What is Reported Speech?

Reported speech is used when we want to report back what somebody said. That is to say, to tell someone what you have been told. We usually use reporting verbs like “say” or “tell” in the sentence. To do this, we use direct speech or indirect speech.


  • Direct speech: ‘I like to learn new languages,’ said Daniel.
  • Indirect speech: Daniel says (that) he likes to learn new languages.

In this example, the present tense verb (like) stays the same, except for the change of the subject from “I” to “he”. We have the option of adding the word “that” in reported speech, which doesn’t change the meaning. 

In indirect speech, usually, we use a tense which is further back in the past rather than the original one from direct speech. This is called backshift. However, when we are reporting general truth or facts, we don’t need to change the tense in indirect speech.

More Examples:

  • Direct speech: ‘I go to the gym next to your house.’
  • Indirect speech: My friend told me that she goes to the gym next to my house.
  • Direct speech: ‘I travel a lot in my job,’ he said.
  • Indirect speech: He said (that) he traveled a lot in his job.
  • Direct speech: ‘We lived in France for five years.’
  • Indirect speech: She told me they had lived in Paris for five years.

As you can see, the tense backshifts one step to the past in indirect speech example. To help you understand this better, we are going to cover every tense with examples.

Tense Changes.

1- Reported Speech in the Present Tense:

When using the present tense in direct speech, the present simple becomes the past simple. The present continuous changes to past continuous. The present perfect changes to the past perfect in indirect speech.


  • Direct speech: ‘I like ice cream.’
  • Indirect speech: He said (that) he liked ice cream.
  • Direct speech: ‘I am living in Georgia.
  • Indirect speech: She said (that) she was living in Georgia.
  • Direct speech: ‘I have not seen The Titanic.’
  • Indirect speech: He said (that) he had not seen The Titanic.’

2- Reported Speech in the Past Tense:

When using the past tense in direct speech, past simple changes to past perfect. The past continuous changes to past perfect continuous in indirect speech.


  • Direct speech: ‘I wrote that book last year.’
  • Indirect speech: She said (that) she had written that book last year.
  • Direct speech: ‘It was raining all day.’
  • Indirect speech: He told me (that) it had been raining all day.

3- Reported Speech in the Past Perfect:

The past perfect doesn’t change in indirect speech doesn’t change.


  • Direct speech: ‘I had read everything about this topic.’
  • Indirect speech: She said (that) she had read everything about this topic.


When talking about questions in reported speech, the changes of tense remain the same as above. However, the words “say/said” or “tell/told” become “asked” in indirect speech. See the following example:


  • Direct speech: ‘Where is Tom?’
  • Indirect speech: She asked me where Tom was.

As you notice, the present simple verb “to be” in the direct question is inverted with the subject “Tom” in indirect speech. In addition, the tense is backshifted. Let’s see more examples:

Direct questionIndirect question
What are you doing?She asked me what I was doing.
Where do you live?He asked me where I lived.
Where is the police officer, please?He asked me where the police officer was.

To report ‘yes / no’ questions, we use ‘if’, and as usual the tense changes remain the same. Check out these examples:

Direct questionIndirect question
Do you like me?She asked me if I liked her.
Have you ever been to Paris?He asked me if I had ever been to Paris.
Are you living with him?He asked me if I was living with him.


We often want to report to our friends when someone asked us for favors in a polite way. We could say for example:


  • Direct speech: Close the window, please.
  • Or: Could you close the window, please?
  • Or: Would you mind closing the window, please?

To report requests like these all we have to do is use this formula:

Ask me + to + infinitive


  • Direct speech: Could you close the window, please.
  • Indirect speech: She asked me to close the window.

More Examples:

Direct requestIndirect request
Please help me.He asked me to help him.
Could you please hand me the book?She asked me to hand her the book.
Could you pass the salt, please?She asked me to pass the salt.
Can you pick up my son from school?She asked me to pick up her son from school.
Would you mind coming early today?She asked me to come early today.

The negative form of a request in reported speech is easy to make:


  • Direct speech: Please don’t be late.
  • Indirect speech: The teacher asked us not to be late.

Making Orders.

We form orders in reported speech the same way we do for request. The only difference is instead of using “asked,” we use “told”. See the following examples:

Direct orderIndirect order
Sit down!He told me to sit down.
Don’t worry!He told her not to worry.
Be on time!He told me to be on time.
Don’t smoke!He told us not to smoke.
Keep quiet!She told us to keep quiet.

Time Expressions.

We often change time expressions when moving from direct speech into reported speech:


  • Direct speech: I saw him today, she said.
  • Indirect speech: She said (that) she had seen him that day.
  • Direct speech: I saw him yesterday, she said.
  • Indirect speech: She said (that) she had seen him the day before.

Here’s a list of phrases of time in direct speech and their equivalent in reported speech:

Direct speechIndirect speech
TodayThat day
YesterdayThe day before
TomorrowThe next/following day
Day before yesterdayTwo days before
The day after tomorrowIn two days’ time/two days later
Next week/month/yearThe following week/month/year
Last week/month/yearThe previous week/month/year

Place and Demonstrative Expressions.

Here’s a list of phrases of place in direct speech and their equivalent in reported speech:

Direct questionIndirect question
I was born here.He told me he had been born there.

Demonstrative expressions in reported speech:

Direct questionIndirect question
This is my book.She said that was her book.
Direct questionIndirect question
These are my friends.He said those were her friends.
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