Direct & Indirect Speech

We can report what someone said in two ways: quoting the exact words of the speaker, or telling it in our own words. 

Read the following sentences:

  1. Lucy says, "I go to school regularly".
  2. Lucy says that she goes to school regularly.

In the first sentence, the speech of Lucy is quoted in the exact words of the speaker. The speech quoted in the exact words of the speaker is called Direct Speech or Direct Narration. It is always written within inverted commas.


Note that the direct speech contains:

  1. Reporting speech: Lucy says
  2. Reporting verb: says
  3. Reported speech: "I go to school regularly."
  4. Verb of the reported speech: go 

In the second sentence, the speech is reported in a narrative form without quoting the exact words of the speaker. The speech reported in narrative form without quoting the exact words of the speaker is called Indirect Speech or Indirect Narration.


Remember: 

Narration is of two kinds. They are:

  1. Direct Narration or Direct speech
  2. Indirect Narration or Indirect Speech

Direct Speech

In a direct speech, we use the exact words of the speaker. We do not make any change of form of the sentence. We place the direct speech in the quotation marks (inverted commas). The first word inside the quotation marks begin with a capital letter. The speaker of the direct speech is mentioned before or after the direct speech.

  • Boby said, "I broke his toy."
  • "I broke his toy," said Boby.


Indirect Speech

    In an indirect speech, we do not use the exact words of the speaker. We may change the reporting verb and the form of the sentence. We do not use any quotation marks (inverted commas). The reporting speech and the reported speech are joined by a linking word. 



    Rules of Changing Direct Speech into Inderect Speech

    We use indirect speech when we report what someone said without quoting the exact words of the speaker. So, we need to make some change so that the meaning remains the same. Here are some rules which will help you change narration easily.


    Assertive Sentence

    General Rules

    1. Inverted commas are omitted in the Indirect Speech.

    2. Reporting verb becomes say or tell.

    3. The reporting speech and the reported speech are joined by the linking word that

    4. Verbs of the reported speech may be changed according to tense.

    5. Persons of the reported speech may be changed.

    6. Words of nearness are often changed into the words of remoteness. 


    Change of Tense

    If the reporting verb is in the present or future tense, the tense in the reported speech is not changed. If the reporting verb is in the past tense, the verb in the reported speech changes to the corresponding past tense. Remember that if the Direct Speech describes a universal truth, constant fact, habitual fact, geographical fact & quotations, the verb in the reported speech remains unchanged. Again, if the Reported speech has two or more verbs occurring at the same time, the past tense of the verbs is not changed.

    What Is Corresponding Past Tense?

      The following table describes corresponding past tenses used to change dirrect speech into indirect speech. We have taken the verb go as an example. 

      Direct SpeechIndirect SpeechExplanation
      go/ goeswentPresent form becomes past form
      wenthad gonePast form becomes had + past participle form
      had goneunchanged
      am/ is/ are (going)was/ were (going)Am/ is/ are becomes was/ were
      was/ were (going)had been (going)Was/ were becomes had + been
      had beenunchanged

      Useful Notes

      • The present form of verbs is called present tense.
      • The past form of verbs is called past tense.
      • The am/ is/ are + -ing form of verbs is called present continuous tense.
      • The was/ were + -ing form of verbs is called past continuous tense.
      • The have/ has + past participle form of verbs is called present perfect tense.
      • The had + past participle form of verbs is called past perfect tense.


      Change of Modal Verbs

        Modal verbs have corresponding past tense. They are described in the table below.

        Direct SpeechIndirect Speech
        shall/ willwould
        cancould
        maymight
        musthad to
        should/ would/ could/ mightUnchanged



        Detailed Description of Change of Tense


        Rule-1: If the reporting verb is in the present or future tense, the tense in the reported speech is not changed.

        Direct: Ricky says, "I am fine.”
        Indirect: Ricky says that he is fine.
        Direct: The man says, "I shall do it."
        Indirect: The man says that he will do it.
        Direct: He says, "I went there yesterday.”
        Indirect: He says that he went there yesterday.
        Direct: He will say, "I am ready to go."
        Indirect: He will say that he is ready to go.


        Rule-2: If the reporting verb is in the past tense, the present form of verbs in the reported speech becomes past form.

        Direct: Ricky said, "I am fine."
        Indirect: Nadim said that he was fine.
        Direct: He said, "I want to go."
        Indirect: He said that he wanted to go.
        Direct: He said, "I am reading a book.”
        Indirect: He said that he was reading a book.
        Direct: He said, "I have learnt my lesson."
        Indirect: He said that he had learnt his lesson.
        Direct: He said, “I have been learning English."
        Indirect: He said that he had been learning English.
        Direct: He said, "I can do the work."
        Indirect: He said that he could do the work.
        Direct: He said, "I shall do it."
        Indirect: He said that he would do it.
        Direct: He said, "I shall have done it."
        Indirect: He said that he would have done it.


        Rule-3: If the reporting verb is in the past tense, the past form of verbs in the reported speech becomes had + past participle form.

        Direct: Urmi said, "I went to school.”
        Indirect: Urmi said that she had gone to school.
        Direct: He said, "I wrote the book."
        Indirect: He said that he had written the book.
        Direct: Kabir said to me, "I was sick.”
        Indirect: Kabir told me that he had been sick.
        Direct: He said, "I was reading a book."
        Indirect: He said that he had been reading a book.
        Direct: Shimu said to me, "I was making research to solve the problem.”
        Indirect: Shimu told me that she had been making research to solve the problem.


        Note: The use of the conjunction that between the reporting speech and the reported speech is not a must in the indirect speech.


        Rule-3: If the Direct Speech describes a universal truth, constant fact, habitual fact, geographical fact & quotations, the verb in the reported speech remains unchanged:

        Direct: The teacher said, "The earth moves round the sun."
        Indirect: The teacher said that the earth moves round the sun.
        Direct: He said, "My father reads the Holy Quran every morning.”
        Indirect: He said that his father reads the Holy Quran every morning.
        Direct: Keats said, "A thing of beauty is a joy for ever."
        Indirect: Keats said that a thing of beauty is a joy for ever.


        NoteIf the Reporting Verb has an object, we use tell.


        Rule-4: If the Reported speech has two or more verbs occurring at the same time, the past tense of the verbs is not changed.

        Direct: The teacher said, "Mr. Ant worked hard while Mr Grasshopper slept.”
        Indirect: The teacher said that Mr. Ant worked hard while Mr Grasshopper slept.
        Direct: He said, "The children sangdanced and played."
        Indirect: He said that the children sangdanced and played'


        Change of Pronouns

        The First Person pronoun of the reported speech is changed into the person of the subject of the reporting verb. The Second Person pronoun of the reported speech is changed into the person of the object of the reporting verb. The third person does not have any change:

        Pronouns in Reported SpeechChanged According to

        1st Person = I, me, my, mine, we, us, our, ours

        speaker/ subject of the reporting verb

        2nd Person = You, you, your, yours

        listener/ object of the reporting verb

        3rd Person: He, him, his, she, her, hers, it, its, they, them, their, theirs

        Third person have no any change.


        Direct: Esha said to Boby, "Your father will go to my office."
        Indirect: Esha told Boby that his father would go to her office.
        Direct: Sagor says to you, "You did not help me.”
        Indirect: Sagor tells you that you did not help him.
        Direct: They said to us, "He will meet you."
        Indirect: They told us that he would meet us.”

        Change of Some Adverbs & Demonstratives


        Words that express nearness are often changed into the words expressing remoteness:

        Words in direct speech
        Words in indirect speech
        Here
        there
        This
        that
        Ago
        before
        These
        those
        Hence
        thence
        Come
        go
        Hither
        thither
        Thus
        so/ in that way
        Today
        that day/ the same day
        Tomorrow
        the next day/ the following day
        Yesterday
        the previous day/ the day before
        Last night
        the previous night/ the night before