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How to Teach Reported Speech to ESL Students

Updated on March 19, 2017

Reported speech-Indirect Speech

Reported Speech
Reported Speech | Source

What is Reported Speech?

Reported speech is one form of speech that is used to communicate what someone has said using his/her original meaning but a different grammatical structure. The report maybe in the present or the past, depending on the time a person is reporting. The tenses may change and the person always changes to third person singular.

Usually the person who is reporting uses third person singular pronouns. Normally this type of speech is most commonly used in news reports when a journalist says,¨The president of such company said that they had positive results....¨ The president maybe changed to he or she; that´s what someone normally do when reporting something that someone else has said.

In Reported Speech (that) can be Omitted

Reported Speech
Reported Speech | Source

Who uses Reported Speech

Do you use reported speech?

See results

Direct vs Indirect Speech

Direct speech or quoted speech is spoken or written text that informs what someone has said in his/her original words enclosed in quotations. The words inside the quotation marks are the original words of the speaker as if he/she were speaking in the present tense.

If we want to report those words but in another tense, one would use the past tense. The original speaker maybe included or changed by a he or she. In this example the report shifted one tense in the past; from the present simple to the simple past.

Direct Speech
Direct Speech | Source

Introducing Reported Speech in an ESL Lesson

This is how I introduced reported speech in an ESL classroom. After teaching the students how to change tenses in reported speech, I wrote a couple of quotes from famous people on the whiteboard. I asked two students to come to the whiteboard and report the text in the quotes using reported speech and using the pertinent tenses and pronouns.

A gave each one of them two different colored markers, with which to write the changed words in the reported speech. All of the students in the classroom could help them figure out how to change the quotations into reported speech. At first, they had difficulty; however, on the second round of students, they were participating more at ease.

Changing Direct Speech to Reported Speech

Changing direct speech to reported speech
Changing direct speech to reported speech | Source

Practice Stage

I called out more students and changed the quotations each time. I diid this for a fifteen or twenty minutes, then I told them to write their own quote on a piece of paper , which they would exchange with another classmate who then would change the quote into reported speech.

By the time they finished this task, they had a better understanding of the grammar point.

The production Stage

To give them more practice with this grammar topic, I told them to record a family conversation and give the report on the next class. Reported speech is an ample English Grammar topic. I hope I was able to give you a brief introduction to it.

One important thing to remember is that almost any written or spoken words can be reported using all the tenses and changing some words, such as pronouns, verbs and time expressions.

The following is a list of the most common tenses and the way in which quoted expressions can be changed into reported speech.

Backshift of Tenses and use of Third Person Simple Pronouns

Direct Speech
Reported Speech
Simple present
"I´m hungry."
She said (that) she was hungry.
Present continuous
"I´m eating pizza."
He said (that) he was eating pizza.
Past simple
"I went to the movies yesterday."
He said (that) he had gone to the movies the day before.
Past continuous
"I was walking through the park yesterday."
She said (that) she had been walking through the park the day before.
Present perfect
"I haven´t visited Canada."
She said (that) she had not visited Canada.
Past perfect
"I had travelled the world before the age of 18."
She said (that) she had travelled the world before the age of 18.
Future with will
"I will visit you next month."
She said that she would visit me the following month.
With Modal Verbs
"I can jump very high."
He said that he could jump very high.
"I shall pay a visit to the doctor soon."
She said (that) she would pay a visit to the doctor soon.
"I must study hard for the exam."
He said (that) had to study hard for the exam.
These Modals do not Change
"I would go to the party if I can."
She said (that) she would go to the party if she could.
"I should finish my homework."
He said (that) he should finish his homework.
"I might attend the party."
He said (that he might attend the party.
"I could spent hours and hours playing when I was a child."
He said (that he could spend hours and hours playing when he was a child.
"Do you like ice cream.?"
She asked me if I liked ice cream.
She asked me whether I liked ice cream.
"Have you done your homework?"
He asked me if I had done my homework.
He asked me whether I had done my homework.
"Clean your room."
She told me to clean my room.
"Study hard for the exam."
She suggested that I study hard for the exam.


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