Direct, Indirect Speech (Narration) – Reported Speech – English Grammar – with Exercises & Quiz

Direct, Indirect Speech (Narration) – Reported Speech – English Grammar – with Exercises & Quiz


Hello, and welcome back. In this lesson, you will learn all about direct and indirect (or reported speech). We will look at converting the three main types of sentences: statements, questions, and requests, instructions or advice from direct to indirect speech. There are lots of examples and exercises throughout the video for you to practice. And make sure the watch all the way to end, because there is a final quiz to test your understanding. So, let’s get started. So, what do we mean by direct and indirect speech? Well, these are two ways of saying what someone else said in the past. For example, last weekend, some friends and I were planning to go see a movie. But, one friend, Ben, couldn’t join us. Ben said, “I have a dental appointment this evening.” Meaning he had to go to the dentist, so he couldn’t come with us. Now, here, I am repeating Ben’s words exactly or directly without making any changes. This is called direct speech. But, we don’t always repeat the other person’s words exactly because the words are not important; the message is important. So, we can say it like this instead: Ben said that he had a dental appointment that evening. This form is called indirect speech. It’s also called reported speech because like a news reporter, we are reporting that other person’s words. Now, I want you to notice a couple of differences between the direct and indirect sentences. When we write direct speech, we always put quotation marks around the original words. This is to show that we are repeating the words exactly without any change. But in indirect speech, we don’t use quotation marks. The second point is the word “that”. This is used in indirect speech, but it is never used in direct speech. Now, in informal situations, we can often leave it out in reported speech like this: Ben said he had a dental appointment that evening. Informally, that’s OK, but in formal situations, don’t leave out “that”. These are the two basic differences. So, now let’s talk about how to convert a sentence from direct to indirect speech. There are three steps for doing this: Change the pronouns, Backshift the tense, and Change the time and place expressions. In the example, you see that the pronoun “I” in direct speech has become “he” in the reported sentence. “He” refers to Ben. This is the first step. Next, the tense has changed from “have” to “had”. When Ben spoke, his words were in the present tense, but now, when we report those words, we change them to the past tense. This is called backshifting, that is, shifting the tense back to the past. And we also see that the word “this evening” (which is a time expression) has become “that evening”. These are the three main changes that we make when converting a sentence from direct to indirect speech. Alright, let’s now practice doing these steps with an exercise. We’re going to go through fifteen sentences. Here’s the first one: Sarah said, “I drink black coffee every morning.” How would you change this to indirect speech? Stop the video and think about it, then play the video again and continue. The indirect speech sentence is Sarah said that she drank black coffee every morning. “I” becomes “she” (that’s step number one: change the pronouns), “drink” (which is in the present simple tense) becomes “drank” (past simple). This is the second step: backshift the tense. There are no time or place expressions here, so we don’t need step three. OK, let’s move on to sentence number two: Naveen said, “I am learning to play the guitar.” How would you change this? Stop the video and try it. Naveen said that he was learning to play the guitar. “I” changes to “he”, “am learning” (present continuous tense) changes to was learning (past continuous). Next sentence: “My son is graduating next week,” she said with great excitement. We see the reporting clause “she said with great excitement” at the end of the sentence. This is very common. So, how would you change this? When we change a sentence to indirect speech, we almost always put that reporting clause at the beginning: She said with great excitement that… The words “my son” become “her son” and we backshift the tense. So “my son is graduating” becomes “her son was graduating”, and “next week” is a time expression. We can either say “the next week” or “the following week”. So, She said with great excitement that her son was graduating the next week / the following week. Number four: “I quit my job a week ago,” he confessed to his wife. “Confessed” means that he admitted the truth to his wife. So, how do we change it? He confessed to his wife that he had quit his job a week before. Notice that in the direct quote, the verb is already in the past simple tense (quit). When we backshift a past simple tense verb, it changes to the past perfect: “had quit”. And “ago” changes to “before” in indirect speech; that’s just a rule. OK, next sentence: “Hema didn’t come to work yesterday,” the manager told me. Try to change it. The answer is: The manager told me that Hema hadn’t come to work… “didn’t come” is a past simple negative which changes to “hadn’t come” (past perfect negative). Then we have “yesterday”, which becomes either “the previous day” or “the day before” (both are correct). So, The manager told me that Hema hadn’t come to work the previous day / the day before. Sentence number six is a little challenging: The kid told his parents, “I was watching TV and the power went out.” How would you change it? The kid told his parents that he had been watching TV and the power had gone out. “was watching” is a past continuous verb; it gets backshifted to a past perfect continuous verb: “had been watching”. And “the power went out” is past simple; it becomes “the power had gone out”. Next one: “I have seen the movie three times already,” I explained. Answer: I explained that I had seen the movie three times already. “Have seen” becomes “had seen”. So, this means that if you have a present perfect verb, it changes to the past perfect when you backshift it. So, what about this sentence: “We have been waiting for over two hours,” they complained. They complained that they had been waiting for over two hours. “Have been waiting” is a present perfect continuous verb; it gets backshifted to “had been waiting” (past perfect continuous). Number nine: “I will pick you up at the airport tomorrow,” he promised. He promised that he would pick me up at the airport the next / following day. Here, we see that the modal verb “will” has been changed to its past form “would”, and “tomorrow” has become the next day or the following day (both mean the same thing). Now, with the verb “promise”, you can also make the sentence like this: He promised to pick me up at the airport the following day. This is a special use of the verb “promise”: using to + an infinitive verb. That’s also correct. OK, number ten: “I would like to buy this necklace,” she told the shop assistant. Here, the modal verb “would” is used. This is already a past form and there’s no way to backshift it (there’s no past perfect for modal verbs), so we just say: She told the shop assistant that she would like to buy the/that necklace. We can change “this necklace” to “the necklace” or “that necklace” (both are OK). Next sentence: The girl said, “My brother and I are going to have pizza tonight.” This one’s a little tricky. We start with The girl said that… And then we have My brother and I. This becomes “She and her brother”. Only with “I”, we put the other person first – “My brother and I”, “My friend and I”, “John and I” etc. But with other pronouns, we put the pronoun first – “She and her brother”. “Are going to” becomes “were going to”. Now, if we had “am” or “is going to”, we would change that to “was going to”. But here, we have “are” and that becomes “were”. “Tonight” becomes “that night”. So, The girl said that she and her brother were going to have pizza that night. Next one: “I can speak four languages,” Chad boasted. “Boast” means to brag or talk proudly about yourself. Try to change this. The indirect speech sentence is Chad boasted that he could speak four languages. Notice that “can” has become “could”. Sentence number thirteen: Shannon said, “We may go to Japan on vacation.” The answer: Shannon said that they might go to Japan on vacation. “We” has become “They”. “May” has changed to “might” because that’s the past form. Next sentence: His driving instructor told him, “You must obey traffic laws.” The answer: His driving instructor told him that he must obey/he had to obey traffic laws. “Must” can either stay the same or you can say “had to”. But, if you have “mustn’t” in the sentence, then you have to say “mustn’t”. For example: The police officer said, “You mustn’t park here.” The reported sentence is The police officer said that I mustn’t park there. So, “mustn’t” stays as “mustn’t”. Alright, here’s the last sentence in this exercise: Her father said, “You should take your studies more seriously.” Answer: Her father said that she should take her studies more seriously. “Should” is already the past tense of “shall”, so we leave it unchanged. This is true of all the past tense modals – we saw “would” before; similarly, we don’t backshift “could” or “might”. We leave them as they are. Now, before we move on, I want to point out a couple of things: first, about backshifting tenses. In some situations, when we go from direct to indirect speech, we don’t backshift the tense. For example, let’s say that at the workplace, I ask a colleague of mine, Tanya, to help me with something. But, Tanya says, “I can’t help you, sorry. I have a lot of work to do.” If I want to convey this message to someone else IMMEDIATELY, then I might say Tanya says she can’t help me because she has a lot of work to do. Notice that the reporting verb is in the present tense: “says”, and the other verbs in the sentence also stay in the present: “can’t help” and “has”. This is because I am reporting her words immediately. There’s not much time delay, so backshifting is not all that important. We also see this form in the news a lot when current events are being reported. These are both indirect speech sentences: The retail chain has announced that it will open two more stores next month. The police chief said that the investigation is still ongoing. In sentence number two, the reporting verb is “has announced” (a present perfect form), and in number three, the reporting verb is “said” (past simple) – maybe the police chief said these words in a recent interview. But in both sentences, there’s no backshifting of the tense in reported speech because the news is recent. Also, in the second sentence, we see the time expression “next month” has not been changed to “the next” or “the following month”. That’s because next month is still in the future for us when we report this. So, this is the first point. The next point is about the verbs “say” and “tell”. You may have noticed in some of the previous examples that “tell” is followed by a person (like “me”, “him”, “her” etc.). I have a few sentences here from the last exercise. The first one says, The manager told me. In the second, She told the shop assistant, and in the third, The kid told his parents. Grammatically, this person is called an indirect object. The rule is that the verb “tell” must take an indirect object (that is, some person). So, if you remove that indirect object, it’s grammatically incorrect. Now, the verb “say” is the opposite of this. “Say” must not take an indirect object. In all of these examples, we CAN use “say”, but then we have to remove the indirect object. In fact, many English learners make the common mistake of putting an indirect object after “say” (like “said me” or “said him); that’s wrong, and you should avoid it. In some situations, you might see this form: The manager said to me, She said to the shop assistant, The kid said to his parents, etc. This is grammatically correct, but it’s not very common. I’m showing it to you so that you are aware of it. But if you need to include an indirect object, use “tell”. If you don’t need an indirect object, use “say”. Alright, let’s now move on and talk about changing questions from direct to indirect speech. Here’s an example: “What do you want?”, she asked me. That’s the direct speech question. In indirect or reported speech, this becomes She asked me what I wanted. The first thing to notice here is that we’ve used the reporting verb “ask” and not “say” or “tell”. Second, just like in statements, we have changed the pronoun from “you” to “I”, and we’ve backshifted the tense: “want” has become “wanted”. This sentence has no time or place expressions, but if there are any in a question, then we change those too. But there is another important change we’ve made here: the word order. When going from direct to indirect speech, we’ve kept the question word “what”, but we’ve removed the auxiliary verb “do”. Then, “you” becomes “I”, and “want” becomes “wanted”. So, what we have here is not a question form, but a statement: “I wanted” – this has the same word order as a past simple tense statement. And for that reason, we don’t put a question mark at the end of a reported question. Notice that there is only a period or full stop at the end. If you put a question mark after an indirect question, that’s wrong. OK, next example: He asked, “Where did Salman go yesterday?” Let’s convert this: We keep the question word “where”. So, He asked where… Now, the direct speech question is in the past simple tense. This needs to get backshifted to the past perfect, and we need to put it in statement form. So, He asked where Salman had gone the day before / the previous day. Both are OK. I’d like you to notice something with the verb “ask”. In the first example, we saw “She asked me”, and in this example, just “He asked” with no object. Both of these are correct because the verb “ask” can be used with or without an object. Just keep that in mind. Alright, here’s one more question, but you’ll notice that there’s something different about it: “Do you like coffee?” she asked. What’s different? Well, there’s no question word like “what”, “where”, “why” etc. So, this is a yes/no question. How do we change this to reported speech? The process is almost the same. We start with the reporting verb: She asked… And now, because we don’t have a question word, we use either “if” or “whether”. I’m going to use “if” here. And then, we just put the rest of the sentence in the form of a statement, and we backshift the tense: She asked if I liked coffee. Again, no question mark. OK, let’s do an exercise now to practice changing questions from direct to indirect speech. We will go through nine sentences; here’s the first one: He asked her, “Why is the baby crying?” How would you change this to indirect speech? First, He asked her why… Now, we need to convert the question into a statement form. It’s in the present continuous tense, so we backshift that to a past continuous statement. So, He asked her why the baby was crying. The baby was crying is a past continuous tense statement. Number two: “Does this hotel have a swimming pool?” the guests inquired. Try to change it. This is a yes/no question, so we need “if” or “whether”. I’ll use whether this time: The guests inquired whether… And now the question which is in the present simple tense needs to be backshifted to the past simple: The guests inquired whether the hotel had a swimming pool. You could also say “that hotel” instead of “the hotel”. Alright next one: “Who has eaten all the cookies?” asked Rick’s mother. The reported question is Rick’s mother asked who had eaten all the cookies. Next sentence: “Are they leaving tomorrow morning?” Shivani asked. It changes to Shivani asked if they were leaving the next morning / the following morning. In the place of “if”, you can use “whether” if you want. Number five: He asked, “How long should I boil an egg?” The reported question is He asked how long he should boil an egg. Remember: “should” does not backshift. Next question: Colton asked me, “Have you received the package?” Now, I’m a little tired of using the verb “ask”, so I’m going to use a different question-report verb: Colton wanted to know if I had received the package. So, instead of “asked”, I’ve said “wanted to know”. Then, there’s “if” because this is a yes/no question. And the present perfect question in direct speech gets backshifted to a past perfect tense statement. OK, next one: “When will your sister get here?” she asked her husband. She asked her husband when his sister would get there. Number eight: “Why didn’t you attend the meeting?” my boss questioned. My boss questioned why I hadn’t attended the meeting. The question in direct speech here is a negative form. We backshift it to a past perfect negative statement. And the last one: “Didn’t Nicole tell you we were coming today?” he asked. He asked whether Nicole hadn’t told us that they were coming that day. OK, let’s move on to the next topic now: reporting requests, instructions, and advice. When people make a polite request, they often phrase it in the form of a yes/no question. For example: Arjun asked me, “Can you lend me $200?” This is a request for a loan. You can report it just like a yes/no question: Arjun asked me if I could lend him $200. This is correct, but there’s another way to do it. We can say: Arjun asked me to lend him $200. The structure of this sentence is the verb ask + an object; object is a grammatical term; what we mean here is a person (like “asked me” in this sentence) + a to-infinitive verb, that is, the preposition “to” + a verb in its base form (like “to lend”). Here’s the next example: “Turn off the TV!” his mother told him. Obviously, this is not a polite request; it’s an instruction (in fact, it’s a command). So, instead of the verb “ask”, we’re going to use the stronger verb “tell”: His mother told him to turn off the TV. So, the guideline here is use “ask” for requests and “tell” for instructions, orders, or commands. If a request or command is negative, you just add “not” before “to”: “Don’t feed the animals,” the zookeeper told us. We change this to indirect speech like this: The zookeeper told us not to feed the animals. This next example, which we saw in a previous exercise, expresses advice: Her father said, “You should take your studies more seriously.” If you remember from the exercise, we can convert this to indirect speech as Her father said that she should take her studies more seriously. But since her father is giving her advice, we can use the verb “advise”: Her father advised her to take her studies more seriously. Simple. Alright, it’s time for another exercise to practice all of this. I have six sentences for you this time. Some of these sentences are requests, others are instructions or commands, and some express advice. And you have to change them all to reported speech. Here’s the first one: He asked Jazmyn, “Would you be able to take care of my pets while I’m away?” How would you change this? This is a polite request, so we need to use the verb “ask” here. So, He asked Jazmyn to take care of his pets while he was away. OK, number two: “Please leave your bags with the bellhop,” the receptionist told us. Try to change it. Now, this is a polite request, but it’s also an instruction for the guests at the hotel. So, you can use both “ask” and “tell” (you can use “ask” because this is quite polite, but at the same time, it’s also an instruction, so “tell” is also OK). I’m going to use “tell”: The receptionist told us to leave our bags with the bellhop. Next one: “Please do not bring food into the park,” said a sign at the entrance. How would you change it? This is an instruction, and we can say “A sign at the entrance told us not to bring food into the park,” but it’s a general sign meant for everybody. So, in this case, we can just use the verb “say” as in the direct speech sentence: A sign at the entrance said not to bring food into the park. Because we’re using the verb “say”, there is no object. Remember: “say” does not take an indirect object. Next sentence: “Get out of my office!” her boss yelled. To yell means to shout with anger. Try to change it. Her boss told her to get out of his office. If you want to make it stronger, you can even say, Her boss ordered her to get out of his office. Now, in this reported sentence, the boss is male; that’s why we’ve said, “to get out of HIS office.” But, of course, if the boss were female, that pronoun would be “her”. Number five: Philip’s doctor told him, “You should exercise more.” You can say, Philip’s doctor told him to exercise more. But better is: Philip’s doctor advised him to exercise more. And last one: “I wouldn’t eat that pizza if I were you,” her friend said to her. Now, this sentence looks like a conditional, and it is, but this is a common way of giving advice. “I would do this, or I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” So, we can once again use the verb “advise”: Her friend advised her not to eat the pizza. You can also say that pizza; means the same thing. Alright, good job. Up to now, we have practiced converting statements, questions, requests, instructions and advice from direct to indirect speech. So, if you’re ready, we’re going to put all of this together with a final quiz. There are ten sentences on the screen. I want you to change each one from direct to indirect speech. Stop the video now, do the exercise, then play the video again and check. Alright, here are the answers. How many did you get right? Let me know in the comments below. I hope you enjoyed this lesson. As always, happy learning, and I will see you in another lesson soon.