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Learning the Direct and Indirect Speech

Updated on April 7, 2015

Direct and Indirect Speech

As we all know quoting exact words of the speaker is called as “Direct Speech” and Reporting what the speaker said without quoting the exact words is called as “Indirect Speech”. Quoted and reported speech, also referred to as direct and indirect speech, is frequently used, both in writing and in everyday speaking. So who uses the Quoted and Reported speech? Well, journalists, authors, and everyone use quotes while relating an interesting story use Direct speech. Reported speech on the other hand is found in business writings, journalistic writings and everyday speech and talking.

Examples of Direct and Indirect Speech
Examples of Direct and Indirect Speech

Examples and Rules of Reported Speech

Direct speech shows somebody’s exact words in Quotation marks (“….”)the words are the EXACT words that a person used.

Example of Direct/ Quoted speech:

  • John asked, “Where are you going?”
  • Maria replied, “I’m going home.”

Indirect or Reported speech shows somebody’s ideas or words without using Quotation marks. The speaker usually paraphrases the words of the other speaker’s exact words.

Example of Indirect/ Reported speech:

  • John asked Maria where she was going.
  • Maria said she was going home.

All verbs in the Direct Speech or the spoken words go one step into the past when rewritten as Reported speech. When the reporting verb is in the past tense, all present tenses in the quoted speech will change into the consistent past tenses. Use of the word “that” is generally optional in reported speech Consider this example: ‘Joshua said he was eating’ can also be written as ‘Joshua said that he was eating.’ To write questions, interrogations, commands, orders, exclamations or expletives are not easy to write into reported speech therefore introductory verbs are used to show if orders, queries, or exclamation are reported.

When a verb tense is changed into reported speech grammatical changes must often be made acceptable to keep the original meaning of what was said. Changes in verb tenses, pronouns and adjectives are the most common of place and time. In a Formal reported speech, the tenses go back in time one tense Example, “dance” becomes “danced” and “ danced” becomes “had danced”.

Let’s consider the below sentences for a much more clear understanding of both the speeches.

  • Susan asked, “Can you meet me at Starbuck’s Coffee shop today?”
  • Susan asked if I could meet her at Starbuck’s Coffee shop today.
  • Chris said, “I am going to ride my motorbike to school today.”
  • Chris said he was going to ride his motorbike to school today.
  • Marine said, “I can teach you how to edit videos.”
  • Marine said she could teach me how to edit videos.
  • Rachel said, “I forgot to call my dad.”
  • Rachel said she had forgotten to call her dad.

Rules for Reported Speech

  • Use that when reporting a statement not a question.
  • If the direct speech was in the present tense, the reported speech must be in the past tense
  • If the direct speech was in the past tense, the reported speech must be in the past perfect
  • Some words change from direct to reported speech such as can/could, shall/should, will/would, may/might must/had.
  • Use if for yes/no questions or the suitable question words (who, what, where, when, how, why) for information questions

Example of Indirect/ Reported Speech:

  • John asked Maria where she was going.
  • Maria said she was going home.

All verbs in the Direct Speech or the spoken words go one step into the past when rewritten as Reported speech. When the reporting verb is in the past tense, all present tenses in the quoted speech will change into the consistent past tenses. Use of the word “that” is generally optional in reported speech Consider this example: ‘Joshua said he was eating’ can also be written as ‘Joshua said that he was eating.’ To write questions, interrogations, commands, orders, exclamations or expletives are not easy to write into reported speech therefore introductory verbs are used to show if orders, queries, or exclamation are reported.

When a verb tense is changed into reported speech grammatical changes must often be made acceptable to keep the original meaning of what was said. Changes in verb tenses, pronouns and adjectives are the most common of place and time. In a Formal reported speech, the tenses go back in time one tense Example, “dance” becomes “danced” and “ danced” becomes “had danced”.

Let’s consider the below sentences for a much more clear understanding of both the speeches.

  • Susan asked, “Can you meet me at Starbuck’s Coffee shop today?”
  • Susan asked if I could meet her at Starbuck’s Coffee shop today.
  • Chris said, “I am going to ride my motorbike to school today.”
  • Chris said he was going to ride his motorbike to school today.
  • Marine said, “I can teach you how to edit videos.”
  • Marine said she could teach me how to edit videos.
  • Rachel said, “I forgot to call my dad.”
  • Rachel said she had forgotten to call her dad.


Rules for Reported Speech

  • Use that when reporting a statement not a question.
  • If the direct speech was in the present tense, the reported speech must be in the past tense
  • If the direct speech was in the past tense, the reported speech must be in the past perfect
  • Some words change from direct to reported speech such as can/could, shall/should, will/would, may/might must/had.
  • Use if for yes/no questions or the suitable question words (who, what, where, when, how, why) for information questions

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