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Understanding Reported Speech: Meaning and Examples

What is reported speech and where do we use it?

Understanding Reported Speech: Meaning and Examples || English Medium

While communicating in English, there are a lot of instances wherein we have to repeat what has already been said by someone else or an incident for that matter.

It is in such situations that we make use of reported speech.

But do you know how to report an incident or a statement?

English Medium will guide you through the journey of types of speeches in the English Language. 

Reported Speech: Explanation

When do we use reported speech? 

There are a lot of situations when people say something that needs to be reported further; for example, “I’m going to the cinema tonight”. Now, later, maybe we want to tell someone else what the first person said. It is in such a case when reported speech comes into use.

Direct and indirect speech can be a source of confusion for English learners. Let’s first define the terms, then look at how to talk about what someone said, and how to convert speech from direct to indirect or vice-versa.

You can answer the question of ‘What did they say?’ in the following two ways:

  • by repeating the words spoken (direct speech)
  • by reporting the words spoken (indirect or reported speech).

Direct Speech

Direct speech repeats, or quotes, the exact words that were spoken. When we use direct speech in writing, we place the words spoken between quotation marks (” “) without making any changes in these words. 

When we want to describe what someone said, one option is to use direct speech. We use direct speech when we simply repeat what someone says, putting the phrase between speech marks. For example:

  • Nikhil came in and said, “I’m really tired.”
  • She said, “What time will you be home?” and I said, “I don’t know! “

Indirect Speech

When we want to report what someone said without speech marks and without necessarily using exactly the same words, we can use indirect speech (also called reported speech). 

Reported or indirect speech is usually used to talk about the past, so we normally change the tense of the words spoken. We use reporting verbs like ‘say’, ‘tell’, ‘ask’, and we may use the word ‘that’ to introduce the reported words. Inverted commas are not used. For example:

  • Direct Speech: He said, “I saw her.” 

Indirect Speech: He said that he had seen her.

  • Direct Speech: “I have a new car.”

Indirect Speech: He said he had a new car.

“That” may be omitted:

She told him that she was happy. OR She told him she was happy.

Rules of Reported Speech

Have a look at the rules now:

  • Use of conjunction ‘that’ before the indirect statement

Use of conjunction ‘that’ before the indirect statement except in case of imperative sentences and exclamatory sentences.

For example, Hari said that he was very tired then. 

It is often omitted in case of verbs such as says, think, agree, promise, mention, notice, etc.

  • Verb ‘am’ changed to ‘was’

If the reporting verb is in Present or Future Tense, the tense of the verb in the reported speech is not changed.

For example:

He says “I am busy”.

He says that he is busy.

She will say “I was busy.”

She will say that she was busy.

  • The adverb ‘now’ changed to ‘then’

If the reporting verb is in the Past Tense, the tense of the verb in the reported speech is also changed into one of the forms of the past tense 

For example:

He said, “I play football every evening”.

He said he played football every evening.


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