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How to use Reported Speech

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We use reported speech when we want to repeat what someone had previously said.

Let's look at the difference between direct speech and reported speech:

Direct Tomie said = 'I am tired.'

Reported Speech = 'Tomie said (that) she was tired.'

In reported speech we need to use the past tense form of the verb. In direct speech the present tense is used. As you can see, in the above sentence 'am' changes to 'was' when we use reported speech.

changing to the past tense to make reported speech

Here are some of the important verb changes we use when making reported speech:

am becomes was

Direct John: 'I am going.'
Reported: 'John said that he was going.'

is becomes was

Direct John: 'She is tall.'
Reported: 'John said that she was tall.'

do becomes did

Direct John: 'I always do my homework.'
Reported: 'John said that he always did his homework.'

does becomes did

Direct John: 'My mother does the cleaning.'
Reported: 'John said that his mother did the cleaning.'

have becomes had

Direct John: 'I have your number.'
Reported: 'John said that he had my number.'

has becomes had

Direct John: 'He has caught a cold.'
Reported: 'John said that he had caught a cold.'

go becomes went

Direct John: 'I go shopping on Sunday.'
Reported: 'John said that he went shopping on Sunday.'

will becomes would

Direct John: 'I will call Frank.'
Reported: 'John said that he would call Frank.'

can becomes could

Direct John: 'I can ride a horse.'
Reported: 'John said that he could ride a horse.'

want becomes wanted

Direct John: 'I want a girlfriend.'
Reported: 'John said that he wanted a girlfriend.'

When not to change the verb tense

When direct speech uses the past tense we do not need to make a change:

Direct John: 'I broke my arm.'
Reported: 'John said that he broke his arm.'

It is also OK to change the past tense to the past perfect:

Direct John: 'I broke my arm.'
Reported: 'John said that he had broken his arm.'

using reported speech for questions

So far we have looked at using 'said' in reported speech. When a question is asked we do not use 'said'. Instead we use 'asked'.
We also need to use an interrogative (wh- word) or if / whether.
Take a look at the examples:

questions using interrogatives

Direct John: 'What is your name?'
Reported: 'John asked me what my name was.'

Direct John: 'Where does she live?'
Reported: 'John asked me where she lived.'

questions using if / whether

Direct John: 'Does he play golf?'
Reported: 'John asked if he played golf.'
Reported: 'John asked whether he played golf.'

using reported speech for requests

As we have seen, 'said' is used for statements and 'asked' is used for requests. We use 'told' for requests and 'to' before the clause:

Direct John: 'Go home'
Reported: 'John told me to go.'

Direct John: 'Stop crying'
Reported: 'John told me to stop crying.'

using suggestions in reported speech

When someone gives us advice in direct speech we use 'suggested' or 'recommended' in reported speech:

Direct John: 'You should take a holiday'
Reported: 'John suggested that I took a holiday.'

Direct John: 'You should take a holiday'
Reported: 'John recommended that I took a holiday.'

For stronger language we can use 'insist' or 'demand':

Direct John: 'You must see a doctor.'
Reported: 'John insisted that I saw a doctor.'
Reported: 'John demanded that I saw a doctor.'

  • 'My brothers are taller than me.'

  • 'I will see you soon.'

  • 'I have a cold.'

  • 'I know the way.'

  • 'He lost his phone.'

  • 'Do you want a coffee?'

  • 'Are you Simon?'

  • 'Why do you like Jazz?'

  • 'Bring your ball.'

  • 'You must come to my party.'