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: 4.4 (44 votes)

Hi Blizzard93,

Backshifting is actually possible too - it depends on the context. It's also possible to report the question like this --> He asked where he had gone. (backshifted)

The version without the backshift is preferred when the thing being reported is still true or still relevant. Perhaps he left and then the speaker asked that question just a moment ago, for example.

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user Ahmed Imam

Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Tue, 14/06/2022 - 19:37

Permalink

Hello. Could you please help me? Is the following sentence correct? If not, why?
- My sister could make a spectacular big cake in the shape of a tower! It is extremely surprising.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

The first and second sentences are incongruent: 'could' in the first sentence seems to indicate a possibility (i.e. something that hasn't actually occurred) doesn't make sense with 'is' in the second, which speaks about something that's already true.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sam°Vi on Mon, 13/06/2022 - 18:14

Permalink

Why does "Where did he go?" become "She asked where he WENT"?
I'd thought in something like "She asked where he had gone"

Hello Sam°Vi,

It can be 'where he went' or 'where he had gone'. We often just use a past simple, especially in more informal contexts or when the time relationship is clear. In this case, with no context, the time relationship isn't clear, but in many cases it would be.

Some grammars present the past perfect as the main option, but the truth is that people often use the past simple as well. But if you're taking an exam or doing homework for English class, the past perfect is probably the best option in most cases.

Let us know if you have any further questions about this.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Yazanabdo on Mon, 31/01/2022 - 22:41

Permalink

Please can I know the reported speech form of "what was tge last book you read?" ,,,it is nessesary please 🥺

Hello Yazanabdo,

It depends on who asked, but it would be something like 'They asked me what the last book I read was'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by knownman on Sun, 17/10/2021 - 20:29

Permalink

Hello, everyone.
I would like to ask a question that is in my exercise book.
"Is it right time to leave?"
I transform this question into reported speech as below:
"Martin asked us if it was the right time to left." My question is that it is 'leave' or 'left' at the end of the sentence? I am confused about the answer. I think it is 'left' but the correct answer is shown as 'leave' in the book. Thanks for your kind answer. Take care.

Hi knownman,

It should be 'leave'. It's an infinitive phrase ('to leave'), so this doesn't change for tense.

Best wishes :)

Jonathan
The LearnEnglish Team