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)
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Submitted by hangng89 on Sat, 04/05/2024 - 03:46

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I was wondering how a SUBJECT QUESTION in direct speech is changed, (A) or (B) is correct?

direct speech: "Who is her best friend?" they asked.

indirect speech: 

(A) They asked who her best friend was. --> I'm following the rule: S then V.

(B) They asked who was her best friend. --> I'm not following the rule, but I feel (B) sounds good although I don't know why I feel that way.

Thanks for your help.

Hello hangng89,

In reported questions we do not invert the word order as we do in normal questions. It does not matter if it is a subject question or an object question. The correct form here is (A) - ...who her best friend was.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much.

Can I also ask this (I'm still a bit confused)? 

I think it's correct to write the reported question: (A) She wanted to know which planet was the closest to the sun. 

But is it grammatically correct if I write: (B) She wanted to know which was the closest planet to the sun. Because it seems similar to the "... who was her best friend" that you just said to be incorrect.

Hello again hangng89,

Again, the correct form is without inversion (A). However, in this case you can come across use of the non-standard form from time to time, especially in informal, conversational contexts.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir, is it ok if we say: She wanted to know which planet the closest to the sun was  ? 

and  I also wonder if A - He asked his professor what the conditions were for a planet to have life on it. 

and B - He asked his professor what were the conditions for a planet to have life on it.  Which one is correct, A or B?

Thanks for the help!

Hello thule,

These are embedded or reported questions and no inversion is required, so the correct forms are as follows:

She wanted to know which planet was the closest to the sun? 

He asked his professor what the conditions were for a planet to have life on it. 

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by howtosay_ on Wed, 03/04/2024 - 02:41

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Hello, dear teachers and team!

 

Could you please help me with the following: 

 

  1. She asked me "Does the Earth turn around the Sun?"

  Does it have to be: "She asked me if the Earth TURNED around the Sun" ? 

 

Do we have to change the question into the past form here as well? 

 

2. She asked: "Was coffee originally green"?

 

Is "She asked me if the coffee HAD BEEN originally  green" correct option? Can I leave WAS in an inderect speech here? 

 

 

3. Is "She asked me if I knew if the Sun IS a star" or  "She asked me if I knew if the Sun WAS / HAD BEEN a star" (if any)  correct?  

 

I'm very very grateful for your precious help and thank you very much for your answering this post in advance!!! 

Hello howtosay_.

1. She asked me "Does the Earth turn around the Sun?"
 Does it have to be: "She asked me if the Earth TURNED around the Sun" ?

No, you can use the present here as well. The verb for this context would be 'go' rather than 'turn':

She asked me if the earth goes around the sun.

She asked me if the earth went around the sun.

 

Do we have to change the question into the past form here as well?

2. She asked: "Was coffee originally green"?

Is "She asked me if the coffee HAD BEEN originally  green" correct option? Can I leave WAS in an inderect speech here?

You can use either 'had been' or 'was' here. The adverb 'originally' removes any ambiguity.

 

3. Is "She asked me if I knew if the Sun IS a star" or  "She asked me if I knew if the Sun WAS / HAD BEEN a star" (if any)  correct?

You can use 'is' or 'was' here but not 'had been' as that would suggest the sun is not a star any more.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Jinne on Mon, 15/01/2024 - 19:14

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She offered me to encourage studying English.
She asked us if we could give her a hand.