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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Direct, Indirect Speech (Narration) - Reported Speech - English Grammar - with Exercises & Quiz

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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


So, lets 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, couldnt join us.

Ben said, “I have a dental appointment this evening.”

Meaning he had to go to the dentist, so he couldnt come with us.

Now, here, I am repeating Bens words exactly or directly without making any changes.

This is called direct speech.

But, we dont always repeat the other persons 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.

Its also called reported speech because like a news reporter, we are reporting that

other persons 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 dont use quotation marks.

The second point is the wordthat”.

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, thats OK, but in formal situations, dont leave outthat”.

These are the two basic differences.

So, now lets 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 pronounIin direct speech has becomehein the

reported sentence.

Herefers to Ben.

This is the first step.

Next, the tense has changed fromhavetohad”.

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 wordthis evening” (which is a time expression) has becomethat


These are the three main changes that we make when converting a sentence from direct to

indirect speech.

Alright, lets now practice doing these steps with an exercise.

Were going to go through fifteen sentences.

Heres 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.

Ibecomesshe” (thats step number one: change the pronouns), “drink” (which

is in the present simple tense) becomesdrank” (past simple).

This is the second step: backshift the tense.

There are no time or place expressions here, so we dont need step three.

OK, lets move on to sentence number two: Naveen said, “I am learning to play the


How would you change this?

Stop the video and try it.

Naveen said that he was learning to play the guitar.

Ichanges tohe”, “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 clauseshe said with great excitementat 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 wordsmy sonbecomeher sonand we backshift the tense.

Somy son is graduatingbecomesher son was graduating”, andnext week

is a time expression.

We can either saythe next weekorthe following week”.

So, She said with great excitement that her son was graduating the next week / the following


Number four: “I quit my job a week ago,” he confessed to his wife.

Confessedmeans 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”.

Andagochanges tobeforein indirect speech; thats just a rule.

OK, next sentence: “Hema didnt come to work yesterday,” the manager told me.

Try to change it.

The answer is: The manager told me that Hema hadnt come to work… “didnt come

is a past simple negative which changes tohadnt come” (past perfect negative).

Then we haveyesterday”, which becomes eitherthe previous dayorthe day

before” (both are correct).

So, The manager told me that Hema hadnt 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

watchingis a past continuous verb; it gets backshifted to a past perfect continuous

verb: “had been watching”.

Andthe power went outis past simple; it becomesthe 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 seenbecomeshad 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 waitingis a present perfect continuous verb; it gets backshifted tohad

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 verbwillhas been changed to its past formwould”,

andtomorrowhas become the next day or the following day (both mean the same thing).

Now, with the verbpromise”, 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 verbpromise”: using to + an infinitive verb.

Thats also correct.

OK, number ten: “I would like to buy this necklace,” she told the shop assistant.

Here, the modal verbwouldis used.

This is already a past form and theres no way to backshift it (theres 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 changethis necklacetothe necklaceorthat necklace” (both are


Next sentence: The girl said, “My brother and I are going to have pizza tonight.”

This ones a little tricky.

We start with The girl said that

And then we have My brother and I.

This becomesShe and her brother”.

Only withI”, we put the other person first – “My brother and I”, “My friend

and I”, “John and Ietc.

But with other pronouns, we put the pronoun first – “She and her brother”.

Are going tobecomeswere going to”.

Now, if we hadamoris going to”, we would change that towas going to”.

But here, we haveareand that becomeswere”.

Tonightbecomesthat 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.

Boastmeans 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 thatcanhas becomecould”.

Sentence number thirteen: Shannon said, “We may go to Japan on vacation.”

The answer: Shannon said that they might go to Japan on vacation.

Wehas becomeThey”.

Mayhas changed tomightbecause thats 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.

Mustcan either stay the same or you can sayhad to”.

But, if you havemustntin the sentence, then you have to saymustnt”.

For example: The police officer said, “You mustnt park here.”

The reported sentence is The police officer said that I mustnt park there.

So, “mustntstays asmustnt”.

Alright, heres 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.

Shouldis already the past tense ofshall”, so we leave it unchanged.

This is true of all the past tense modalswe sawwouldbefore; similarly,

we dont backshiftcouldormight”.

We leave them as they are.

Now, before we move on, I want to point out a couple of things: first, about backshifting


In some situations, when we go from direct to indirect speech, we dont backshift the


For example, lets say that at the workplace, I ask a colleague of mine, Tanya, to help

me with something.

But, Tanya says, “I cant 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 cant 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: “cant helpandhas”.

This is because I am reporting her words immediately.

Theres 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 ishas announced” (a present perfect

form), and in number three, the reporting verb issaid” (past simple) – maybe

the police chief said these words in a recent interview.

But in both sentences, theres no backshifting of the tense in reported speech because the

news is recent.

Also, in the second sentence, we see the time expressionnext monthhas not been changed

tothe nextorthe following month”.

Thats 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 verbssayandtell”.

You may have noticed in some of the previous examples thattellis followed by a

person (likeme”, “him”, “heretc.).

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 verbtellmust take an indirect object (that is, some person).

So, if you remove that indirect object, its grammatically incorrect.

Now, the verbsayis the opposite of this.

Saymust not take an indirect object.

In all of these examples, we CAN usesay”, 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” (likesaid meorsaid him); thats 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 its not very common.

Im showing it to you so that you are aware of it.

But if you need to include an indirect object, usetell”.

If you dont need an indirect object, usesay”.

Alright, lets now move on and talk about changing questions from direct to indirect


Heres an example: “What do you want?”, she asked me.

Thats 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 weve used the reporting verbaskand not


Second, just like in statements, we have changed the pronoun fromyoutoI”, and

weve backshifted the tense: “wanthas becomewanted”.

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 weve made here: the word order.

When going from direct to indirect speech, weve kept the question wordwhat”,

but weve removed the auxiliary verbdo”.

Then, “youbecomesI”, andwantbecomeswanted”.

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 dont 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, thats wrong.

OK, next example: He asked, “Where did Salman go yesterday?”

Lets convert this: We keep the question wordwhere”.

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


So, He asked where Salman had gone the day before / the previous day.

Both are OK.

Id like you to notice something with the verbask”.

In the first example, we sawShe asked me”, and in this example, justHe asked

with no object.

Both of these are correct because the verbaskcan be used with or without an object.

Just keep that in mind.

Alright, heres one more question, but youll notice that theres something different

about it: “Do you like coffee?” she asked.

Whats different?

Well, theres no question word likewhat”, “where”, “whyetc.

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 dont have a question word, we use eitheriforwhether”.

Im going to useifhere.

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, lets do an exercise now to practice changing questions from direct to indirect


We will go through nine sentences; heres 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.

Its 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 neediforwhether”.

Ill 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 saythat hotelinstead ofthe hotel”.

Alright next one: “Who has eaten all the cookies?” asked Ricks mother.

The reported question is Ricks 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 ofif”, you can usewhetherif 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: “shoulddoes not backshift.

Next question: Colton asked me, “Have you received the package?”

Now, Im a little tired of using the verbask”, so Im going to use a different

question-report verb: Colton wanted to know if I had received the package.

So, instead ofasked”, Ive saidwanted to know”.

Then, theresifbecause 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 didnt you attend the meeting?”

my boss questioned.

My boss questioned why I hadnt 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: “Didnt Nicole tell you we were coming today?” he asked.

He asked whether Nicole hadnt told us that they were coming that day.

OK, lets 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 theres 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 (likeasked mein this sentence) + a to-infinitive

verb, that is, the prepositionto” + a verb in its base form (liketo lend”).

Heres the next example: “Turn off the TV!” his mother told him.

Obviously, this is not a polite request; its an instruction (in fact, its a command).

So, instead of the verbask”, were going to use the stronger verbtell”:

His mother told him to turn off the TV.

So, the guideline here is useaskfor requests andtellfor instructions,

orders, or commands.

If a request or command is negative, you just addnotbeforeto”: “Dont

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 verbadvise”: Her father

advised her to take her studies more seriously.


Alright, its 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


And you have to change them all to reported speech.

Heres the first one: He asked Jazmyn, “Would you be able to take care of my pets while

Im away?”

How would you change this?

This is a polite request, so we need to use the verbaskhere.

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


Try to change it.

Now, this is a polite request, but its also an instruction for the guests at the


So, you can use bothaskandtell” (you can useaskbecause this is quite

polite, but at the same time, its also an instruction, sotellis also OK).

Im going to usetell”: 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 sayA sign at the entrance told us not to bring

food into the park,” but its a general sign meant for everybody.

So, in this case, we can just use the verbsayas in the direct speech sentence:

A sign at the entrance said not to bring food into the park.

Because were using the verbsay”, there is no object.

Remember: “saydoes 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


Now, in this reported sentence, the boss is male; thats why weve said, “to get

out of HIS office.”

But, of course, if the boss were female, that pronoun would beher”.

Number five: Philips doctor told him, “You should exercise more.”

You can say, Philips doctor told him to exercise more.

But better is: Philips doctor advised him to exercise more.

And last one: “I wouldnt 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


I would do this, or I wouldnt do that if I were you.”

So, we can once again use the verbadvise”: 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 youre ready, were 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.

The Description of Direct, Indirect Speech (Narration) - Reported Speech - English Grammar - with Exercises & Quiz