Stage 6 Stage 7
The most important thing to know about direct and indirect speech is that we use them to report what somebody has said. You can report what you said or what another person said. We usually do this when we haven´t heard what a person has said. For example if somebody is speaking in a group and one of the members of the group doesn´t hear what was said, they will ask another member of the group what the person said and this person will repeat the statement using either direct or indirect speech.
Direct speech is when we use the exact words of the speaker. For example if somebody says “I walk five miles every day”, we can repeat this by saying “he said, I walk five miles every day”. Another example is if somebody says “We are reading a very interesting book”, we can repeat this by saying “they said, we are reading a very interesting book”.
Notice that in the above examples of direct speech we are repeating what the speaker said by using exactly the same words. We don´t change the statement in anyway whatsoever. This is why we call it direct speech, because it is exact or direct.
When we want to report what the speaker has said by using indirect speech, we don´t use the exact words of the speaker. When we use indirect speech we move the tense of the verb one step into the past.
For example if the statement is in the present simple then it is moved one step back into the past and becomes the past simple. The present continuous becomes the past continuous, the present perfect becomes the past perfect etc…
If somebody says “I want to have a cup of coffee”, we can report what they said by saying he said that he wanted to have a cup of coffee. If a person says “They have eaten their dinner”, we can report what they said by saying she said that they had eaten their dinner.
If the verb is already in the past it can sometimes remain unchanged but sometimes we put it further into the past, which means that we use a past perfect tense.
For example if somebody says “they had books in their bags when they left the classroom last lesson”, we can report this statement by saying he said that they had books in their bags when they left the classroom last lesson. With this statement it is not necessary to move the tense of the verb further into the past because it is clear to the listener that the speaker used the past simple tense in the first place.
However if somebody says “I used too much salt with my dinner”, we should report this statement by moving the verb further into the past and saying he said that he had used too much salt with his dinner. We use the past perfect tense because it makes it clear to the listener that the speaker originally used the past simple tense and not the present simple tense. This is very important because it means that the listener understands that the speaker did this action one time in the past and doesn´t do it generally.
We can also change questions, imperatives and requests from direct speech to indirect speech.
If a person asks you “where are you from”, you can report this question by saying he asked me where I was from. Notice that when we change a question from direct to indirect speech we use the word ‘asked’, we move the verb one step into the past and we don´t use the question form or a question mark.
Another example of this is if somebody asks you “what newspaper do you read”, we report this question by saying he asked me what newspaper I was reading.
If the question doesn´t contain a question word such as ‘what’, ‘where’ etc… we use the words ‘if’ or ‘whether’ instead. For example if somebody asks you “do you like football”, we can report the question by saying he asked me if I liked football. If somebody asks you “will you go out this evening”, we can report the question by saying he asked me whether I would go out this evening. Remember when we change direct speech to indirect speech the word will becomes would, as is shown in the example above.
When we want to change an imperative from direct to indirect speech we use the words ‘told’, ‘ordered’ or ‘commanded’ and we use the infinitive with ‘to’, not the imperative. For example if a person says “go to your room”, we can report this imperative by saying she told me to go to my room. If a teacher says to a student “stop talking”, we can report this imperative by saying he told him to stop talking. For negative imperatives we use the word ‘not’ before the infinitive with ‘to’. For example if somebody says «don´t close the window», we can report this negative imperative by saying she told me not to close the window.
When we want to change a request from direct speech to indirect speech, we use the word asked and we can use the same construction that we use with questions or imperatives. For example, if somebody says “can you help me, please”, we can report this request by saying he asked me if I could help him or by saying he asked me to help him.
If somebody says “will you open the window for a moment, please”, we can report this request by saying she asked me if I would open the window for a moment or by saying she asked me to open the window for a moment.
Remember that when we use indirect speech it is not generally necessary to use the word that and we don´t use inverted commas.
Now that you have this information you should practise using direct speech and indirect speech in order to be able to report what somebody has said.
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