Direct and Indirect Speech Part I

Words spoken by a person can be reported to another person in two ways. These two ways of narration are called direct speech and indirect speech.

Direct speech

When we use direct speech we quote the actual words said by the speaker.

Examples are:
She said, ‘I am going to the market.’
John said, ‘I will be late today.’
Alice said, ‘Would you like to come with me?’

Indirect speech

When we use indirect speech, we do not quote the exact words said by the speaker. Instead, we express the idea in our own words.

In order to report the words of the original speaker in our own language, we have to make several changes in his/her sentence. The important rules are given below:

Rules regarding change in tenses

When the reporting verb is in the present or future tense

If the reporting verb is in the present or future tense, the tense of the verb in the direct speech does not undergo any changes in the indirect speech.

She says, ‘I have done my duty.’ (Direct speech)
She says that she has done her duty. (Indirect speech)
Direct: He says to her, ‘I will wait for you at the railway station.’
Indirect: He tells her that he will wait for her at the railway station.
Direct: He says, ‘I am not coming.’
Indirect: He says that he is not coming.
Direct: She will say, ‘I don’t want to come.’
Indirect: She will say that she does not want to come.
Direct: He will say, ‘I cannot wait any longer.’
Indirect: He will say that he cannot wait any longer.

When the reporting verb is in the past tense

When the reporting verb is in the past tense, all present tenses inside the quotation marks will change to their corresponding past tenses.

The simple present tense will change into the simple past tense.
The present continuous tense will change into the past continuous tense.
The present perfect tense will change into the past perfect tense.
The present perfect continuous tense will change into the past perfect continuous tense.

Direct: He said, ‘I am unwell.’

Here the reporting verb (said) is in the past tense. To change this sentence into indirect speech, we have to change the present tense(s) inside the quotation marks into their corresponding past tenses.

Indirect: He said that he was unwell.


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