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Reported Speech (Indirect Speech)
If we report what another person has said, we usually do not use the speaker’s exact words (direct speech), but reported (indirect) speech. Therefore, you need to learn how to transform direct speech into reported speech. The structure is a little different depending on whether you want to transform a statement, question or request.
Statements
Whentransforming statements, check whether you have to change:
* pronouns
* present tense verbs (3rd person singular)
* place and time expressions
* tenses (backshift)
Type | Example |
direct speech | “I speak English.” |
reported speech
(no backshift) | He says that he speaks English. |
reported speech
(backshift) | He said that he spoke English. |
Questions
When transformingquestions, check whether you have to change:
* pronouns
* present tense verbs (3rd person singular)
* place and time expressions
* tenses (backshift)
Also note that you have to:
* transform the question into an indirect question
* use the interrogative or if / whether
Type | Example |
with interrogative | direct speech | “Why don’t you speak English?” |
| reported speech |He asked me why I didn’t speak English. |
without interrogative | direct speech | “Do you speak English?” |
| reported speech | He asked me whether / if I spoke English. |
Requests
When transforming questions, check whether you have to change:
* pronouns
* place and time expressions
Type | Example |
direct speech | “Carol, speak English.“ |
reported speech | He told Carol tospeak English. |
Additional Information and Exeptions
Apart from the above mentioned basic rules, there are further aspects that you should keep in mind, for example:
* main clauses connected with and / but
* tense of the introductory clause
* reported speech for difficult tenses
* exeptions for backshift
* requests with must, should, ought to and let’s
Advanced Points
MainClauses connected with and / but
If two complete main clauses are connected with ‚and‘ or ‚but‘, put ‚that‘ after the conjunction.
Example:
He said,“I saw her but she didn’t see me.“ – He said that he had seen her but that she hadn’t seen him.“
If the subject is left out in the second main clause (the conjunction is followed by a verb), do not use‚that‘.
Example:
She said,“I am a nurse andwork in a hospital.“ – He said that she was a nurse and worked in a hospital.“
Tense of the Introductory Clause
The introductory clause usually is in Past Tense.
Example:
He said that …
Present Tense is often used to report a conversation that is still going on, e. g. during a phone call or while reading a letter.
Example:
“I am fine.“ – Tom says / writes that he is fine.
The introductoryclause can also be in another tense. In the following table you can see, for which tense of the introductory clause you have to use backshift in reported speech.
No Backshift
if introductory clause is in … | Backshift
if introductory clause is in … |
* Simple Present (He says …) * Present Perfect (He has said …) * Future I will (He will say …) * Future I going to (He is going tosay …) | * Simple Past (He said …) * Past Perfect (He had said …) * Future II ( He will have said …) * Conditional I (He would say …) * Conditional II (He would have said …) |
Backshift in Reported Speech
The basic rules for backshift when transforming direct speech into reported speech are:
Direct Speech | Reported Speech |
Simple Present | Simple Past |
Present Progressive | PastProgressive |
Simple Past | Past Perfect Simple |
Present Perfect | |
Past Perfect | |
Past Progressive | Past Perfect Progressive |
Present Perfect Progressive | |
Past Perfect Progressive | |
Future I (going to) | was / were going to |
Future I (will) | Conditional I |
Conditional I | |
Future II | Conditional II |
Conditional II | |
Exceptions
Backshift...
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