Have you ever had to retell a story and didn’t want to quote every single thing a person said? Well, that’s partly what indirect speech does. By doing some modifications, we can tell what happened in the past with our own words. And, as we’ll see later on, that is one of the most important things: not missing a single detail while doing so.
Paraphrasing is an essential linguistic tool. It is formal enough to use in a professional environment, such as journalism. Moreover, as it happens with tenses, it gives a clearer insight into past events. Keep on reading to learn more about indirect speech, such as uses, examples, and rules. Take a step further towards mastering the English language with Inmersivo, Emponte’s learning platform.
The main difference between indirect speech and direct speech is not that complex to explain. When we use direct speech, we are repeating the same words the other person said. Consequently, we need to write those words between quotation marks to express the exact words the person used. Take a look at this example:
“I don’t want to go to school today”, she said.
In this case, we are using direct speech to repeat what she said. We are not reporting nor paraphrasing. Of course, in this way, we don’t need to change anything included within the quotation marks. However, we can choose what verb to use (say, tell, ask, yell, exclaim, etc.) to add character to the speaker.
On the other hand, indirect speech introduces what another person said without repeating the exact words. As opposed to the previous style, we are reporting or paraphrasing. Take a look at the same example, turned into indirect speech:
She said she didn’t want to go to school that day.
As you can see, we need to make some modifications when reporting. In this way, these alterations help us adjust the statement to express time, tense, and character more specifically. Here’s a list of what things you should take into account when reporting a message.
|Tense||Direct Speech Example||Turns into||Indirect Speech Example|
|Present Simple||“I go to the gym on Mondays”, he said.||Past Simple||He said he went to the gym on Mondays|
|Present Continuous||“They are having a picnic right now”, his mother told me.||Past Continuous||His mother told me they were having a picnic at the moment|
|Present Perfect||“The boys have finished dinner”, his father explained.||Past Perfect||His father explained that the boys had finished having dinner.|
|Present Perfect Continuous||“I have been studying for the last three hours”, the little girl complained.||Past Perfect Continous||The little girl complained that she had been studying for the previous three hours.|
|Past Simple||“She didn’t understand the topic”, the teacher explained.||Past Perfect||The teacher explained that she hadn’t understood the topic.|
|Past Continuous||“I was having dinner when the bell rang”, she told the police.||Past Perfect Continuous||She told the police she had been having dinner when the bell rang.|
|Past Perfect||“Tom hadn’t locked the door before he left for the airport”, his grandma said.||Past Perfect||His grandma said Tom hadn’t locked the door before he left for the airport.|
|Past Perfect Continuous||“They had been watching TV for a long time before they went to sleep”, the nanny told the parents.||Past Perfect Continuous||The nanny told the parents they had been watching TV for a long time before they went to sleep.|
|Future Simple||“I will buy the tickets tomorrow”, John promised.||Would||John promised he would buy the tickets the day after|
|Future Simple Continuous||“They will be sunbathing at the beach this time next week”, his friend said.||Would be||His friend said they would be sunbathing at the beach that time the following week.|
|Future Perfect||“I will have finished the assignment in an hour”, he told his boss.||Would have||He told his boss he would have finished the assignment an hour after that.|
|Future Perfect Continuous||“You will have been traveling for 8 hours by tomorrow”, the travel agent informed us.||Would have been||The travel agent informed us we would have been traveling for 8 hours by the following day.|
Look again at the chart and see how time reference changes. Of course, as we are reporting a statement, time references should change. Consequently, we must always take the moment in which the person said something to refer to time appropriately. Take a look at this example:
“I will buy the tickets tomorrow”, John promised.
When we report that statement, “tomorrow” may not refer to the same date. Thus, we change that to “the day after (that)”:
John promised he would buy the tickets the day after that.
There is no specific rule to this, as we can choose different ways of expressing it. For example, we can also use “the following day”. It is crucial to find the best way to tell that we are referring to a different period.
As we mentioned before, indirect speech is a more formal way of introducing a statement another person made. Have you ever had to explain, report, or retell what someone said? Was it a difficult task? Thank you for reading, see you next time!