The 4 rules for Reported speech in English

The 4 rules for Reported speech in EnglishThe 4 rules for Reported speech in English. Reported speech, also called indirect speech, is what happens when we are telling someone about what another person said.

Here is an example of direct and reported speech:

Direct speech: I don’t like this party.
Reported or indirect speech: He said (that) he didn’t like the party.

When changing direct speech into reported speech, there are four rules you need to consider:

Reported speech rule #1: changing pronouns

If the speaker uses a pronoun that does not work if reported by you, it needs to be changed. For example:

Direct speech

“I don’t like homework,” he said.

“My mum told me to study,” she said.

Reported or indirect speech

He said (that) he didn’t like homework.

She said (that) her mum told her to study.

Reported speech rule #2: changing locations

A change of place between when the conversation was held and when it was reported may mean that the ‘place’ words need changing.

Direct speech > Reported or indirect speech

For example:

“I don’t like it here, he said. – reported from somewhere else – He said (that) he didn’t like it there.

This party is boring,” he said. – reported from somewhere else – He said (that) the party was boring.

“My mum told me to come home,” she said. > She said (that) her mum told her to go home.

“You should spend the weekend here,” he said. > He said (that) I should spend the weekend there.

Reported speech rule #3: changing timing

NOTE: imagine that the speech below is being reported one month later than the direct speech.

Direct speech >> Reported or indirect speech

“I met her this morning,” she said. >> She said (that) she had met her that morning.

“I can see you now,” the teacher said. >> The teacher said (that) he could see me then.

“I changed jobs a month ago,” John said. >> John said (that) he had changed jobs the month before.

“I’ll see you next week,” the doctor said. >> The doctor said (that) she would see me the following week.

“We’ll tell you tomorrow,” they said. >> They said (that) they would tell me the following / the next day.

Reported speech rule #4: changing the tense

Often you will need to change the tense from the direct speech. The list below shows the common changes between tenses.

Direct speechReported speech

Present simple changes to past simple: “It is lovely!” she said. – She said (that) it was lovely.

Present continuous changes to past continuous: “I am studying,” she said. – She said (that) she was studying.

Present perfect changes to past perfect: “I have finished,” she said.She said (that) she had finished.

Present perfect continuous changes to past perfect continuous: “I’ve been cooking,” she said. – She said (that) she had been cooking.

Past simple changes to the past perfect: “I saw Jim at work,” she said. – She said (that) she had seen Jim at work.

Past perfect doesn’t change: “I had already missed the bus,” she said. – She said (that) she had already missed the bus.

Past perfect continuous doesn’t change: “I had been waiting for 10 minutes,” she said. – She said (that) she had been waiting for 10 minutes.

Will changes to would: “I will see you later,” she said. – She said (that) she would see me later.

Can changes to could: “I can help,” she said. – She said (that) she could help.

Must changes to had to: “I must go,” she said. – She said (that) she had to go.

Shall changes to should: “What shall we do today?” she said. – She asked what we should do that day.

May changes to might: “I may have a day off today,” she said. – She said (that) she might have a day off that day.

Like this page? Please share it!
  • 2.7K
  • 54
  • 2
  • 9
  • 5
  •  
  •