Reported Speech​

We use Reported Speech when we want to say (report) what has been said without quoting the exact words somebody used in the original content. The exact quoting of somebody’s statement is called Direct Speech whereas Reported Speech is also known under the name Indirect Speech which literally means we’re indirectly saying what has been said.

When talking about Reported Speech, we need to divide it into 3 categories:

  1. statements (positive and negative sentences);
  2. questions;
  3. commands and requests.

We will look at each category separately:

Common Structures

Examples of  common structures for reporting verbs:

  1.  Verb + full infinitive

I agreed to come.

Verbs such as: 

agree, decide, offer, promise, refuse, promise, refuse, threaten 

Examples:

They threatened to tell his parents.

We promised to buy the next drinks.

  1.  Verb + objective + full infinitive

advised him to take a taxi.

Verbs such as:

advise, encourage, invite, remind, warn

Examples:

She warned him to stay on the motorway because there had been an accident.

He encouraged me to apply for the job.

  1.  verb + gerund

I denied breaking the window.

Verbs such as:

deny, recommend, suggest

Examples:

recommended going to Italy next year.

suggested paying half each, but he wanted to pay for it.

  1.  verb + object + preposition + gerund

accused him of breaking the window.

Verbs such as:

accuse, blame, congratulate

Examples:

congratulated him on passing his driving test.

blamed him for ruining my wedding.

  1.  verb + preposition + gerund

apologised for ruining the wedding.

Verbs such as:

apologise, insist

Examples:

insisted on paying for the meal.

He apologised for damaging the dress.

  1.  verb + that

agree that blue is better.

Verbs such as:

admit, agree, decide, deny, explain, insist, promise, recommend, suggest

Examples:

He admitted that he had lost the keys.

insisted that he drove.

Statements

The most common verb we use to introduce somebody’s statement is SAY.

Direct speech

 

Indirect (Reported) speech

eg “I like you,” she said.

→ 

She said that she liked me.

When using Reported Speech it is important to change tenses / structures accordingly. Think about it, when you are telling somebody what was said by someone else then they must have said it in the past, so you need to make sure your sentence shows this. Let’s have a closer look:

Present Simple

Past Simple

“I play the piano,” he said.

 

He said that he played the piano.

Present Continuous

Past Continuous

“She is waiting,” he said.

 

He said that she was waiting.

Present Perfect

Past Perfect

“I have bought this house,” she said.

 

She said that she had bought that house.

Present Perfect Continuous

Past Perfect Continuous

“You have been waiting too long,” I said.

 

I said that they had been waiting too long.

Past Simple

Past Perfect

“I went to see her yesterday,” she said.

 

She said that she had gone to see her the day before 

yesterday.

Past Continuous

Past Perfect Continuous

“I wasn’t cooking when you came,” he said.

 

He said that he hadn’t been cooking when I had come.

Past Perfect 

Past Perfect (no change)

“I had been there before,” she said.

 

She said that she had been there before.

Past Perfect Continuous

Past Perfect Continuous (no change)

“She had been cooking before then,” I said.

 

I said that she had been cooking before then.

Will

Would

will never leave you,” he said.

 

He said that he would never leave me.

“She will not be working tomorrow,” I said.

 

I said that she wouldn’t be working the next day.

“They will have been together for 9 years on Saturday,”, 

she said.

 

She said that they would have been  together for 

9 years on Saturday.

“We will have been building this house for 2 months tomorrow,” 

he said.

 

He said that they would have been building that house 

for 2 months the next day.

Can

Could

“She can’t do it,” he said.

 

He said that she couldn’t do it.

May

Might

“It may rain tomorrow,” we said.

 

We said that it might rain the next day.

Questions

When reporting questions we need to remember the same changing of tenses and structures as in statements but, on top of that, we need to make sure that we change the question structure into a positive sentence structure (because when reporting it stops being a question and becomes a sentence). To introduce the question we use the verb ASK.
Direct speech   Indirect (Reported) speech
Can I see you later?” she asked. →  She asked if she could see me later.
How old are you?” he asked. He asked me how old I was.
Do you have any brothers or sisters?” she asked. She asked if I had any brothers or sisters.
Did you do it?” he asked. He asked me if I had done it.
As you can see, there are two forms that can follow the verb ASK when reporting questions:
  1. ASK IF – when reporting general questions
Have you seen that movie?” she asked. She asked if I had seen that movie.
  1. ASK WHAT / WHEN / HOW etc. – when reporting detailed questions
“When is he coming?” he asked. He asked when he was coming.

Commands and Requests

 In order to introduce commands we use the verb TELL (followed by TO or NOT TO depending on the message) and to introduce somebody’s request we use the verb ASK (followed by TO or NOT TO), eg:

Direct speech Indirect (Reported) speech
Open the window,” he said.→ He told me to open the window.
Don’t touch it,” she said.→ 

She 

told me not to

 touch it.

Please make me coffee,” she said.→ 

She 

asked me to

 make her coffee.

“Please don’t mention his name,” she said.→ 

She 

asked me not to

 mention his name.

As you can see, commands and requests are the easiest to report as you do not have to focus on the change of tenses. It is enough to decide if a certain statement is more a command or a request and use the right introductory verb accordingly, followed by the rest of the message.

Extra

Apart from changing tenses and structures, there are also a few words / phrases which require a change when reported. The most important words that your students should know are:

HERE

→ 

THERE

THIS / THESE

→ 

THAT / THOSE

YESTERDAY

→ 

THE DAY BEFORE YESTERDAY

TOMORROW

→ 

THE NEXT DAY

TONIGHT

→ 

THAT NIGHT

TODAY

→ 

THAT DAY

NOW

→ 

THEN

LAST (night)

→ 

the night BEFORE

NEXT

→ 

THE FOLLOWING

AGO

→ 

BEFORE

Reporting Verbs

When teaching Reported Speech we generally start by explaining the reporting verbs tell and say and get the students to practise using them. This gives our students the general ability to be able to express what someone else said. For example:

He said that he would love to go to the party.

He told Susie that he would love to go to the party

Once our students have grasped this then we are able to start introducing some of the other reporting verbs they can use. If we introduce the new reporting words, together with their structures, at Intermediate or above, then we can be sure that the basics are well understood and that they already know the new reporting words: they just have to learn how to apply them to Reported Speech.

Here is a list of some of the other reporting verbs:

  • She warned him to stay on the motorway because there had been an accident.

  • He encouraged me to apply for the job.

  • They threatened to tell his parents.

  • We promised to buy the next drinks.

  • He admitted that he had lost the keys.

  • I insisted that he drove.

  • I recommended going to Italy next year.

  • I suggested paying half each, but he wanted to pay for it.

  • I congratulated him on passing his driving test.

  • I blamed him for ruining my wedding.

  • I insisted on paying for the meal.

  • He apologised for ruining the wedding.

I hope you can see from the list of reporting verbs above that we have many more specific reporting verbs to be able to be more precise than just using tell and say when using Reported Speech. The problem is that there isn’t just one structure for using reporting verbs, so we have to learn the structures ourselves and then teach the students. What is important is not that you remember the structures until your dying day, but that you remember that these structures exist and you prepare yourself to teach them. Once you have taught them a few times you will remember them.