Reported speech: statements

Reported speech: 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 2

Grammar B1-B2: Reported speech 1: 2

Language level

Average: 4.1 (140 votes)
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Hello Wen1996,

Yes, your version of the sentence is also correct. In this case, the past tense refers to the time the speaker made this statement. But this doesn't mean the statement isn't also true now.

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by muratt on Wed, 06/03/2024 - 19:10

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Good evening from Turkey.

 

Is the following example correct:

Question: When did she watch the movie?

She asked me when she had watched the movie. or is it had she watched the movie. 

Do Subjects come before the verbs?

Thank you. 

Hello muratt,

This is a reported question, not an actual question, as you can see from the fact that it has no question mark at the end. Therefore no inversion is needed and the normal subject-verb word order is maintained: ...she had watched... is correct.

You can read more about this here:

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/grammar/b1-b2-grammar/reported-speech-questions

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Parul Yadav on Sat, 24/02/2024 - 16:55

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Hello Sir, kindly help with the following sentence-

She said, "When I was a child I wasn't afraid of ghosts." 

Please tell me how to write this sentence in reported/ indirect speech.

Submitted by Meldo on Tue, 13/02/2024 - 12:41

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Hello! I was studying reported speech and I didn't really understand the difference between 'need' and 'need to' when we shift them. Could you please explain a little bit about the semi-modal need? I came across to this while I was studying:
Backshift Changes
need (no change)
‘You needn’t come till six o’clock,’ he said.
He said we needn’t come till six o’clock.
AND
need to (becomes needed to)
She said, 'I need to have a party.'
She said she needed to have a party.
Why do we change 'need to' but not 'need'? Could you also please give a positive indirect reported speech with the word 'need' and a negative indirect speech with the word 'need to'? Thanks in advance!

Hello Meldo,

'need' can be used -- and is most often used -- as an ordinary verb. In the text you copied above, this is the second entry ('need to'). Since it is an ordinary verb, in indirect speech, it backshifts in the way other ordinary verbs do. An example of a negative form here is 'They told me I didn't need to bring my passport'.

Particularly in British English (only very rarely in American English), 'need' can also be used as a modal verb. In this case, it behaves as a modal verb, i.e. no 's' is added to a third person singular form, infinitives after it are used without 'to' and 'do/does/did' is not used to form questions, negatives or past simple forms. This is also why '-ed' is not added for a backshift.

When 'need' is a modal, it's most commonly used in the negative. It is possible to use it in questions (e.g. 'Need I bring my passport?' or 'I asked if I need bring my passport'), but it's generally not used in the affirmative.

You might find this BBC page and this Cambridge Dictionary explanation helpful if you'd like to read more.

Hope this helps.

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

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Submitted by Melis_06 on Tue, 13/02/2024 - 10:02

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Do we change 'had better' in indirect reported speech? I think no, but I just wanted to make sure. Can you also give an example with 'had better' in an indirect speech? Thanks a lot! The best English grammar site ever!

Hello Melis_06,

'had better' is not generally changed in reported speech. Here's an example for you:

  • direct: 'You had better be on time!'
  • indirect: They told us we had better be on time.

Glad you find our site useful!

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Khangvo2812 on Sun, 14/01/2024 - 05:16

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Could you tell me why say is sometimes used in reported speech instead of said?