Narration: Reported to Reporting Speech

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Narration: Reported to Reporting Speech

David said, “I’m baking a chocolate cake for you.’’

David said that he was baking a chocolate cake for me.

If we consider these two sentences, we might notice that both of them convey the same message, but there is a difference if we look closely. In the first sentence, I am conveying the activities of David in his (D) own words without changing it; it is called direct speech or we can say reporting speech. In the second sentence, I am using my own words to convey the activities of the speaker (D) to the audience. This we can say indirect speech or reported speech.

There are some major rules to change these speeches from direct to indirect. We need to consider the tense, pronoun, words that describe time, place, distance, types of sentences, etc. let’s have a glance at the following rules:

1. Pronoun:

In an indirect speech the pronoun changes according to the speaker whether s/he is referring himself/herself or a third person. We can make this clearer if we learn this with some examples:

  • Direct: George said, “I cannot be with you.”
  • Indirect: George said that he could not be with me.
  • Direct: I said, “Leave me
  • Indirect: I ordered to leave me alone. (Note: in this sentence the speaker is same, so there is no change in the indirect speech.)
  • Direct: They said, “We will be partying tonight.”
  • Indirect: They said that they would be partying that night.
  • Direct: I told George, “You should stay.”
  • Indirect: I told George that he should stay.
  • Direct: She asked, “How are you doing today?”
  • Indirect: She asked me how I was doing that day.
  • Direct: Robert said, “Can you pull me up?”
  • Indirect: Robert asked if I could pull him up.

2. Type of sentences:

a. Reporting Interrogative sentences:

I) If there is a yes-no question in the direct speech, then the reported speech will start with whether/if and the reported clause form will be (subject+verb).


  • Direct: Peter said, “Are you from Australia?”
  • Indirect: Peter asked if I was from Australia.
  • Direct: Tom asked, “Do you want to sit here?”
  • Indirect: Tom asked whether I wanted to sit there.

II) In indirect speech questions starting with who, whom, when, how, where and what the wh-word would be the subject or the object of the reported clause:


  • Direct: Brad said, “Who will come with me?”
  • Indirect: Brad asked who would go with him.
  • Direct: Tina said, “What will be the charges?”
  • Indirect: Tina inquired what the charges would be.
  • Direct: I said the man, “Where is the hotel?”
  • Indirect: I asked the man where the hotel was.
  • Direct: Mother said, “How is the chicken?”
  • Indirect: Mother asked me how the chicken was.

b. Reporting statement sentences:

In a statement speech, we will use ‘that’ before the reported statement and the reported verb will be ‘told’ (followed by an object) or ‘said’ (will not be followed by an object).


  • Direct: Edward said, “I like the book.”
  • Indirect: Edward said that he liked the book.
  • Direct: Alice said, “I want you to sing.”
  • Indirect: Alice told me to sing.

c. Reporting imperative sentences:

We will use ‘to’ as joining clause before the reported command or request, and the reported verb will be changed according to the moods of the sentence (e.g., ordered, requested, urged, advised, forbade or begged)


  • Direct: The man said, “Please, bring me a chair.”
  • Indirect: The man requested to bring him a chair.
  • Direct: The officer said, “Fall back!”
  • Indirect: The officer ordered to fall back.
  • Direct: Mother said, “Listen to your elders.”
  • Indirect: Mother advised me to listen to my elders.
  • Direct: Mr. Murphy said, “Do not go near the house.”
  • Indirect: Mr. Murphy forbade going near the house.

d. Reporting exclamatory sentences:

To change direct exclamatory speeches to the indirect one we need to replace interjection (hurrah, wow, alas, oh, etc.) with joining clause ‘that’ and the exclamatory wh-words (what, how) will be replaced by ‘very’ before the adjective in the reported clause.


  • Direct: Clare said, “Hurrah! Barcelona won the match!”
  • Indirect: Clare exclaimed with joy that Barcelona had won the match.
  • Direct: I said, “Alas! My pet died.”
  • Indirect: I exclaimed with grief that my pet had died.

3. Tense:

Usually, the present changes to past tense while we change direct speech to indirect.  

a. Simple present tense to simple past tense:


  • Direct: She said, “I work in New York Times.”
  • Indirect: She said that she worked in New York Times.
  • Direct: Jim said, “Bill loves to drink Wine.”
  • Indirect: Jim said that Bill loved to drink Wine.

Exceptions: If the content is still true or happening then we do not need to change the tense in the reported speech. Like;

  • Direct: She said, “I live in Paris.”
  • Indirect: She said that she lives in Paris.

b. Present continuous to past continuous tense


  • Direct: Mother said, “Bob is taking a nap.”
  • Indirect: Mother said that Bob was taking a nap.
  • Direct: He asked, “Are they writing the paper?”
  • Indirect: He asked if they were writing the paper.

c. Present perfect to past perfect tense:


  • Direct: Nicolas said, “I have made a donut.”
  • Indirect: Nicolas said that he had made a donut.
  • Direct: The teacher said, “The dates have been decided.”
  • Indirect: The teacher announced that the dates had been decided.

d. Present perfect continuous to past perfect continuous tense:


  • Direct: Mr. Parson asked, “How long have you been working here?”
  • Indirect: Parson asked me how long I had been working there?”
  • Direct: The boy said, “I have been waiting for my mother since morning.”
  • Indirect: The boy said that he had been waiting for his mother since morning.

e. Simple past to past perfect tense


  • Direct: Robert Langdon said, “My mother gave me the Mickey watch.”
  • Indirect: Robert Langdon said that his mother had given the Mickey watch to him.
  • Direct: The teacher said, “Shakespeare’s playing company built Globe Theatre in 1599.”
  • Indirect: The teacher said that Shakespeare’s playing company had built the Globe Theatre in 1599.

f. Past Continuous to Past Perfect Continuous tense;


  • Direct: Jenny said, “Marlow was leaving Belgium.”
  • Indirect: Jenny told me that Marlow had been leaving Belgium.
  • Direct: Maria said, “I was dialing your number, and you called.”
  • Indirect: Maria said that she had been dialing my number and I had called.

Note: If two sentences are combined with a conjunction, and both sentences have different tenses then we need to change the tenses of both sentences according to the rule.

g. Past perfect tense does not change in the indirect speech;


  • Direct: Alex said, “I had stopped to visit you.”
  • Indirect: Alex said that he has stopped to visit me.
  • Direct: She said, “Greece had tried to uphold their economy.”
  • Indirect: She said that Greece had tried to uphold their economy.

h Simple future tense to present conditional;


  • Direct: Smith said, “My parents will be there at 9am.”
  • Indirect: Smith said that his parents would be there at 9am.
  • Direct: Barbara asked, “Will you be my partner in the coming Summer Ball?”
  • Indirect: Barbara asked if I would be her partner in the coming Summer Ball.
  • Direct: John said, “I will be doing my CELTA next year.”
  • Indirect: John said that he would be doing his CELTA next year. (Continuous conditional)

4. Modals:

a. Modal verbs like shall, will, can, may change in reported speech. Let’s follow some examples:

  • Direct: John said, “I will be there.”
  • Indirect: John promised that he would be there.
  • Direct: The boy said, “May I come in?”
  • Indirect: The boy asked if he could come in. (note: may becomes could when it implies permission)
  • Direct: “I may not call you.” Said Boby.
  • Indirect: Boby said that she might not call me.
  • Direct: “I shall practice more.” said Barbara.
  • Indirect: Barbara said that she would practice more.
  • Direct: Joseph said, “Shall I buy the car?”
  • Indirect: Joseph asked if he should buy the car.

Note: shall becomes should if it implies a question.

b. Modal verbs like could, should, need, must, might, used to do not change in reported speech.


  • Direct: she said, “I would not be the victim.”
  • Indirect: she said that she would not be the victim.
  • Direct: David said, “You need to repair the car.”
  • Indirect: David said that I need to repair the car.
  • Direct: Mary said, “I used to love dancing.”
  • Indirect: Mary said she used to love dancing.

5. Adverbs and demonstratives:

Indirect speech differs from the direct speech’s time and place. When someone is conveying the message to the listener, the speaker might not be on the same day or place. So the demonstrative (this, that etc.) and the adverb of time and place (here, there, today, now, etc.) change. We can look into the following chart for the usual changes:

direct indirect
now Then/at that moment
today That day
Tomorrow The next day
Yesterday The day before
come go
Bring take
this that


  • Direct: I said, “Simon read Wordsworth yesterday.”
  • Indirect: I said that Simon read Wordsworth the day before.
  • Direct: Mother said, “Come home now.”
  • Indirect: Mother ordered me to go home at that moment.
  • Direct: “Bring the money with you.” Said Jessie.
  • Indirect: Jessie demanded to take the money with me.
  • Direct: The lovers said, “We will meet here tomorrow.”
  • Indirect: The lovers promised to meet there the next day.



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