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summary

- WHAT IS
- CHANGE OF SITUATION
- PRONOUNS
- TENSES
- PRESENT TRUTH
- REPORTING VERBS
- QUESTIONS
- IMPERATIVES
- FREE REPORTING

 

activities

Reported Speech
 
Level: Level: Medium

Reported Speech

When we report what somebody says or thinks, we can reproduce the exact words they say (or that we imagine they think) or we can express the idea inside our own sentence, changing everything necessary to make it fit:

Direct speech:

Peter said, “I am very happy here

Reported speech:

When we arrived to the river, Peter said that he was very happy in that place

                   
girls talking


As you can see, in reported speech we need to make some changes. Let’s see what those changes are.



CHANGE OF SITUATION

Words referring to place, time, etc. may need to be changed if we are reporting those words in a different place, time, etc.

- These are my children He said that those were his children
- Come here He told me to go there
- I’ll go tomorrow Yesterday he told me that he would come today

PRONOUNS

Some pronouns may need to change too.

- Give it to me He told me to give it to him
- You are nice He said that I was nice

TENSES

We usually report the words at a later time, so we need to change all the tenses back towards the past with logical common sense. These are the usual changes:

Present Past
I need help He said that he needed help

Present perfect Past perfect
They have moved away He said that they had moved away

Past Past perfect
She lived here He said that she had lived there

Will would
I will visit you later He said he would visit us later

And the same with other modal verbs such as Can could, May might, etc.
I can do it He said he could do it

The Past Perfect tense doesn’t change because it can’t move back any further:
They had left an hour before He said they had left an hour before

STILL TRUE IN THE PRESENT

When we are reporting a sentence, we usually make the mentioned changes in the verb tense even if what the speaker said is still true:

- I know that because I am a man He said he knew that because he was a man

We could say “because he is a man”, but it is more usual to change it to the past, even if he is still a man now.

REPORTING VERBS

In all the examples we have used “he said” or “he told me”. When the reporting verb is in the past we need to change all the things as we explained before, but if the reporting verb is in the present, present perfect or future, we don’t usually change anything unless it is necessary:

I’m happy here
He said he was happy there
He says that he is happy here
He has said that he is happy here
I will tell her that you are happy here


Besides SAY and TELL, there are many other verbs we may use to report: asked, ordered, thought, considered, felt, shouted, cried, explained, whispered, suggested, protested, etc.

- I can’t go because I’m too tired
- He explained that he couldn’t come because he was too tired

QUESTIONS

We only use inversion in direct questions, so in reported speech we use the normal order: subject + verb. Also, questions beginning with a verb use the connector IF (or WHETHER). The reporting verb is always "asked" or "wanted to know".

Who are you? He asked me who I was
What's your name? He wanted to know what my name was
Is she gone? He asked me if she was gone
Have you got a pound? He wanted to know if I had a pound
Do you like her? He asked me whether I liked her

IMPERATIVES

When we report an imperative we use an infinitive. Reporting verbs: told, ordered, asked.

Run faster! He told me to run faster
Be quiet He ordered us to be quiet
Don’t move He asked us not to move


FREE REPORTING

Native speakers are not worried about all these rules and equivalences, they just want to report the original idea correctly, so they feel more free to explain that idea with their own words. You can find things like this:

- Don’t you like it? Come on, take one, it’s really nice. I made it myself. Please... the little piece.

- She was surprised that I was not taking a piece of cake. She probably felt a bit offended because she explained that she had made it herself and she obviously felt very pleased about it, so she insisted again and suggested I should take the smaller piece. I had to accept.

 
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