Grammar. 18.03.2013
Grammar Teacher

Английская грамматика: Reported speech

Автор: Grammar Teacher


Hi, guys! I’ve decided to tell you about reported speech. There are basically three parts that we need to talk about: Statements, imperative sentences and questions.

So let’s begin with STATEMENTS.

Today I’d like to start with a quote from one of my favorite books.
Harry Potter, the boy who lived, said:

He said that he didn’t go looking for trouble, it usually found him.

Tell me, what is the difference between these two sentences?

  • “I don’t go looking for trouble, trouble usually finds me.” Said Harry.
  • Harry said that he didn’t go looking for trouble, it usually found him.

You’re absolutely right, one sentence is direct speech and one sentence is reported speech.

We use reported speech to retell what someone told us earlier. That’s why when we remake direct speech into reported we need to go one tense back. This chart will tell you how to do it:

If the sentence contains an expression of time or pronouns, you must change them as well.

John: "I studied for my test yesterday."
Peter said that he had studied for his test the day before.

Here, “my test” in the direct sentence becomes “his test” in reported speech.

Shifting of expressions of time

Compare these sentences:

  • She told me that she wanted coffee.
  • She said she wanted coffee.

What is the difference between TELL and SAY? We can say something or say something TO someone, but we tell SOMEONE, not to someone.
So here it is:

  • You say something
  • You tell someone something

Read these examples of correct and incorrect usage of SAY and TELL:

Imperative sentences


Let’s look at this picture. It says: “Keep calm and go shopping!” What type of sentence is this?
It’s an imperative, it tells us what to do. It tells us to keep calm and go shopping.

  • “Keep calm!” he said. (direct)
  • He told me to keep calm.  (indirect)

So did the tense change? Nope, it didn’t. This is how we make reported imperative sentences:
Subject + tell/ask + (not) + to + infinitive

He told me to call him. (He said: “Call me!”)
He told me NOT to call him. (He said: “Don’t call me!”)
She asked him to cook dinner. (She said: “Cook dinner, please)


One of my favorite animated pictures is “Lion King”. Have you watched it? Here’s one of the best scenes:

   - “Can you feel the love tonight?” – This is a question, right? It has question word order.

Elton John asked us if we could feel the love tonight. (this is a reported question. It has statement word order)
When we report questions, here’s what we do:

  • If this is a yes/no question, we use IF or WHETHER
  • If this is a WH-question, we use this WH-word. (why, when, who, how, what etc)
  • We change the word order from question word order to statement word order.
  • We go one tense back.

Don’t forget to change the time/place/pronouns (if necessary)!

And yet there’s more to reported speech…

Is the Earth round? Yep, it is.
Here is a video that gives at least ten reasons why we know that the Earth is round.

Personally, I like the last reason the most =) we have photographic evidence =)
Is the Earth round now? Was it round before? Will it be round in the future? Yes, yes and YES!
So here are the sentences:

  • Direct speech: “The Earth is round.”
  • Reported speech: He said that the Earth is round.

Did we change the tense? Why not?

If the information we are reporting is still true, we don’t have to go one tense back. We don’t even have to change the time expressions.

For example, today my friend said: “I’ll make breakfast for us tomorrow.” This evening, I’m reporting it to my boyfriend: “Jessica said that she’ll make breakfast for us tomorrow.” I don’t change the tense or the time expressions, because Jessica’s tomorrow and my tomorrow are the same day.

If I report what Jessica said a week after she said it, then I’ll say: “Jessica told me that she would make breakfast for us the next day.” Now I have to go one tense back and change the time expressions, because we’re talking about different things.

Here are some exercises and courses to practice reported speech:

Online course:



Mixed exercises on reported speech:

Мы рассмотрели правила и примеры использования косвенной речи в английском языке. Чтобы узнать больше об английской грамматике, читайте другие публикации в разделе Grammar!

Good luck and check out this online course about Reported speech with Joker at online supermarket of English courses

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