DIRECT – INDIRECT SPEECH

Introduction

When we want to repeat (say or report) what another person(s) says, we say it in two ways:

Mr. Penguin and Mrs. Penguin are talking.  Mr. Monkey overhears their conversation, and goes to Miss Penguin, their daughter, to report what he hears…

Your father said to your mother, “I am leaving you.” (the exact words)

This kind of repeating somebody else’s exact words is called DIRECT SPEECH.

However, Mr. Monkey tells (reports to) Miss Penguin what he hears…

Your father told your mother that he was leaving her.

Mr. Monkey does not use the exact words said by Mr. Penguin but tells her in a different way,changing the exact words… This way of repeating somebody else’s words in an indirect way is called INDIRECT SPEECH OR REPORTED SPEECH

Another example:

1. The girl said to her father, I want to become a teacher.

(‘The girl said to her father’ — introductory (main) clause; “I want to become a teacher” — the actual quoted words – subordinate clause)

2. The girl told her father that she wanted to become a teacher.

(‘The girl told her father’ — introductory (main) clause; ‘That she wanted to become a teacher’ — subordinate clause;  ‘that’ – conjunction)

Please refer to the topic ‘SENTENCE’.

In sentence 1 we quote (say or report or repeat) the exact words of the girl.

This is called “DIRECT SPEECH”.  The girl’s words are put within inverted commas or quotation marks or speech marks.  [ “…” – double quotation marks;  ‘…’ – single quotation marks]

In sentence 2, however, we report what the girl said without quoting the exact words, but using different words without changing the meaning of the actual spoken words.

This is called “INDIRECT (reported) SPEECH”.  There are no inverted commas or quotation marks.

The Direct Speech construction is normally used in writing.

The Indirect (reported) Speech construction is mostly used in conversation, because it is not convenient to use punctuation marks, such as commas and inverted commas, in speech.

To report a direct speech sentence in indirect speech, we need to know what changes the words take while being changed.

The changes effected in the “indirect speech” sentence are:

1. the comma (,) after ‘said’ in the introductory clause and the quotation marks (“…”) are removed

2. the introductory verb ‘said to’ is changed to ‘told

3. the conjunction ‘that’ is put between the main clause and the subordinate clause [only in statement sentences]

4. the personal pronoun ‘I’ is changed to ‘she

5. the verb ‘want’ is changed into ‘wanted

The changes depend on the Kinds of Sentence (according to expression); the TENSE of the main verb of the sentence; and the subject of the sentence, whether it is a noun or a pronoun.

When there are so many points and rules to be applied to change a Direct Speech sentence into an Indirect Speech sentence, it is best we start from the beginning and to discuss each rule separately and elaborately.

For power presentation slides on Direct-Indirect Speech, please, click here on direct-indirect.speech .  For continuity, please keep clicking after each feature in each slide.]

There are some important points we should all know well before going to discuss the rules for changing Direct Speech sentence into Indirect Speech.

They are:

Note very well that the following rules for changing Speech are applicable only when the Main Verb in the introductory or main clause is in PAST TENSE.

There are special rules for changing Speech when the main verb in the main clause is in Present or Future Tense, which are given in the “TENSE” part of this main topic.

For example.

The girl said to her father, “I want to become a teacher.”

(‘said to’ – main verb of main clause – simple past; “I want to become a teacher”     subordinate clause – within quotation marks)

The changes take place mostly in the subordinate clause; however, there are some changes that take place even in the main (introductory) clause.  The changes depend on the kind of sentence (according to the expression).

For example,

He saidto me, “This is a book.”

He told me that that was a book.

(‘said to’ – changed to ‘told’ – statement sentence)

She said to me, “Is this a book?”

She asked me if that was a book.

(‘said to’ – changed to ‘asked’ – interrogative/question sentence)

You said to him, “Fetch me a bucket of water!”

You ordered him to fetch you a bucket of water.

(‘said to’ – changed to ‘ordered’ – imperative sentence)

She said, “Ricky, open the window, please.”

She requested Ricky to open the window.

(‘said Ricky’ – changed to ‘requested Ricky’ – imperative sentence with ‘please’)

It may be noticed that in the first pair of sentences ‘said to’ is changed to ‘told’ because the first sentence of the pair is a statement sentence; in the second pair, ‘said to’ is changed to ‘asked’ because the first sentence of the pair is an interrogative (question) sentence; in the third pair, ‘said to’ is changed to ‘ordered’ because the first sentence of the pair is an imperative (order, request, command, etc.) sentence; and in the fourth pair, ‘said to’ is changed to ‘requested’ because the first sentence of the pair is an imperative sentence with a request word ‘please’. The verb words ‘say’ and ‘tell’ need to be addressed at this stage as they keep coming quite frequently in our examples… The verb word ‘say’ takes a preposition when used with an object, and an object of it may or may not be present in the sentence. The verb word ‘tell’ does not take a preposition when used with an object and an object of it is always present.

e.g.

He said, “I am the boss.”  [without an object after ‘said’]

He said to me, “I am the boss.”  [with ‘to’ before an object ‘me’]

He told me that he was the boss. [‘told’ – without ‘to’; with an object ‘me’]

Remember that ‘tell’ is never used in the introductory (main) clause in Direct Speech.

The changes we are going to discuss hereafter are applicable to only the subordinate clause, and only when the main verb in the introductory (main) clause is in PAST tense!

RULES FOR CHANGING THE SPEECH OF A SENTENCE:

STATEMENT (DECLARATIVE) SENTENCE

The common conjunction is: that

[conjunction ‘that’ is usually omitted, particularly in conversation]

{Before going for the rules, we should have a quick look at the topic of Tense.}

The Rules:

All the PRESENT TENSE forms of the main verbs in the subordinate clause are changed into their corresponding PAST TENSE forms: ‘is’ and ‘am’ become ‘was’; ‘are’ becomes ‘were’; ‘shall’ becomes ‘should’; ‘come’ becomes ‘came’; and so on… e.g.

The boy said, “I like to eat sweets.”  Direct

[‘like’ – main verb – simple present tense]

The boy said that he liked to eat sweets.  Indirect

[‘liked’ – main verb – simple PAST]

Even though the main verb of the main clause of the Direct Speech sentence is in PAST TENSE, the main verb in the Subordinate Clause is not changed in the Indirect Speech when that Verb expresses a regular habit, a universal truth or a natural occurrence:

e.g.

He said, “The Sun rises in the East.”   Direct

He said that the Sun rises in the East.    Indirect

Though the verb ‘said’ is in Past Tense, the verb ‘rises’ in the subordinate clause of the Indirect Speech is not changed because

the expression in the actual quoted words is a universal truth.

We must be extremely careful in deciding which one is a special expression that needs no change and which is to be changed!

The SIMPLE PAST TENSE form sometimes remains unchanged and sometimes changes into the PAST PERFECT TENSE form.

But the PAST PERFECT TENSE form is not changed; it remains the same in Indirect, too.

[When there is no need to express one action being the first and the other being the second, we keep the  ‘simple past tense’ as it is, but when we want to indicate that of the two actions one action happened before another, we use ‘past perfect tense’.]

e.g.

(a)

He said, “I had a dream last night.”     Direct

[‘had’ – main verb – simple past]

He said that he had a dream the previous night.”  Indirect

[‘had’ – main verb – UNCHANGED]

(b)

He said, “I bought a big house.”   Direct

[‘bought’ – main verb – simple past]

He said that he had bought a big house.  Indirect

[‘had bought’ – main verb – past perfect – CHANGED]

The PAST CONTINUOUS TENSE form becomes the PAST PERFECT CONTINUOUS form.

e.g.

He said, “Molly was swimmingin the pond.”     Direct

[‘was swimming’ – main verb – past continuous tense]

He said that Molly had been swimming in the pond.  Indirect

[‘had been swimming’ – main verb – past perfect continuous]

{Before discussing the other rules, we should have a quick look at the topic of PERSONAL PRONOUNS.}

The PERSONAL PRONOUNS and POSSESSIVE ADJECTIVES of the first and second persons in the Direct Speech are changed into their corresponding THIRD PERSON in the Indirect Speech.  {Please go to  topic PERSONAL PRONOUNS to find out how to relate or identify the corresponding pronouns in relation to Speech.}

The COMMON & PROPERNOUNS in the Direct Speech sentence are not changed in the Indirect Speech; only the PERSONAL PRONOUNS AND THE POSSESSIVE ADJECTIVES are changed.

e.g.

He said to me, “Polly is my friend.”    Direct

[‘Polly’ – Proper Noun – name of a particular person]

He told me that Polly was his friend.   Indirect

[‘Polly’ – Proper Noun – not changed]

He said to her, “The manager is on leave.”    Direct

[‘The manager’ – Common Noun – a general name given to a person who looks after an office]

He told her that the manager was on leave.    Indirect

[‘the manager’ – common noun – not changed]

“Personal Pronouns & POSSESSIVE ADJECTIVES” continues:

e.g.   He said to them, “I shall pay your wages tomorrow.”  Direct

He told them that he would paytheir wages the next dayIndirect

Analysis:

STEP 1    Direct Speech Sentence

He said to them, “I shall pay your wages tomorrow.”     Direct

(‘He’ – 3rd person singular in the introductory clause is related to the ‘I’ in the actual quoted words; ‘them’ – 3rd person plural in the introductory clause is related to the ‘your’ – 2nd person, plural, possessive case in the actual quoted words.)

step 2   Indirect Speech Sentence

He told them that he would pay their wages the next day.    Indirect

(‘He’ corresponds with ‘he’; and ‘your’ corresponds with ‘their’ – 3rd person, plural, possessive case)

step 3 Direct & Indirect together

He said to them, “I shall pay your wages tomorrow.”   Direct

He told them   that he would pay their wages the next day. Indirect

The personal pronouns in the introductory clause of direct speech sentence do not change. The personal pronoun “I” in the main clause of direct is changed into ‘he’ in the indirect. The possessive adjective ‘your’ in the main clause of direct is changed into ‘their’ in the indirect.

Explanation:

The 1st person pronoun “I” in the subordinate clause of the Direct Speech sentence corresponds with the 3rd person pronoun ‘He’ in the main clause, so when the speech is changed, 1st person is changed into its corresponding 3rd person ‘he’; the 2nd person possessive adjective “your” in the subordinate clause corresponds to the 3rd person pronoun ‘them’ in the main clause in the Direct speech sentence, so when the speech is changed, the 2nd person possessive adjective is changed into its corresponding 3rd person possessive adjective ‘their’ in the subordinate clause in the Indirect speech.

Let’s consider another example:

She said to him, “I can give you my book.”  Direct

She’ in the main clause is related to ‘I’ and ‘my’ in the subordinate clause in the Direct.

Him’ in the main clause is related to ‘you’ in the subordinate clause in the Direct.

The corresponding personal pronoun of ‘I’ is “she”, and the corresponding possessive adjective of ‘my’ is “her”. The corresponding personal pronoun in objective case of ‘you’ in 3rd person is “him”. Therefore, when the Speech is changed:  She said to him, “I can give you my book.” becomes …

She told him that she could give him her book.            Indirect

When the Person Addressed reports the Speech him- or herself, the Second Person is changed into the First Person.

e.g.

He said to me, “You alone can save her.” Direct

He told me that I alone could save her. Indirect

Explanation:

The personal pronoun ‘You’ in the subordinate clause of the Direct Speech sentence is the PERSON ADDRESSED and related to ‘me’ which is the PERSON REPORTING, in the main clause, and so, when the Speech is changed, the 2nd person pronoun ‘you’ which is in the nominative case is changed into the 1st person pronoun “I” which is also in the nominative case.

The words are said to ‘me’ and ‘I’ am the one telling others.

Both the PERSON ADDRESSED and the PERSON REPORTING are one person in this sentence.

However, the 3rd person pronoun ‘her’ remains unchanged because it is the 1st and the 2nd Persons in the subordinate clause of the Direct Speech sentence that take the changes!

The Nominative of Addressee in the subordinate clause of Direct Speech Sentence becomes the Person Spoken to in the main clause of the Indirect Speech Sentence.

e.g.

Sam said, “Teacher, I don’t understand this question.”       Direct

(‘Teacher’ in the actual quoted words is the person addressed – ‘Sam said to the teacher’ therefore, in the indirect speech it becomes ‘Sam told his teacher’ – person spoken to.)

Sam told his teacher that he did not understand that question.   Indirect

Compare:

Sam said to his teacher, “I don’t understand this question.”   Direct

Sam told his teacher that he didn’t understand that question.  Indirect

Sam said to me, “Her teacher didn’t understand this question.”    Direct

(‘Her teacher’ – somebody else’s teacher)

Sam told me that her teacher had not understood that question.   Indirect

 

Certain words expressing ‘nearness’ in the subordinate clause of the Direct Speech Sentence are changed into words expressing “distance” in the Indirect Speech.  

e.g.

‘This’ in the subordinate clause of the Direct Speech Sentence is changed to ‘that’ in the Indirect Speech.

Kim said to his sister, “I like this shirt.” Direct

Kim told his sister that he liked that shirt.   Indirect

 

words expressing ‘nearness’   ——–   words expressing “distance”

this                                                                          that

these                                                                      those

now                                                                        then

today                                                                      that day

tomorrow                                                              the next day

yesterday                                                              the previous day

last night                                                                the previous night

or

the night before

ago                                                                          before

come                                                                      go

The words expressing ‘distance’ in the Direct Speech remain unchanged in the Indirect Speech Sentence. And these words are not changed if the Speech is reported during the same period (a little later, of course) or at the same place.

e.g.

He said, “I want to go there.”     Direct

He said that he wanted to go thereIndirect

The word ‘there’ is not changed because it is a word expressing ‘distance’.

RULES FOR CHANGING THE SPEECH OF A SENTENCE:

INTERROGATIVE (QUESTION)  SENTENCE:

The common conjunctions are:  if and whether

[There is some slight difference between ‘if’ and ‘whether’, we, at this basic level, need not worry much about it.]

When we report an Interrogative (question) Sentence in the Indirect Speech, we must change the introductory verb, usually ‘said to’, into ‘asked’, ‘inquired’, ‘demanded to know’, etc. related

e.g.    He said to me, “Is this seat taken?”  Direct

(‘said to’ — verb in the main clause; ‘question mark’ shows that this is a question)

He asked me if that seat was taken. Indirect

(‘said to’ is changed to ‘asked’ because it is an interrogative/question sentence) The conjunction ‘that’ is not used between the main clause and the subordinate clause of the Indirect Speech Sentence; instead ‘if or whether’ is used for the ‘yes or no’ questions, and the ‘wh- word is used as it is for the ‘wh-’ questions.

{‘Yes or No’ questions are those questions that begin with ‘Is’, ‘are’, ‘can’, ‘shall’, ‘must’, etc. and the answer to these questions are ‘yes or no’; ‘wh-’ questions are those questions that begin with wh-’ words, such as ‘where’, ‘when’, ‘why’, ‘how’, ‘whose’, etc.}

e.g.

“Yes or No” questions:

Is this your book?  =   Yes, it is.

Are you an employee here? =  No, I am not.

Have you gone mad?  =  No, certainly not!

Can you help me?  =  Yes, I can.

Will she come here?  =  No, she won’t.

“Wh-’ questions:

Who are you?  =  I am a student. /  My name is John.

What is this?  =  This is a book.

Where did he go?  =  He went to hospital.

How do you open this?  =  I don’t know

Now back to the main point:

e.g.

“yes or No”  questions:

He said to me, “Are you the manager here?”    Direct

[‘yes or no’ question  — begins with ‘are’]

He asked me if I was the manager there.  Indirect

[conjunction ‘if’ for ‘yes or no’ question]

“wh-” questions:

She said to me, “What do you want?”  Direct

[‘wh-’ question – begins with ‘what’]

She asked me what I wanted.  Indirect

[‘what’ is used as it is in place of a conjunction]

The Word Order:

In a Statement Sentence the word order is: ‘subject comes first and the verb comes next and the objects or complements follow the verb’, but in an Interrogative (question) Sentence the word order is: ‘verb comes first and the subject comes next and the objects or complements follow the subject’. Therefore, when we change an Interrogative Sentence from Direct to Indirect Speech, we have to change its interrogative word order into the Statement Sentence word order!

e.g.

They said to me, “Is the manager available?” Direct

[interrogative order:  ‘is’ – verb – first; ‘the manager’ – subject – second]

They asked me if the manager was available.  Indirect

[statement order: ‘the manager’ – subject – first; ‘was’ – verb – second]

Punctuation Marks:

When we change the interrogative order in the Direct Speech Sentence into the statement order in the Indirect Speech Sentence, we do not use the question mark (?) (that comes at the end of every question) in the Indirect Speech Sentence because once a question is changed into a statement it does not need a question mark but needs a full stop/period (.).

e.g.

He said to me, “Is this your book?”   Direct

[(?) question mark for a question]

He said to me if that was my book. Indirect

[(.) full stop/period for a statement]

In addition to the specific rules for the Interrogative Sentence we have discussed, the rules on TENSE, PERSONAL PRONOUNS and WORDS EXPRESSING ‘NEARNESS’, ETC.  we have discussed for the Statement Sentence are applicable to the Interrogative Sentence too!

Let’s analyse some more Interrogative Sentences:

YES OR NO QUESTION:

step 1 Direct Speech

The little girl said to him, “Do you know my father?”      Direct

The words: The little girl , him and father are not changed because ‘The little girl’ and ‘him’ are in the main (introductory) clause of the Direct and ‘father’ in the subordinate clause is a noun.

step 2 Direct Speech

The little girl said to him, “Do you know my father?”

(verb comes first; subject follows)

The verb word ‘know’ is a non-anomalous verb, so it cannot make a question on its own; therefore, it takes the help of ‘do’, an anomalous verb, to make this question. As this sentence is a question, the ‘question’ word order is used: the verb, with its helping verb, comes first and the subject ‘you’ comes next.

step 3 Direct and Indirect together

The little girl said to him, “Do you know my father?”      Direct

The little girl asked him if he knew her father.  Indirect

The changes that took place:

‘said to’ becomes ‘asked’  because the sentence is a question ; ‘comma and quotation marks’ are removed; conjunction ‘if’ is used because it is a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question; ‘he’ is used in place of ‘you’ because ‘you’ is related to ‘him’; ‘do…know’ is changed to ‘knew’ because ‘simple present’ is changed to simple past; and as the interrogative order is changed into statement order, the subject ‘he’ is placed first and the verb ‘knew’ is placed next; ‘my’ is changed into ‘her’ because ‘my’ is related to the ‘little girl’, the subject in the main clause of the Direct, and the corresponding possessive adjective is ‘her’ ; the question mark (?) is removed and a full stop (.) is used in its place because an interrogative sentence in Direct changes into a statement sentence in Indirect.

WH QUESTION:

She said to me, “What do you want from me?”  Direct

She asked me what I wanted from her. 

The words she, me, what, and from are not changed because she’ and ‘me’ are in the main clause of the Direct Sentence; what’ is not changed because ‘wh’ word in the ‘wh’ question is used as it is in place of a conjunction; and ‘from’ is not changed because it is a preposition

RULES FOR CHANGING THE SPEECH OF A SENTENCE:

IMPERATIVE SENTENCE:

The Common Conjunction:  — nil –

[The Imperative sentence in Indirect Speech does not take any conjunction; instead, it takes “to-infinitive” form of the FINITE verb in the subordinate clause of Direct.]

Sentences containing orders, requests, warnings, advice, etc. are in the Imperative Mood and are called Imperative Sentences.  In reporting them in the Indirect Speech, the Introductory Verb ‘said’ has to be replaced by ‘asked’, ‘ordered’, ‘advised’, ‘requested’, warned’, ‘commanded’, etc. depending on the context. 

The Subject of the subordinate clause in the Direct ‘you’ is not mentioned but understood. This is because an order, warning or request is usually given to the listener, the Second Person Pronoun ‘YOU’, and therefore, there is no need to mention it specifically.

The main verb in the subordinate clause in the Direct Speech Sentence is changed into the “to-infinitive” form; consequently, the whole complex sentence is changed into a simple sentence in the Indirect Speech.  

e.g.

John said to me, “Give me your pen!”  Direct

The words John, me and pen are not changed because John and me are in the main clause of the Direct Speech. Pen is not changed because it is a NOUN

John ordered me to give him my pen.  Indirect

‘Said to’ is changed to ‘ordered’ because the exclamation mark (!) shows that this expression is an order; ‘Give’ is changed into to give’, the ‘to-infinitive’ form of the verb word ‘give’; ‘me’ is changed into him’ because it is related to ‘John’, the subject of the main clause, and it is in the objective case; ‘your’ is changed into ‘my’ because it is related to ‘me’ in the main clause, and ‘I’ am the one reporting the speech; and, finally, the exclamation mark (!) is dropped and the full stop is used in its place. 

In addition to the special rule mentioned above, the rules we have discussed in connection with the Personal Pronouns and Words expressing ‘nearness’, and the changes in the punctuation marks are applicable to the Imperative Sentences too. 

Let’s analyse another sentences: 

James said to her, “Open the window for me now, please.”   Direct         

James requested her to open the window for him then.  Indirect 

The words James, her, the window and for are not changed because James and her are in the main clause of the Direct Speech Sentence; the window and for are not changed because ‘window’ is a noun and ‘for’ is a preposition, which do not take any changes.

Said to’ is changed into ‘requested’ because in the Direct Speech Sentence we have the polite word please’ which is not repeated in the Indirect Speech because the verb word ‘requested’ does the purpose of showing politeness; the Imperative Mood verb word ‘open’ is changed into its ‘to-infinitive’ form ‘to open’; the pronoun ‘me’ which is related to the Subject of the Main clause in its Objective Case is changed into ‘him’ – James; and finally, the word expressing nearness now’ is changed into ‘then’ a word expressing distance.

When the Imperative Mood Verb in the subordinate clause of the Direct Speech Sentence is with a NEGATIVE, the same ‘NEGATIVE’ word without the auxiliary (helping) verb, if any, is placed before the to-infinitive’ form of that verb in the Indirect Speech Sentence.

e.g.

She said to him, “Don’t break my doll!”   Direct

She shouted at him not to break her doll.   Indirect

Said to’ is changed into ‘shouted’ because there is an exclamation mark (!) in the subordinate clause of the Direct Speech Sentence which shows some strong emotion; ‘Don’t = do not’ which is negative is changed into only ‘not’ because the auxiliary verb word ‘do’ is dropped in the Indirect Speech Sentence.

Another example:

His girl-friend said to Mike, “Don’t send your assistant to my office today.”       Direct

his girl-friend                         my   =  her

said to                                   warned/ asked/ told

Mike                                       your = his

don’t                                      not

send                                       to send

today                                      that day

 

His girl-friend warned/told Mike not to send his assistant to her office that day.  Indirect

Exception:

When the verb word ‘let’ is in the subordinate clause of the Direct Speech Sentence, we change the introductory verb into suggested or proposed; and use the modal auxiliary (helping) verb should with the main verb in the subordinate clause of the Indirect Speech Sentence. And the verb word ‘let’ is dropped because it expresses a ‘suggestion’ in this context and as the ‘suggestion’ is already mentioned in the main clause by the introductory verb ‘suggested’ there is no point in using ‘let’ again!

e.g.

She said to them, “Let’s have a picnic on Sunday.”   Direct

She suggested that they should have a picnic on Sunday. Indirect

Though this sentence comes under the Imperative Sentence, it is not a true Imperative Sentence because it does not have any order, request or command in it, but has a “suggestion”; therefore, this sentence is changed into Indirect like a Statement Sentence – using the conjunction ‘that’, and the subject ‘they’ in the subordinate clause.

RULES FOR CHANGING THE SPEECH OF A SENTENCE:

EXCLAMAROTY SENTECE:

The Common Conjunction:  that 

Exclamatory Sentences are strong feelings of wonder, fear, pleasure or appreciation; and so, while changing them from Direct Speech to Indirect Speech, the sentences are rephrased (re-written) to suit the emotion or feeling given in the original sentences.

Though the Exclamatory Sentences begin mostly with ‘wh-’ words, they are not questions like the interrogative sentences, and so the subordinate clauses do not begin with the conjunction word ‘wh-’ as is the case with Interrogative Sentences, but they begin with the conjunction “that” as in the Statement Sentences when they are changed from Direct Speech to Indirect Speech.  And the word order is the same as the one in the Statements.

As Exclamatory Sentences are strong feelings, each group of words in th subordinate clauses each takes an Exclamation Mark (!).  There may be some extraordinary sentence where just a full stop is used, but for now, it is advisable to use an exclamation mark.

Nevertheless, in the Indirect Speech the Exclamation Mark is changed to a full stop, just like in the statement sentences.

e.g.

He said, “What a beautiful house it is!”    Direct

He wondered that it was a beautiful house.   Indirect

“Never! I will never agree to such a proposal,” he said.   Direct

He said that he would absolutely never agree to such a proposal. Indirect

“Good gracious! I have never heard of such a thing,” he said.  Direct

He was very surprised and said that he had never heard of such a thing.  Indirect

She said to me, “Oh, what a cute little thing you are!”  Direct

She was very excited and said that I was a cute little thing.  Indirect 

SOME IMPORTANT POINTS ON THE AUXILIARY VERB ‘MUST’:

It is essential to know the difference between the “three uses of Must”.

“Must” used for the actual present tense in the Direct Speech becomes ‘had to’ in the Indirect Speech:

e.g.

“I must write to my father,” my friend said to me.  [present time – now] Direct

My friend told me that he had to write to his father. Indirect

“Must” used for the future time in the Direct Speech becomes ‘would have to’ in the Indirect Speech:

e.g.

“I must leave for Kenya next week,” he said to her.   [future]       Direct

He told her that he would have to leave for Kenya the following week. Indirect

“Must”, when expresses a rule that always applies, used in the Direct Speech, remains unchanged in the Indirect Speech:

e.g.

Grandma said, “Children must obey their parents.”  [a rule]      Direct

Grandma said that children must obey their parents.  Indirect (unchanged)

SOME IMPORTANT POINTS ON THE SEQUENCE OF TENSE & PUNCTUATION:

When the main verb in the introductory clause is in the PAST TENSE’, the main verb in the subordinate clause should be in the PAST TENSE.

There is, however, an exception to this strict rule: when the subordinate clause expresses a UNIVERSAL TRUTH, it may be put in the Present Tense in the Indirect Speech:

e.g.

Our teacher said to us, “Honesty isthe best policy.”  [truth]     Direct

Our teacher told us that honesty is the best policy.   Indirect  (Tense unchanged – a universal truth)

another very important aspect one should consider very seriously while doing the direct-indirect speech is the PUNCTUATION MARKS!  We have noticed how a simple mark, like a comma (,), makes a lot of difference to the entire sentence.  Therefore, let’s discuss each point in detail:

There are many punctuation marks, but the common Punctuation Marks (along with the other marks, of course) used in Direct-Indirect Speech are: inverted or quotation marks – “…” (double quotations) & ‘…’ (single quotations)

comma — ,

question mark — ?

exclamation mark — !

full stop/period — .

the Capital Letter — A  B  C  D  E  F  …  Z

 

The position of the introductory (main) clause & the punctuation marks in Direct –Indirect Speech Sentences:

STATEMENT SENTENCE

The introductory (main) clause of the Direct speech sentence comes… before the subordinate clause (in other words the main clause comes at the beginning of the Direct Speech Sentence) in most cases:

e.g.

He said to his brother, “They will help you with your work.”  Direct

((introductory (main) clause before the sub-clause)

Note the Punctuation Marks:

1.  the first word ‘He’, of course, begins with a Capital Letter

2.  a comma (,) is used at the end of the introductory (main) clause

3.  quotation marks (“…) begin the subordinate clause

4.  the first letter of the first word within the quotation marks is written

with a Capital Letter

5.  a punctuation mark — a full stop (.) for Statement Sentence; a question

mark (?) for an Interrogative Sentence; or an exclamation mark (!)

for an Exclamatory Sentence, ends the subordinate clause

6.  quotation marks (…”) close the subordinate clause

7.  the sentence end punctuation mark (.) – full stop in this case –

is put within the end quotation marks

In the Indirect Speech Sentence, however, the Punctuation Marks change:

e.g.

He told his brother that they would help him with his work.  Indirect

1.  the sentence begins with He with a Capital Letter

2.  the comma and the quotation marks are dropped, instead the conjunction ‘that’ is used (in this example sentence)

3.  the word ‘they’ is written with a small letter instead of a Capital because now it is in the middle of the sentence, not within quotations [If the first word within the quotation marks is a PROPER NOUN (name of a particular person, thing or place) or the personal pronoun “I”, the Capital Letter is not changed into a small letter.]

4.  the end punctuation mark is a full stop.

after the subordinate clause (in other words the main clause comes at the end of the Direct Speech Sentence) in some cases:

e.g.  “They will help you with your work,” he said to his brother.      Direct

(‘subordinate clause comes before the main clause)

Note the Punctuation Marks:

1.  the first word ‘They’ within the quotation marks is written with a Capital Letter

2.  a comma is used at the end of the subordinate clause (within the end quotation marks)

3.  the word ‘he’ is written with a small letter, unlike in the sentence where the introductory clause (main) clause comes before

4.  the sentence end punctuation mark is a full stop

In the Indirect Speech Sentence, however, the Punctuation Marks change:

e.g.

He told his brother that they would help him with his work.   Indirect

Though the introductory (main) clause comes after the subordinate clause in the DIRECT SPEECH SENTENCE, in the Indirect Speech Sentence, however, the main clause always comes before the subordinate clause!

1.  the sentence begins with the MAIN CLAUSE, and the first word ‘He’ is written with a Capital Letter

2.  the quotation marks and the comma are dropped, and a conjunction ‘that’ is used instead

3.  the first letter T of the first word within the quotation marks is written in small letter ‘t’ because now it is in the middle of the Indirect Speech Sentence (nevertheless, if the first word within quotation marks is a PROPER NOUN, the first letter is always a Capital Letter, placed within or out of quotation marks)

4.  the sentence end punctuation mark – a full stop – is unchanged

in the middle of the subordinate clause (in other words the subordinate clause is SPLIT and the main clause is placed between the two parts of the sub-clause):

In this kind we have two types —

A: a single sentence is split into two;

B: two separate sentences are separated by the main clause.

Type A

one sentence split into two:

e.g.

“You are teaching her,” he said to me, “all dirty habits. Direct

1.  the first word ‘you’ within the quotation marks is written with a Capital Letter

2.  the first part of the subordinate clause ends with a comma and the quotation marks close

3.  the introductory clause begins with a small letter because it is now in the middle of the Direct Speech Sentence

4.  the introductory clause ends with a comma because it is in the middle of the Direct Speech Sentence and another part of sub-clause follow

5. the first letter of the first word within the quotation marks is writtenwith a small letter because it is only a part of a long sentence, not a sentence by itself

6. the end punctuation mark is a full stop and is placed within the end quotation marks.

In the Indirect Speech, however, the Punctuation Marks change:

e.g.

He told me that I was teaching her all dirty habits.   Indirect

1.  the Indirect Speech Sentence begins with the MAIN CLAUSE, and the first word is written with a Capital Letter

2.  the comma and the quotation marks are dropped, and a conjunction ‘that’ is used instead

3.  the two parts of the subordinate clause are joined together and placed after the main clause

4.  the sentence end punctuation mark – a full stop – is unchanged.

Type B

two sentences written separately:

e.g.

“We don’t have any money,” said to him. “You must earn some now.” Direct

1.  the first word within the quotation marks is written with a Capital Letter because it begins the Direct Speech Sentence

2.  the first sentence of the subordinate clause ends with a comma, and the quotation marks close

3.  the main clause starts with a small letter because it is now placed between the two separate sentences of the subordinate clause, and ends with a full stop because the other sentence of the subordinate clause following it is a separate sentence by itself

4. the first letter of the first word in the second part of the subordinate clause is written with a CAPITAL LETTER because it is a complete sentence by itself, not a part as is the case with Type A sentence

5.  the end punctuation mark – a full stop – is placed within the quotation marks

In the Indirect Speech Sentence, however, the Punctuation Marks change:

e.g.

She told him that they did not have any money and he had to earn some then.    Indirect

(main clause before the subordinate clause — the two separate sentences of the subordinate clause joined together by ‘and’;  placed after the main clause)

SPLIT clause punctuation marks rule in simple:

1. when we want to say that the two parts of the subordinate clause SPLIT with the main clause in between are only one expression, we use a comma after the main clause and use a small letter for the first letter of the first word of the second part:

e.g.

“You alone,” she said to me, “can save me.”

[a comma after the main clause and a small letter for the first letter of the first word of the second part of the sub-clause]

= She said to me, “You alone can save me.”  — One expression

2. when we want to say that the two parts of the subordinate clause SPLIT with the main clause in between are two separate sentences, we use a full stop after the main clause and use a Capital Letter to the first letter of the first word of the second part:

e.g.

“We have to leave this place,” she said to me. “There is no water here.”

[a full stop after the main clause and a Capital Letter for the first letter of the first word of the second part of the sub-clause]

=  She said to me, “We have to leave this place. There is no water here.” – Two expressions

The position of the introductory (main) clause & the punctuation marks in Direct –Indirect Speech Sentences:

Interrogative (question) Sentence & Imperative Sentence:

All the rules we have discussed above for STATEMENT SENTENCE are applicable to the Interrogative and Imperative Sentence also. In addition, the other punctuation marks: a question mark (?) after a question and  an exclamation mark (!) after a strong imperative sentence are also observed when punctuating interrogative and imperative sentences.

e.g.

He said to her, “Are you the manager here?”

He asked her if she was the manager there.

Notice that the question mark (?) is dropped and a full stop is used in the Indirect.

The conjunction ‘if’ is used and the word order is changed – subject first and verb next.

e.g.

He said to her, “Shut up!”

He ordered her to shut up.

Notice that the exclamation mark (!) is dropped and a full stop is used in the Indirect.

The finite verb ‘shut’ is changed into the to-infinitive form. No conjunction is used.

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About the Author:BC Kumar

BC Kumar, an English Language Teacher, taught in numerous countries including Ethiopia, Oman and India, shares his knowledge and passion for the English Language. Disclaimer: This is a free educational website and all content has been compiled by the author. All copyrights to images and videos belong to their respective owners.

12 Responses to Direct – Indirect Speech

  1. I want to know about the sentence given below:
    She said to me,” What brings you here?” when changed to Indirect speech becomes–She asked me what had brought me there.
    My question is why there is no interrogation mark in the reported speech when the subject is coming after the verb? please help..I am confused

    • Hi Mandeep Sandhu, It’s not a problem at all. (You should have gone through the ‘changes in interrogative sentences’ part in the text.) The word ‘asked’ in the reported speech sentence has taken the responsibility of the question mark in the direct speech sentence. The person ‘me’ who is redirecting the question is not asking that question; he/she is “telling” the others what the other person ‘she’ asked. Here, as an interrogative sentence in the subordinate clause of the direct speech is changed into a statement sentence, a full stop is used with the help of ‘asked’ and ‘what’ in the introductory clause of the reported sentence. I hope this explanation makes it clear for you! Thanks for visiting Weblearneng!! All the Best!!! (I think ‘brought’, the simple past tense form of the verb word “bring”, in place of ‘had brought’, the past perfect tense form, may also be used.)

      • thank you for your reply..it sure is helpful but how do I explain it to 10th Grade student of Government school in Punjab,Indai

        • Hi Mandeep Sandhu, This is very simple, too. Just give your class X students this sentence: “what is your name?” in Punjabi, if you are allowed to do so, emphasizing the question mark, and then give them the sentence: “Your name is …”, emphasizing the full stop/period mark. Now explain the difference between an interrogative sentence and a statement. Then give them the direct speech Interrogative sentence, pointing out the ‘said’ in the main clause and quotation marks in the sub-clause, and then give them the indirect/reported speech sentence, pointing out the changes ‘said’ into “asked” and the removal of quotation marks and then the full stop/period in place of question mark, and explain them the different between ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question and ‘wh’ question, and make it clear that because your example sentence has a ‘what’ in it, it is used as it is as a conjunction, and, of course, highlighting the other rules for change! I’m sure this helps them to understand the rules better. Please, send me your feedback after you have tried this method. Thanks!

          • Thank you so much Sir .it helps a lot .i have a doubt .in statement sentence we have conjunction “that”.but in content interrogative sentence, we use the “wh” in the place of conjunction.Are they really conjunction?

            Or Relative pronoun,relative adverb or complementizer?

            You have said that they are used as conjunctions ..

            Actually what is the parts of speech of those Words?

            Thank you.

          • Hi Baskar M,

            Thanks for visiting Webleareng. Firstly, we have two types of interrogative sentences: ‘wh’ questions and ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions. Secondly, when we change an ‘yes’ or ‘no’ direct speech interrogative sentence into an indirect speech sentence, we use ‘if’ or ‘whether’ as a ‘conjunction’ depending on the context, and when change a ‘wh’ question, we use that ‘wh’ word “as a conjunction”. Thirdly, there two kinds of word groups when we talk in general: words according to category and words according to function; for example: in “John told me the story”, ‘John’ is a noun, a proper noun, according to category and ‘John’ is the subject of the sentence according to function, in “I told John”, ‘John’ is a noun, a proper noun, according to category and ‘John is the object of the very word ‘told’. And, yes, there are some discrepancies while deciding on the part of speech of a word in certain sentences and there is no agreement as to what part of speech a word belongs to; for example, the word ‘it’ is a personal pronoun categorically, right?, but it is also used as a noun; for example, ‘She was the it.’ (in a children’s game). So when you have to name the part of speech of this word ‘it’, do you say ‘noun’ or ‘pronoun’, or subject or object? Then there is this article ‘a’/’an’. You know that the article ‘a’ can be used as an adjective, preposition, adverb, etc., depending on the context. In fact, every word falls under more than one part of speech. So in the sentence: ‘Take this medicine twice a day’, what part of speech does the article ‘a’ belong to? Do you say ‘a’ is an article according to category or do you say it’s a preposition according to function? That’s why I used the expression “‘wh’ word is used as a conjunction” because it serves the purpose of joining two clauses. (It is to make it clear for the learners at this stage and to avoid the confusion from the rule that a ‘conjunction’ should be used between the main clause and the actual quoted words in the indirect speech sentence) I hope you got my point. Moreover, if you want to learn about ‘relative pronoun’, ‘relative adverb’ and ‘complementizer’, you can find them under their own headings. Then again, when you’re asked to identify the part of speech of the word ‘they’ in a sentence, do you say it’s a pronoun/personal pronoun or do you say it’s a personal pronoun, third person, plural number, common gender in subjective case? I’m sure you just say it’s a pronoun or, as you seem to be very particular about these things, you may say ‘a personal pronoun’. However, I did not say that “wh” words were ‘conjunctions’ in the sense of denoting parts of speech but I meant that expression only to show that they were used as conjunctions. I hope this explanation makes it clear for you. Please, don’t hesitate to get back to me if you any further questions! All the Best!!

          • Hi Basker,
            Thanks for visiting Weblearneng! I said ‘wh’ words are used “as conjunctions” because they are serving the purpose of joining the two parts of the sentence. If you want to learn about the other topics, find them under the sub-headings!

          • Thank you very much Sir..i got your point ..
            “Take this medicine twice a day.”
            In this sentence ‘a’ is a determiner.

          • Hi Baskar,
            Thanks once again. In this sentence, ‘a’ is used as a preposition in the sense of ‘per’! This type of questions are usually avoided in the tests. And you seldom see in any grammar notes about ‘a’ being given in the examples under Adjective! All the Best!

          • Hi Baskar,
            Thanks once again. In this sentence, ‘a’ is used as a preposition in the sense of ‘per’! These types of questions are usually avoided in the test papers. And you seldom see in any grammar notes about ‘a’ being given in the examples under Adjective! All the Best!

  2. Nice work.But I have a doubt regarding the following sentence
    Direct: sam said to joy, “Doesn’t he come to us, though we call him”.
    Indirect : sam asked joy whether he came to them though they call him .
    OR
    Indirect: sam asked joy whether he came to them though they called him

    OR
    Indirect: sam asked joy whether he came to them when they call him.

    I want to know whether the verb in other second sentence also change or not?

    • Hi Leena Raida, Thanks for visiting Weblearneng.com. Yes, you must change the verbs in both the parts (clauses) of a compound or complex sentence. (I think your direct speech example sentence needs some rephrasing.)