Reported Speech (Rick Shur, Page of )

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Reported Speech

(Rick Shur, Page of )

Direct speech is speech inside quotation marks. It is used to repeat the exact words that somebody said:
My mother told me, "You have to work harder in school, or you'll fail."
While this is okay for sharing stories with friends, this is not the best way to report a conversation, either in speech or in writing. It shows a better education to use reported speech:
My mother told me that I had to work harder or that I would fail.

Rules for Forming Reported Speech

1. When reporting a statement (not a question), we generally use that:
In short sentences, we often drop that, but in writing it is a good idea to use it all the time, even for short sentences!
NOTE: In reported speech, we repeat that after and, but and or.

NOTE: There are no commas before or after and, but or or in reported speech.

NOTE: There are no commas before or after that!
She said that he was hungry and that he wanted to eat soon.

He told me that he had never been to France but that he wanted to go.

They promised us that they would tell the truth.

2. When reporting a question, we use if for yes/no questions or the appropriate question words (who, what, where, when, how, why) for information questions:
NOTE: You never use that when reporting a question!

NOTE: You never use a question mark (?) when reporting a question!

He asked me if I was going to the office party. ("Are you going to the...")

He asked me when I would call him. ("When will you call me?")

He asked me how much my rent was. ("How much is your rent?")
(See Part 9 for a full explanation of reporting questions.)
3a. The following verbs must be used with an indirect object:

(There is no to before these indirect objects!)

told He told me that he was hungry.

informed We informed her that the store was closed.

reminded He reminded the staff that the meeting was at 8 PM.

3b. The following verbs may be used with an indirect object, but the indirect object is optional (up to you).

(There is no to before these indirect objects!)

He asked his wife why she was so angry.

OR He asked why she was so angry.

asked We asked [her] where her husband was.

answered He answered [me] that he couldn't help.

promised She promised [him] that she would stay.

3c. The following verbs need to before the indirect object. For any verb that needs to before the indirect object, the indirect object is optional:
He said to me that he was the chief of police.

OR He said that he was the chief of police.

said He said [to his wife] that he was hungry.

explained We explained [to her] why we had been late.

exclaimed She exclaimed [to the boy] that she was furious.

complained They complained [to us] that the room was too cold.

4. In English we report commands, orders, requests and suggestions to other people in a five-part format:
1 2 3 4 5

Somebody somebody else

She told her daughter to eat.

We asked them to help us.

The officer ordered me not to run.

He advised the student not to quit.

Mr. and Mrs. Jones wanted their son to study.

(1) (2) (3) (4) (5)



not to

do something

(a verb in the base form)

5. If the direct speech was in the present tense, the reported speech must be in the past tense:
She said, "I am an actress, and I also sing."

She said that she was an actress and that she also sang.

6. If the direct speech was in the past tense, the reported speech must be in the past perfect

(the "past before a past" form, had + past participle):

He said, "I was scared when I fell down the stairs."

He said that he had been scared when he had fallen down the stairs.

7. Some x-words change from direct to reported speech:
can/could I asked him, "Can I see your sister?"

I asked him if I could see his sister.

shall/should She asked, "Shall I call you later?"

She asked if she should call me later.

will/would He told them, "I'll help you tomorrow."

He told them that he would help them the following day.

may/might She said, "I may study tonight."

She said that she might study that night.

must/had to He said, "I must see a doctor soon."

He said that he had to see a doctor soon.

8. Some verbs and verb combinations have no change in the reported form. Don't change the past perfect (had + p.p.), the unreal (present or past), or any combination with could, should, would, or might.
past perfect He said, "My father had already died before I graduated."

He said that his father had already died before he had graduated.

present He said, "I would help the homeless if I were mayor."

unreal He said that he would help the homeless if he were mayor.

past She said, "I would have given the answer if I had known it."

unreal She said that she would have given the answer if she had known it.

could I said, "I could run faster when I was young."

I said that I could run faster when he had been young.

should He said, "You should get married."

He said that I should get married.

should have She said, "I should have worn a better dress yesterday."

She said that she should have worn a better dress the day before.

might I said, "I might go to the Statue of Liberty."

I said that I might go to the Statue of Liberty.

Rules for Reporting Questions
9a. The normal form for asking a direct question is [W] X S V:
(question word) (auxiliary) (subject) {verb) [a base form, ing form, or past participle]
[W] X S V
1. Where is your father working these days?

2. Are they going to the picnic?

3. Why do you talk so much?

4. Does your brother eat meat?

5. How much did that book cost?

6. Have you seen my textbook?

9b. In reported speech, a question is reported with the order W S [X] V.

  1. A question with is changes to was.

  2. A question with are changes to was/were.

  3. A question with do changes to the simple past.

  4. A question with does changes to the simple past.

  5. A question with did changes to the past perfect (had + past participle).

  6. The present perfect also changes to the past perfect.

  7. The question word (under the W) is if for all yes/no (XSV) questions.

  8. There are no commas and no question marks in reported questions.

9c. Here are the reported speech forms of the questions in 9a (above):
W S [X] V

1. He asked me where my father was working those days.

2. He asked me if they were going to the picnic.

3. He asked me why I talked so much.

4. He asked me if my brother ate meat.

5. He asked me how much that book had cost.

6. He asked me if I had seen his textbook.

Expressions That Change in Reported Speech
10. Certain expressions must change in the reported form of speech:

this that

these those

here there

tomorrow the following day or

the next day

next month the following month or

the next month

today that day

tonight that night

this afternoon that afternoon

yesterday the day before or

the previous day

last year the year before or

the previous year

last night the night before or

the previous night

The word now does not have to change, but it can change to then. Most native English speakers don't change now.

He said, "I was sick yesterday, but now I'm all right."
He said that he had been sick the day before but that now he was all right.

He said that he had been sick the day before but that then he was all right.

On the following, and last, page of this handout, there is a dialogue. Try to report the conversation.

Dad's Not Coming Home for Dinner

Instructions: Change the dialog to the reported form. Tell what each person did and said.
Mrs. Cantor: (comes into the living room) What are you doing, Andy?

Andy: (looks up) I'm fixing my radio.

Mrs. Cantor: Where's your sister?

Andy: She's in the kitchen making a sandwich.

Mrs. Cantor: (runs into the kitchen) Dolores!

Don't eat anything before dinner!

Dolores: (quickly swallows a piece of cake) Mom, I'm starving!

Mrs. Cantor: Have some cheese, but don't eat the cake.

Dolores: There isn't any cheese left. I ate it yesterday.

Mrs. Cantor: (speaks angrily) Go to the store and buy some more because

I'm making lasagna tonight.

Dolores: Okay, I will. I'll go when I finish my homework.

Andy: (enters the kitchen) Mom, when's Dad coming home?

Dolores: He's working late tonight, remember?

Mrs. Cantor: I completely forgot!

Andy: Don't worry, Mom. He doesn't like your lasagna anyway.

Reported Speech Verbs
ask  to get information or to make a request for someone to do something (He asked her...)

beg- to ask strongly and emotionally for someone to do something (She begged him...)

tell  to give information or to give a command (He told us....)

order  to give somebody a strong command (She ordered them....)

answer  to respond (We answered [him]...)

respond  to answer (He responded [to her]...)

remind  to tell somebody something that he or she might have forgotten (He reminded me...)

exclaim  to state information with great emotion (not used for giving commands) (He exclaimed [to her]...)

explain  to state information that will help somebody understand something (She explained [to him]...)

Reported Speech Action Verbs (These verbs are often used to report short exchanges.)
thank- He thanked her. (He said thank you to her.)

greet- She greeted him. (She said hello to him.)

agree- He agreed. (He said that somebody was right or that he would do what somebody wanted.)

refuse- She refused. (She said that she wouldn't obey somebody or that she wouldn't do somebody a favor.)

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