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

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Average: 3.7 (3 votes)

Submitted by SuzieTaylor on Tue, 15/11/2022 - 10:35

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Hi,

Could you please help me with this?

Example:
'I like jazz music.'
'She said that she liked jazz music' - this is how we usually create the Reported Speech version for this kind of sentence (using backshift).

However, shouldn't it be 'She said she likes jazz music.' - since this is still relevant, right? Her preferences have not changed.

Thank you in advance!

Hello SuzieTaylor,

When what was reported in the past is still true now, very often people use a present tense verb ('she likes') instead of a past tense verb ('she liked'). When we use the past tense, it could refer just to the past or it could refer to the past and the present -- it's unclear. The present tense verb shows that she likes jazz now.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by lili_duck on Fri, 11/11/2022 - 23:22

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Could you help me with this?
I have this conversation and later I have to complete the sentences.
Brian: I need help. (1) I am having a problem staying motivated at work. What should I do?
Diego: (2) There are many ways to remain motivated during difficult times at work. Be creative!
Joe: I agree with Diego. (3) I avoid distraction by not checking my e-mail all day.
Tong: Joe has a good point. (4) Checking e-mail wastes a lot of time.
Brian: Thanks, everyone, but (5) I don’t check e-mail very often at work. Any other ideas?
Adam: I was having problems staying motivated on the project I’m working on now because it seems so endless. Then (6) I broke my work down into small parts. It’s really helping!
Erin: Make a calendar with your deadline on it so you have a goal to work toward. (7) Calendars really help me stay on schedule.
SENTENCES:
1. Brian said that he is having a problem staying motivated at work. (example)

2. Diego___ many ways to remain motivated during difficult times at work.

3. Joe_____distraction by not checking his e-mail all day.

4. Tong______ e-mail wastes a lot of time.

5. Brian______ e-mail very often at work.

6. Adam______ his work down into small parts.

7. Erin________her stay on schedule.

Hi lili_duck,

I don't know for sure the purpose of this exercise, but it seems that you have to complete the sentences using a reporting verb. The verb can be "say" (as in example sentence 1), but it can be other verbs too if the meaning is right (e.g. explain, suggest, claim, tell). So for question 2, for example, here are some possible answers.

  • Diego said that there are many ways ...
  • Diego claimed that there are many ways ...
  • Diego commented that there are many ways ...

I hope that helps to understand what to do.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Marc Lensly on Sun, 06/11/2022 - 20:22

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I should know this, but, let me just ask anyway.
If I use 'She says', does 'tomorrow' change to 'the following day'?
Ex.: She says: "I will do the work tomorrow.'
She says that she will do the work .....
Please help!
Thank you.
Marc

Hello Marc Lensly,

'tomorrow' is fine here if the meaning is correct. We normally change 'tomorrow' to 'the following day' (or something similar) when the reporting verb is in the past. This is because the change in time of the verb changes the timeline. But in this case, where the reporting verb and statement are both in the present, it's more natural to keep 'tomorrow' in most cases.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ninica on Fri, 21/10/2022 - 13:31

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Hello,
Could you please help me write this sentence into indirect speech
Fiona complained: ,,They kept inviting their friends over when I had to study for my exams"
This is how I did it,is it correct?
Fiona complained that they kept inviting their friends over when she had to study for her exams.

Hello,

When it comes to the previously provided example:
Fiona complained: ,,They kept inviting their friends over when I had to study for my exams"

Isn't this sentence incorrect?
Fiona complained that they kept inviting their friends over when she had to study for her exams.

Shouldn't it be:
Fiona complained that they HAD kept inviting their friends over when she had to (or HAD had to?) study for her exams.?

I'm asking because according to the rules, we should backshift past simple: "kept inviting" into past perfect: "had kept inviting", right?
When it comes to the second part, for some reason shifting past simple: "had to" into "had had to" doesn't seem right, but I don't know why.
Could someone elaborate on this matter? Thank you in advance!

Hello Nortom,

You can backshift the verb forms but it's not necessary. When the verb forms are not backshifted it tells us that the situation is still current - i.e. that the problem has not been resolved and Fiona is still unhappy. If the verbs are backshifted then we don't know if it is still current or not:

Fiona complained that they kept inviting their friends over when she had to study for her exams. [> they are still doing this]

Fiona complained that they had kept inviting their friends over when she had had to study for her exams. [> it was a problem at the time; we don't know if it is still or not]

 

Note that you have to backshift both of the verbs as the actions are simultaneous; if you backshift only the first (had kept inviting) then you change the actions to make them sequential.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team