Explanations » B1 Grammar Explanations » Indirect speech – reported speech
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  • What is indirect speech or reported speech?

    When we tell people what another person said or thought, we often use reported speech or indirect speech. To do that, we need to change verb tenses (present, past, etc.) and pronouns (I, you, my, your, etc.) if the time and speaker are different. For example, present tenses become past, I becomes he or she, and my becomes his or her, etc.

    • Sally: I don’t have time.’ ⇒ Sally said that she didn’t have time. 
    • Peter: I am tired .’ ⇒ He said that he was tired. 

    Omission of that

    We often leave out that after reporting verbs like say, thinketc. 

    • She said she was late. (=She said that she was late.)
    • I thought I would get the job.  

    Say or tell?

    The most common verbs we use in reported speech are say and tell. We must pay attention here. We say tell somebody something and say something (to somebody).

    • They said me (that) they would help me. blank
    • They told me (that) they would help me. blank
    • He told (that) he didn’t have a car. blank
    • He said (that) he didn’t have a car. blank

    Tense changes in indirect speech

    Grammar chart illustrating the transformation of verb forms from direct to reported speech, including changes from present to past tense, and modal verbs to their past form equivalents.

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    When a person said something in the past, and now we tell somebody what that person said, the time is different, and for this reason, the verb tenses change. Look at a summary of these changes.

    Changes in expressions

    Grammar chart displaying changes in expressions of time when shifting from direct to reported speech, with side-by-side examples for terms like 'now', 'today', and 'tomorrow'.

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    There are adverbs or expressions of time and place that change when we report what someone says. Here you have a list.

    Questions and imperatives in indirect speech

    Grammar chart for B1 level illustrating how to report questions and imperatives, showing the transformation of direct questions into indirect speech and how to report commands and requests.

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    We use the normal order of words in reported questions: subject + verb. We don’t use an auxiliary verb like do or did.

    When we report an order or instruction, we use the form ask or tell someone to do something.

    Pronoun changes in indirect speech

    In reported or indirect speech, we must also pay attention to the use of pronouns. When a person tells us something, he or she uses the first person (I, me, my, we, us, our) to talk about himself or herself and the second person (you, your) to talk about us, the person listening. But when we tell someone else what that person said, we are going to use the third person (he, she, his, her, etc.) to talk about the speaker and the first person (I, me, my) to talk about ourselves, the listener.

    • I will help you.’ He said that he would help me. 
    • ‘That’s my pen.’ She said that it was her pen. 
    • I need your help.’ ⇒ She said that she needed my help.