He said, “Ravi sings well.”
Indirect speech: He said that Ravi sang well.
Present continuous tense changes into past continuous tense.
Direct speech: She said to me, “I am writing a poem.”
Indirect speech: She told me that she was writing a poem.
Present Perfect tense change into past perfect tense.
Direct speech: The teacher said, “Children have done their work.”
Indirect speech: The teacher said that children had done their work.
Present perfect continuous tense changes into past perfect continuous tense
Direct speech: I said, “I have been living here for a long time.”
Indirect speech: I said that I had been living there for a long time.
Past indefinite tense changes into past perfect tense.
Direct speech:The teacher said. “I explained it yesterday.”
Indirect speech: The teacher said that he had explained that the previous day.
Past indefinite tense changes into past perfect continuous tense.
Direct speech: The little boy said, “I was looking for my sister.”
Indirect speech: Little boy said that he had been looking for his sister.
The auxiliaries shall, will, can and may change into should, would, could and might respectively.
Direct speech: Raman said, “I will play the match.”
Indirect speech: Raman said that he would play the match.
Conditions when Tense does not change even if reporting verb in past tense:
Past perfect tense in the reported speech does not change. It remains the same.
Direct speech: She said, “I had fulfilled my promise.”
Indirect speech: She said that she had fulfilled her promise.
Past perfect continuous tense remains unchanged.
Direct speech: She said,”She had been preparing for the exam since last week.”
Indirect speech: She said that she had been preparing for the exam since last week.
Simple present tense remains unchanged under the following conditions.
1. Universal Truths:
Direct speech: The sage said, “Man is mortal.”
Indirect speech: The sage said that man is mortal.
2. Scientific Facts:
Direct speech: The teacher said. “Heat melts ice.”
Indirect speech: The teacher said that heat melts ice.
Direct speech: The Mahatma said. “ Truth always wins.”
Indirect speech: The Mahatma said that truth always wins.
4. Habitual Facts:
Direct speech: The wife said, “My husband never smokes.”
Indirect speech: The wife said that her husband never smokes.
Change in Personal Pronouns
Rule 1: Pronouns of the first person ( I,my,we,us,our,ours) change according
to the subject of the reporting verb.
Direct speech: He said. “ I am singing a song.”
Indirect speech: He said that he was singing a song.
Direct speech: You said, “ We shall start this project next year.”
Indirect speech: You said that you would start that project the following year.
Direct speech: I said, “ My Job is complete.”
Indirect speech : I said that my job was complete.
Rule 2: Pronouns of the second person ( you, your, yours) in the reported speech change
according to the object of the reporting verb.
1. Direct speech: My mother said to me. “ You have to bring some milk.”
Indirect speech: My mother told me that I had to bring some milk.
2. Direct speech: I said to her. “ Your friend had sent you a massage.”
Indirect speech: I told her that her friend had sent her a message.
3. Direct speech: Sheena said, “ I will punish you.”
Indirect speech: Sheena said that she would punish me.
Rule 3: Pronouns of the third person ( he, she, it, they) in the reported speech remains unchanged in the reported speech.
Direct speech: I said to you, “ His sister is a very good singer.”
Indirect speech: I told You that his sister is a very good singer.
3. Change in Words showing Nearness of Time and Place
While changing a sentence from direct into indirect speech, the following words showing
nearness are changed into words showing distance:
today – that day
this – that
ago – before
tonight – that night
now – then
these – those
here – there
yesterday – the day before/the previous day
tomorrow – the next day/the following day
last week – the week before/the previous week
last year – the year before/the previous year
next week – the following week
next year – the following year
day before yesterday : two days ago.
Let’s see some examples:
Direct speech: He said, “I will stay here where I stayed yesterday.
Indirect speech: He said that he would stay there where he had stayed the
Change in Interrogative Sentences
Rule 1: If the reported speech is an interrogative sentence, the reporting verb say/said changed into ask/ asked inquire of/inquired of, questioned to know/interrogated etc.
The question mark (?) at the end of the direct speech is replaced by a full stop (.) in
the indirect speech. And, the conjunction
if or whether is used if the reported speech starts with a helping verb or a modal.
Direct speech: She said to her servant, “ Have you seen my file?”
Indirect speech: She asked her servant if he had seen her file.
Direct speech : The manager said to me, “ Will you join next week?”
Indirect speech : The manager asked me if I would join the following week.
Rule 2: Change of word order:
The word order in an interrogative sentence is as follows:
Helping verb + Subject +Verb followed by a question mark.
But, when a question is changed from direct to indirect, the word order
becomes as follows:
Subject+Helping verb + Main verb.
Direct speech: The police officer said, “How will you go alone?”
Indirect speech: The police officer asked how she would go alone.
Change in Imperative Sentences
Imperative sentences are those which express an order, a threat, a request, or an advice. They generally start with the first form of the verb. The subject is understood, i.e. subject
is not mentioned clearly.
1. Bring some water (order)
2. Visit the doctor, you look pale. (advice)
3. Go away or face the consequences. (warning)
4. Please help us(request)
Rule 1: When an imperative sentence is changed from direct to indirect speech,
the reporting verb is changed to
order/command/advice/threat and the main verb in
reported speech is put in the infinitive (to+v1).
Direct speech : He said to me,” Show the paper.”
Indirect speech: He ordered me to show the paper.
The boy said, “Please forgive my faults.”
Rule 2: In imperative sentence that begin with let, the reporting verb changes as follows:
1. In ‘let us’ type sentences, a suggestion or a proposal is presented. Therefore
reporting verb changes to
suggest/propose and let is replaced by should.
Direct speech: He said, “ Let us start our journey now.”
Indirect speech: He suggested that they should start their journey then.
2. In Let+ noun/pronoun/(expect
us) type sentences that express advice/permission or command the reporting verb changes to advised/instructed, ordered/commanded/requested or ‘ might be allowed’ to.
Direct speech: I said, “Let me have a day off.”
Indirect speech: I requested him to
let me have a day off.
Indirect speech: I requested him that I
might be allowed to have a day off.
Change in Exclamatory Sentences
Rule 1: Exclamatory sentences are changed into assertive sentences when converting
from direct to indirect speech.
Rule 2: The reporting verb ‘ said‘ is changed to ‘ exclaimed/applauded/expressed surprise‘ etc.
Rule 3: The conjunction ‘that’ is used to connect reporting clause and reported speech.
Rule 4: Exclamation mark (!) is replaced with a full stop.
Direct speech : I said, “ Wow! What a wonderful scene.”
Indirect speech: I exclaimed with wonder that it was a wonderful scene.
Direct speech : He said, “ Alas! I have lost all.”
Indirect speech: He exclaimed with sorrow that he had lost all.
All Chapters of English Grammar