Indirect Speech or Reported Speech

Introduction to Indirect Speech or Reported Speech

Speech, in English Grammar, is categorized into two types – Direct Speech and Indirect Speech or Reported Speech. This tutorial gives a detailed overview of Indirect or Reported Speech. This particular form of speech is used when we convey or report what someone else has said, but not using their exact words.

Understanding Indirect Speech

In Indirect Speech, the message of the speaker is expressed in our words. Therefore, the sentences are not enclosed in quotation marks. It is mostly used in writing, where the phrases and clauses are typically in the past tense because they’re reporting something that has already happened. However, changes may be necessary based on the situation and verb tenses.


  • Direct: James said, “I am going to the movies.”
  • Indirect: James said that he was going to the movies.
  • Direct: She said, “I am reading a book.”
  • Indirect: She said that she was reading a book.

Changing from Direct to Indirect Speech

When changing direct speech into indirect speech, certain changes are necessary. Here are the basic rules to be followed:


In general, the tense of the verb in direct speech has to be changed into the past tense in reported speech. Here are some examples:

  • Present Simple changes to Past Simple.
  • Present Continuous changes to Past Continuous.
  • Present Perfect changes to Past Perfect.


Change of person in reported speech is necessary in accordance with the rules of sequence of pronouns depending upon the person of the reporting verb and that of the reported speech. The 1st person of reported speech changes as per the subject of the reporting verb and the 2nd person changes as per the object of the reporting verb. For example:

  • He said, “I am not guilty.” (Direct)
  • He said that he was not guilty. (Indirect)

Changing Time References

In reported speech, we often have to shift expressions of time to match the moment of speaking. For example:

  • Direct: “I’m coming tomorrow,” he said.
  • Indirect: He said that he was coming the next day.

Changing Modals

In the case of verbs that contain modals, some changes might be necessary:

  • Can changes to could.
  • May changes to might.
  • Must, Will change to would.

Changing Place References

Similar to time references, place references may need to change:

  • Direct: “Meet me here,” she said.
  • Indirect: She asked me to meet her there.

Assertive Sentences

When the reported speech is an assertive sentence without modals, the reporting verb “said” can be used with ‘that’-

  • Direct: He said, “I was ill.”
  • Indirect: He said that he had been ill.

Interrogative Sentences

When the reported speech is an interrogative sentence, the reporting verb “said” changes to some verb denoting interrogation, i.e., asked, inquired etc. For example:

  • Direct: He said, “Have you finished your assignment?”
  • Indirect: He asked if I had finished my assignment.

Imperative Sentences

When the reported speech is an imperative sentence, we use ‘Ordered/requested/suggested’ etc. instead of ‘said’ as reporting verb along with the conjunctions ‘to/not to’. For example:

  • Direct: He said, “Open the gate.”
  • Indirect: He told me to open the gate.

Exclamatory Sentences

When the reported speech is an exclamatory sentence, the reported speech shows some sudden feeling and uses ‘Exclaimed with joy/sorrow/wonder’ as a reporting verb. For example:

  • Direct: He said, “Hurrah! We have won the match.”
  • Indirect: He exclaimed with joy that they had won the match.


Indirect or Reported Speech presents past statements or questions that are reported or retold to someone else. Recognizing and understanding the changes that happens when direct speech is transferred into indirect speech such as verb tenses, time and place references, modal usage, pronouns, etc. allows you to write and communicate more effectively and precisely.

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