Reported speech: questions

Reported speech: questions

Do you know how to report a question that somebody asked? 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 asked.

direct speech: 'Do you work from home?' he said.
indirect speech: He asked me if I worked from home.

direct speech: 'Who did you see?' she asked.
indirect speech: She asked me who I'd seen.

direct speech: 'Could you write that down for me?' she asked.
indirect speech: She asked me to write it down.

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

Grammar B1-B2: Reported speech 2: 1

Read the explanation to learn more.

Grammar explanation

A reported question is when we tell someone what another person asked. To do this, we can use direct speech or indirect speech.

direct speech: 'Do you like working in sales?' he asked.
indirect speech: He asked me if I liked working in sales.

In indirect speech, we change the question structure (e.g. Do you like) to a statement structure (e.g. I like).

We also often make changes to the tenses and other words in the same way as for reported statements (e.g. have donehad done, todaythat day). You can learn about these changes on the Reported speech 1 – statements page.

Yes/no questions

In yes/no questions, we use if or whether to report the question. If is more common.

'Are you going to the Helsinki conference?'
  • He asked me if I was going to the Helsinki conference.
'Have you finished the project yet?'
  • She asked us whether we'd finished the project yet.

Questions with a question word

In what, where, why, who, when or how questions, we use the question word to report the question.

'What time does the train leave?'
  • He asked me what time the train left.
'Where did he go?'
  • She asked where he went.

Reporting verbs

The most common reporting verb for questions is ask, but we can also use verbs like enquire, want to know or wonder.

'Did you bring your passports?'
  • She wanted to know if they'd brought their passports.
'When could you get this done by?'
  • He wondered when we could get it done by.

Offers, requests and suggestions

If the question is making an offer, request or suggestion, we can use a specific verb pattern instead, for example offer + infinitive, ask + infinitive or suggest + ing.

'Would you like me to help you?'
  • He offered to help me.
'Can you hold this for me, please?'
  • She asked me to hold it.
'Why don't we check with Joel?'
  • She suggested checking with Joel.

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

Grammar B1-B2: Reported speech 2: 2

Language level

Average: 4.6 (41 votes)

Submitted by Dong Nghi Tu on Sat, 21/10/2023 - 08:41

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I wonder if there are any occasions we can't use "Why" for reported speech? I'm not sure for this one. Thank you

Hello Dong Nghi Tu,

Off the top of my head, I can't think of any such restrictions. Did you have anything particular in mind?

By the way, our B1-B2 Grammar section also has several pages on reported speech, e.g. Reported speech: questions, if you'd like a bit more practice.

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Sarita Chand on Sat, 03/06/2023 - 04:48

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Can anyone explain to me the rules of Speech for the following:
The client warned her website designer that she paid him less if he did not develop the website as per her request.
The guard: That ambulance has been parked all afternoon. (Please change this statement into Indirect Speech using verbs deny or point out)

Hello Sarita,

That first sentence doesn't seem right to me. After 'that' it seems as if either 1) the structure should be a second conditional ('she would pay him less') or 2) 'if' should change into 'because' if it's reporting a past situation.

For the second one, it would begin like this 'The guard pointed out that'. Then put the rest of the sentence but change the verb from the present perfect passive ('has been parked') to a past perfective passive ('had been parked').

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by aigerimwonderer on Thu, 13/04/2023 - 00:30

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what if the sentence is "The judge asks why he did it, and the thief says he loves books."?
I see that he might ask now and the thief say now. So the original quote would be "why do you do it?"

Hello aigerimwonderer,

If I understand your question correctly, the original question would be 'Why did you do it?' because the act (stealing) is still in the past relative to the time the question is asked. 

'Why do you do it?' would be a question not about a single act in the past but about a general tendency. The judge might ask this if the thief has a career of crime and the question is not so much about the books but about the thief's life choices. In other words, this question has the meaning 'Why are you a thief?' rather than 'Why did you steal those books?'

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by holingutenderg on Sun, 05/02/2023 - 11:56

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reported speech of "he asked : which shoes are yours"
isn t it he asked me which shoes were mine ?

Hello holingutenderg,

Yes, that's correct. May I ask where you see that on our page?

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by waad Ali on Mon, 05/12/2022 - 20:18

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Hi, please how can solve this for me, thank.
Q/ Change the following into reported speech.

1. "I'm really tired of all these questions," he said.
2. "My sister is cleaning her room," said Lisa.
3. "I can't wait to get home today," said Frank.
4. "I don't have much time today," she said.

Hello waad Ali,

I'm afraid we don't solve tasks from elsewhere for users. We're happy to give advice and explanations but we can't just provide answers or we'll end up doing our users' tests and homework for them!

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team