Reported Speech - Quynh Huong Center for Foreign Language Translation & Education

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2 Oct 2014

Reported Speech

Basis of Indirect Speech

We use direct speech when we quote someone's words. Ex: "I will ring you later," said Jack.
In indirect speech or reported speech we report the meaning in our own words and from our own point of view. Ex: Jack said he would ring later.
Verbs reporting are: "agree, ask, hear, believe, know, suggest, think, understand..."
We can use a verb of reporting with that_clause or wh_clause. But in Informal English we can leave "that" out, especially after a common verb like: "say". Ex: Polly said that she was going away. He wondered why it was so quiet. Tom says (that) he will be five minutes.
We can sometimes use a "to Vinf clause or a gerund clause". Sometimes we use a phrase with "to", verbs in this pattern are: "admit, announce, complain, declare, mention, point out, recommend, report, say, write..." Ex: Jack promised to ring later. Someone suggested going for a walk. Can you explain to me what is going on?
Sometimes there is an indirect object after the verb of reporting. Other verbs in this pattern are: "advise, assure, Inform, promise, reassure, remind..." Ex: no one told me you were coming.
When we reporting two or more sentences, we do not need a verb of reporting in every one. Ex: the president said that the situation was under control. He had sent in the army.
We normally use an indirect object after "tell", but after "say" we do not use an indirect object. After "say" we can use a phrase with "to". We can use either a that_clause or a wh_clause after "tell, say". Ex: you told me you didn't like Chinese food. John said he was going to London. Kate told me what the matter was. Mary said that she is fed up. I said to him, "I have been mugged".
If the reporting verbs (say, ask, tell...) is in the present or present perfect, then tense of the sentence doesn't change. Ex: "I'm going home". => He says he is going home/ he has just told me he is going home.

Changes in Indirect Speech

a. Pronouns and possessives
When report what someone has said, both pronouns and possessives change. Ex: Mary said: "I'm really enjoying myself". Mary said she was enjoying herself. "I like your new hairstyle", Jim said. Jim said he liked my new hairstyle.
b. Adverbials of time
  • Now => then/ at that time/ immediately.
  • Today => yesterday/ that day.
  • Yesterday => the day before/ the previous day.
  • Tomorrow => the next day/ the following day.
  • This week => last week/ that week.
  • Last year => the year before/ the proviso year.
  • Next month => the month after/ the following month.
  • An hour ago => an hour before/ an hour earlier.
c. Tenses in indirect speech
We can use a present tense verb of reporting to report recent statements. Ex: Tom says he is hungry. Tom says he is hungry.
In general we are more likely to change the tense if we are unsure if the statement is still true and still relevant. Past tense is also used to report in a neutral or objective way. The tense change in indirect speech is from present to past. Ex: you told me he lived in London, but actually he lives in Bristol. The forecast said it was going to rain the next day. The PM said it was the right decision. She said, "I'm awful". She said she felt awful.

Reporting Questions

There is no inversion of subject and auxiliary verb, and there is no do/ did/ does. And there is no question mark. Ex: "Why have you come here?" I asked her why she had come here. "How much is a ticket?" She wondered how much a ticket was. "When is the lecture?" Tom wanted to know when the lecture is. "Is the drug safe?" People ask if/ whether the drug is safe.
When we reporting question, we use verbs such as: "ask, need to find out, want to know, wonder..."
To report a yes/ no question, we use "if/ whether". Ex: "Has the car been repaired?" He asks if/ whether the car has been repaired.
In an indirect question the tense can change from present to past. Ex: "What do you want?" He asked what we wanted. "Can we take photos?" Anna wondered if/ whether we could take photos.

Reported Commands, Requests, etc.

Reported commands, requests, offer and advice are formed with a "verb + person + to + Vinf". Notice the negative command, we use "not" before "to". Ex: they told us to go away. She persuaded me to have my hair cut. He told me not to tell anyone. The police warned people not to go out. My parents told me to tidy my room. I was asked to attend the interview.

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