In reported speech the tenses, word-order and pronouns may be different from the original sentence.

 

Reported speech (1)

When we report someone’s words we can do it in two ways. We can use direct speech with quotation marks (“I work in a bank”), or we can use reported speech (He said he worked in a bank.)

In reported speech the tenses, word-order and pronouns may be different from those in the original sentence.

Present simple and present continuous tenses

  • Direct speech: “I travel a lot in my job” Reported speech: He said that he travelled a lot in his job.

The present simple tense (I travel) usually changes to the past simple (he travelled) in reported speech.

  • Direct speech: “Be quiet. The baby’s sleeping.” Reported speech: She told me to be quiet because the baby was sleeping.

The present continuous usually changes to the past continuous.

NB:

  • “I work in Italy” Reported speech: He told me that he works in Italy.

It isn’t always necessary to change the tense. If something is still true now – he still works in Italy – we can use the present simple in the reported sentence.

Past simple and past continuous tenses

  • Direct speech: “We lived in China for 5 years.” Reported speech: She told me they had lived in China for 5 years.

The past simple tense (we lived) usually changes to the past perfect (they had lived) in reported speech.

  • Direct speech: “I was walking down the road when I saw the accident.” Reported speech: He told me he’d been walking down the road when he’d seen the accident.

The past continuous usually changes to the past perfect continuous.

Perfect tenses

  • Direct speech: “They’ve always been very kind to me”. Reported speech: She said they’d always been very kind to her.

The present perfect tense (have always been) usually changes to the past perfect tense (had always been).

  • Direct speech: “They had already eaten when I arrived” Reported speech: He said they’d already eaten when he’d arrived.

The past perfect tense does not change in reported speech.

You can find more information about reported speech in another section.

 

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