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Direct speech is exactly what it sounds like -text that reports the exact thoughts expressed by a person in their original form. It is often enclosed in quotation marks so that the reader understands that the quoted text is the speaker’s original narrative.

Indirect speech is also known as reported speech, indirect narration, or indirect discourse. In grammar, when you report someone else’s statement in your own words without any change in the meaning of the statement, it is called indirect speech.

In short, when we express someone’s words in our own words, it is called – Indirect Speech and when we express someone’s words as it is, it is called – Direct Speech.

Direct Speech: They said, “We will be partying tonight.”
Indirect Speech: They said that they would be partying that night.

Direct Speech

When we want to describe what someone said, one option is to use direct speech. We use direct speech when we simply repeat what someone says, putting the phrase between speech marks.

Paul came in and said, “I’m really hungry.”

Indirect Speech

When we want to report what someone said without speech marks and without necessarily using the same words, we can use indirect speech.

When we report what someone says in the present simple, we normally don’t change the tense, we simply change the subject.

Direct speech: “We’re quite cold in here.”
Indirect speech: They say (that) they’re cold.

However, when we report things in the past, we usually change the tense by moving it one step back. For example, in the following sentence, the present simple becomes the past simple in indirect speech.

Direct speech: “I have a new car.”
Indirect speech: He said he had a new car.

All the other tenses follow a similar change in indirect speech.

Direct speech: He said, “I live in the city centre.” (simple present)
Indirect speech: He said he lived in the city centre.

Direct speech: He said “I’m going out.” (present continuous)
Indirect speech: He said he was going out.

Direct speech: He said, “I’ve finished.” (present perfect)
Indirect speech: He said he had finished.

Direct speech: He said, “I’ve been studying a lot. (present perfect continuous)
Indirect speech: He said he had been studying a lot.

Direct speech: He said, “I arrived before John.” (simple past)
Indirect speech: He said he had arrived before John.

Direct speech: He said, “I had already left.” (past perfect)
Indirect speech: He said he had already left. (remains the same)

Direct speech: He said, “I’ll be there at 2 pm.” (simple future)
Indirect speech: He said he would be there at 2 pm.

Direct speech: He said, “I‘m going to call Hari.” (be going to)
Indirect speech: He said he was going to call Hari.

The same rule of moving the tenses one step back also applies to modal verbs.

Direct speech: She said, “I can swim.”
Indirect speech: She said she could swim.

Direct speech: She said, “I must go.”
Indirect speech: She said she had to go.

Direct speech: She said, “I may drive there.”
Indirect speech: She said she might drive there.

Direct speech: She said, “Shall we start?”
Indirect speech: She asked if they should start.

Direct speech: She said, “I’ll call you.”
Indirect speech: She said she would call me.

Changing Time Expressions

Sometimes it’s necessary to change the time expressions when you report speech, especially when you are speaking about the past and the time reference no longer applies.

Direct speech: “I’m seeing my brother tomorrow.”
Indirect speech: She said she was seeing her brother the following day.

Direct speech: “I had a headache yesterday.”
Indirect speech: You said you’d had a headache the day before yesterday.

Direct speech: “It’s been raining since this afternoon.”
Indirect speech: He said it’d been raining since that afternoon.

Direct speech: “I haven’t seen them since last week.”
Indirect speech: She said she hadn’t seen them since the previous week.

Reporting Questions

When you report a question you need to change the interrogative form into an affirmative sentence, putting the verb tense one step back, as with normal reported speech.

There are two types of questions that we can report – questions that have a yes/no response, and questions that begin with a question word like ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘who’ etc. When we report a yes/no question, we use ‘if’.

Direct speech: “Do they live here?”
Indirect speech: You asked me if they lived here.

In the reported version of the question, ‘do’ is eliminated because it is no longer a question, and the verb ‘live’ becomes ‘lived’.

For questions starting with question words like ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘when’, ‘who’, etc., we report the question using the question word but change the interrogative form to the affirmative form.

Direct speech: “Where do they live?”
Indirect speech: You asked me where they lived.

Direct speech: “When are you leaving?”
Indirect speech: He asked us when we were leaving.

Direct speech: “How will they get here?”
Indirect speech: She asked me how they would get here.

When we report a question we normally use the verb ‘ask’. As with the verb ‘to tell’, the verb ‘to ask’ is normally followed by an object pronoun, though it is possible to omit it.

Reporting Orders and Requests

When you give someone an order, you use the imperative form, which means using just the verb without a subject.

“Call me back later.”
“Have a seat.”
“Don’t do that!”

To report an order we use ‘tell’ and the infinitive of the verb.

You told me to call you back later.
He told me to have a seat.
She told us not to do that.

When you make a request, you normally use words like ‘can’, ‘could’, or ‘will’.

“Could you call me back later?”
“Will you have a seat?”
“Can you not do that please?”

To report a request, we use the verb ‘to ask’ and the infinitive form of the verb.

You asked me to call you back later.
He asked me to have a seat.
She asked us not to do that.


  1. Reporting verb is changed according to the form and sense of the sentence.
  2. Inverted commas are removed in indirect speech.
  3. A connective word is used at the beginning of the reported speech.
  4. The verb of the reported speech is changed according to the form and sense of the sentence.
  5. Persons & Helping Verbs of the reported speech are changed.

Examples of Speech Conversion

Direct SpeechIndirect Speech
She says, “I eat an apple a day.”She says that she eats an apple a day.
He will say, “My brother will help her.”He will say that his brother will help her.
We said, “We go for a walk every day.”We said that we went for a walk every day.
You say, “I went to London yesterday.”You say that you went to London the previous day.
He said, “My father is playing cricket with me.”He said that his father was playing cricket with him.
They said, “We have completed our homework.”They said that they had completed their homework.
She said, “I have been waiting for him since last morning.”She said that she had been waiting for him since last morning.
She said, “I bought a book.”She said that she had bought a book.
They said, “We were celebrating Eid yesterday.”They said that they had been celebrating Eid the previous day.
We said, “We had been waiting since morning.”We said that we had been waiting since morning.
He said to me, “I will not give you any medicine without a prescription.”He said to me that he would not give me any medicine without a prescription.
Rafiq said, “I shall leave for London tomorrow.”Rafiq said that he would leave for London the next day.
She said, “I shall be visiting my college tomorrow.”She said that she would be visiting her college the following day.
They said, “It will have been snowing since morning.”They said that it would have been snowing since morning.