Direct speech and Indirect speech
In English it is common to communicate what people tell you.
We often tell other people things we heard somebody else say, provided it is not a secret, although sometimes we end up ‘spilling the beans’ by mistake.
In this blog post, I will teach you how to report what other people say.
Of course we do this everyday, from telling our friends what the weather forecaster said to simply passing on news about what our friend told us.
There are two ways we can do this, they are called: Direct speech and Indirect speech.
We will start with Direct speech.
We use direct speech to give the direct words of the speaker, in other words we repeat the exact thing the speaker told us word for word.
For example if you are having a conversation with your friend, and they say “I am going to New York tomorrow”, then later you are speaking with another friend, you could say:
Peter said: “I am going to London tomorrow”.
However, this is not so common, it sounds a little strange right? Unless, of course you are imitating the person.
If, on the other hand you were writing a book you would use this form a lot.
“I can’t find my prince!” said the princess.
Direct speech is more common to find in books and writing like newspapers for instance.
It is formed by using words like told or said although there are many other words we can use.
The structure would be similar to this:
He/She + said + “I am hungry”
You can see that we put the words that someone said within quotation marks or inverted commas.
We use direct speech to give the exact words of the speaker
For example: He said “I love you!”
We use indirect speech when we want to report what the speaker said.
So, if someone tells us something we report what they said but instead of giving the exact words the person told us we give them the information in a different way to what the speaker said originally.
If a person says “I am starting a new job” and we want to tell someone else what they said, we use indirect speech:
He said that he was starting a new job.
This is much more natural to say than using direct speech so we almost always use it for telling someone what someone else said.
The structure is simple:
He/She + said + that + he was starting a new job.
Notice that we move the verb into the past:
Direct speech: He said “I am starting a new job.
Indirect speech: He said that he was starting a new job
In this case we moved the verb from present continuous into the past continuous but you just move it one step into the past. If you have present simple, it goes to past simple and so on.
We use indirect speech to report what the speaker said
For example: He said that he loved me!
Indirect speech tenses and Time expressions
Please see the following verb tenses when we change from direct speech to indirect speech:
Present simple => past simple
Present continuous => past continuous
Present perfect => past perfect
Past simple => past perfect
Past continuous => past perfect continuous
There are also some other changes to words.
When we have the future simple we change ‘will’ to ‘would’.
For example: He said “I will go to school tomorrow” becomes: He said that he would go to school the next day.
You might have noticed, we also changed the subject because we are refering to the speaker and not ourselves.
In addition to tenses we also need to think about time expressions.
Think about this sentence:
He said “I will have my hair cut tomorrow“
In indirect speech this becomes:
He said that he would have his hair cut the next day.
In this sentence, the word ‘tomorrow‘ changed to ‘the next day’.
Depending on when we are speaking, some words about time may need to change.
Below is a list of which words to change from direct speech to indirect speech when talking about time in.
Today => That day
Tomorrow => The next/following day
Yesterday => the previous day
Next week/month/year => The following week/month/year
Last week/month/year => The week/month/year before or The previous week/month/year
Now => Then
Tonight => That night
Last night => The night before
Test yourself and see how many you can get correct!
Weather forecaster: A man/woman who uses weather instruments to predict weather conditions
Weather forecast: A prediction of weather conditions that gives us information about winds, temperatures etc.
Imitate: Copy someone’s actions or what they say
For instance: For example
Quotation marks: Inverted commas ” “
To pass on(information): To tell somebody some information
Example: “Could you please pass on a message to the Teacher. Tell her I can’t come to class today.
Word for word: To say something exactly as someone said or wrote it
Example: I learnt the poem word for word