Reported speech 1 – statements

Do you know how to report what somebody else said? Test what you know with interactive exercises and read the explanation to help you.

Look at these examples to see how we can tell someone what another person said.

direct speech: 'I love the Toy Story films,' she said.
indirect speech: She said she loved the Toy Story films.

direct speech: 'I worked as a waiter before becoming a chef,' he said.
indirect speech: He said he'd worked as a waiter before becoming a chef.

direct speech: 'I'll phone you tomorrow,' he said.
indirect speech: He said he'd phone me the next day.

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

Grammar B1-B2: Reported speech 1: 1

Read the explanation to learn more.

Grammar explanation

Reported speech is when we tell someone what another person said. To do this, we can use direct speech or indirect speech.

direct speech: 'I work in a bank,' said Daniel.
indirect speech: Daniel said that he worked in a bank.

In indirect speech, we often use a tense which is 'further back' in the past (e.g. worked) than the tense originally used (e.g. work). This is called 'backshift'. We also may need to change other words that were used, for example pronouns.

Present simple, present continuous and present perfect

When we backshift, present simple changes to past simple, present continuous changes to past continuous and present perfect changes to past perfect.

'I travel a lot in my job.'
  • Jamila said that she travelled a lot in her job.
'The baby's sleeping!'
  • He told me the baby was sleeping.
'I've hurt my leg.'
  • She said she'd hurt her leg.

Past simple and past continuous

When we backshift, past simple usually changes to past perfect simple, and past continuous usually changes to past perfect continuous.

'We lived in China for five years.'
  • She told me they'd lived in China for five years.
'It was raining all day.'
  • He told me it had been raining all day.

Past perfect

The past perfect doesn't change.

'I'd tried everything without success, but this new medicine is great.'
  • He said he'd tried everything without success, but the new medicine was great.

No backshift

If what the speaker has said is still true or relevant, it's not always necessary to change the tense. This might happen when the speaker has used a present tense.

'I go to the gym next to your house.'
  • Jenny told me that she goes to the gym next to my house. I'm thinking about going with her.
'I'm working in Italy for the next six months.'
  • He told me he's working in Italy for the next six months. Maybe I should visit him!
'I've broken my arm!'
  • She said she's broken her arm, so she won't be at work this week.

Pronouns, demonstratives and adverbs of time and place

Pronouns also usually change in indirect speech.

'I enjoy working in my garden,' said Bob.
  • Bob said that he enjoyed working in his garden.
'We played tennis for our school,' said Alina.
  • Alina told me they'd played tennis for their school.

However, if you are the person or one of the people who spoke, then the pronouns don't change.

'I'm working on my thesis,' I said.
  • I told her that I was working on my thesis.
'We want our jobs back!' we said.
  • We said that we wanted our jobs back.

We also change demonstratives and adverbs of time and place if they are no longer accurate.

'This is my house.'
  • He said this was his house. [You are currently in front of the house.]
  • He said that was his house. [You are not currently in front of the house.]
'We like it here.'
  • She told me they like it here. [You are currently in the place they like.]
  • She told me they like it there. [You are not in the place they like.]
'I'm planning to do it today.'
  • She told me she's planning to do it today. [It is currently still the same day.]
  • She told me she was planning to do it that day. [It is not the same day any more.]

In the same way, these changes to those, now changes to then, yesterday changes to the day before, tomorrow changes to the next/following day and ago changes to before.

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 1

Grammar B1-B2: Reported speech 1: 2

Language level

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Average: 3.7 (3 votes)

Submitted by Hamdy Ali on Thu, 12/05/2022 - 18:51

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She promised me that she(will-would) help me in the training tomorrow.

Submitted by Barbarap70 on Mon, 25/04/2022 - 17:03

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hello. I have a doubt, please could you help me?
If in the direct speech I use the time adverb " The next Friday" , is it right to replace it with the form " The Friday after"? In my opinion it is wrong, but I have read many explanation about the replacement of next and now I'm a little bit confused. Thanks
ex. "I'm going to stay out later next Friday"
She said she was going to stay out later the Friday after.

Hello Barbarap70,

Yes, that's correct. It is context-dependent in the sense that we don't know when 'next Friday' is when we are reporting the speech as we may be reporting it a few moment after it was said or a few days or even longer. However, in general we change 'next week' (etc) to 'the week after' or 'the following week' when reporting speech.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by jaydeptrai on Fri, 31/12/2021 - 04:09

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Hi, can you help me with this. Why don't we backshift the 2nd clause? I thought the 2nd clause must be "when she had retired".
'She had worked for that school for 40 years when she retired.' → He told me that she had for that school for 40 years when she retired.

Thank you.

Hello jaydeptrai,

Both forms are possible here but I think the past simple is better because it makes clear that the 40 years preceded the retirement. If you use 'she had retired' then the sequence is not clear and it could mean that she first retired (from a different job) and then began working for the school, which she did for 40 years. The past simple removes this potential ambiguity.

Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by eloee100 on Thu, 09/12/2021 - 08:31

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hi
could you please help me with this question
she said "I had to come back fast because it was very crowded"
she said that she had to come back fast because it was very crowded is this right or she said that she had had to come back fast because it was very crowded is right?
and explanation, please!

Hello eloee100,

Normally we apply the 'backshift' to the reported action, so the past simple 'had to' is normally backshifted to the past perfect 'had had to' (that is, your second sentence).

In informal speaking, though, sometimes people don't backshift a verb if it won't cause any confusion.

If you're writing for an English exam or English teacher, I'd recommend you use the backshifted form. It's probably also better to use it in your informal speaking, too.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by GiulianaAndy on Sat, 14/08/2021 - 20:04

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Hello, thanks a lot for the lesson. Excuse me, I have an issue with the preposition "that" because in some cases I've seen this preposition after the phrase "He said". I mean "He said that......" In reported speech and sometimes not; I was wondering in which situations may I used the preposition "that" after the phrases " He told me" and "He said" ?and I would like to know if the use of the preposition "that" would change the meaning of the sentence in reported speech, please Thank you :)

Hello GiulianaAndy,

Used in reported speech, 'that' is a conjunction rather than a preposition. In this use (reported speech) it does not change the maning and can be omitted.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Help me please change this sentence into reported speech.
Roy's mother said: "I am glad my son is a musician."
Which is right "Roy's mother said she was glad her son was a musician"or "Roy's mother said she is glad her son is a musician" ?