Reported speech 2 – questions

Do you know how to report a question that somebody asked?

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

Intermediate: B1

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

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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

Submitted by TheRealDoctor on Mon, 04/10/2021 - 08:04

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Hello everyone,
I was thinking the other day and came across this sentence and I'd appreciate if someone would help me with this.
Direct Questions: "Does she often go to the cinema?"

Now what would be the reported question if we asked this question from a woman?

I asked her if she often went to the cinema.

But the "her" and the "she" does not refer to the same person. Wouldn't that cause some confusion?

Hi TheRealDoctor,

Yes, it may be confusing. It would be better to use the names (if you know them) of one or both people, or some other description to make clear which person you are referring to. For example:

- I asked her if Maria often went to the cinema.
- I asked Kate if Maria often went to the cinema.
- I asked her if her sister often went to the cinema.

I hope that helps :)

Jonathan
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Natasa Tanasa on Sat, 10/07/2021 - 18:14

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Hello everyone! I would like to check if those sentences are correct? Nabila wants to know what the time of next flight to Boston is. She says she is tired of dealing with unreliable suppliers. Thank you so much in advance!

Hello Natasa Tanasa,

The second sentence is fine. The first sentence needs an article before 'next':

Nabila wants to know what the time of the next flight to Boston is.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by katyunechka1 on Tue, 06/04/2021 - 08:44

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Hello! Could you help me to report such sentence "Shall we go to the cinema?" Is it OK to say He asked if we should go to the cinema? Or is should old here and it's better to say He asked if they would go to the cinema.

Hi katyunechka1,

I wouldn't use should here. That's because in the original sentence, when the speaker says Shall we ... , the speaker is inviting you to go to the cinema. But should doesn't have that 'inviting' meaning, i.e. we can't use should to make invitations. If you say He asked if we should go to the cinema?, it means he asked whether going to the cinema is a good thing, or the right thing to do (which is different from the meaning of the original sentence).

I suggest using a different reporting verb to show the meaning of inviting. For example:

  • He invited us to go to the cinema.
  • He suggested that we go to the cinema.
  • He suggested going to the cinema.

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by rg.esl on Sun, 14/03/2021 - 17:06

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hello why does "where is the bathroom" become he asked where the bathroom *was* i.e. verb at end but "why are you late" becomes he asked why I *was* late

Submitted by Jonathan R on Mon, 15/03/2021 - 03:00

In reply to by rg.esl

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Hi rg.esl,

Good question! It's because these questions have different structures.

  • Where is the bathroom? question word + be + subject
  • Why are you late? question word + be + subject + complement

To make the reported question, the subject and 'be' reverse the order. The first question doesn't have a subject complement, but the second one does, so this is added to the end of the sentence.

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mohammed Khale… on Sun, 07/03/2021 - 10:31

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Greetings. How long was the training " She asked me What are the possible answers? should we always change the past simple into past perfect?

Submitted by Kirk on Sun, 07/03/2021 - 13:50

In reply to by Mohammed Khale…

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Hello Mohammed Khaled Mohammed 101,

You could say either of the following:

  1. She asked me how long the training was.
  2. She asked me how long the training had been.

1 can be used in different situations, but 2 is only correct when the training was already finished at the time she asked you the question.

For example, if today is Sunday 7 March, she asked you the question on Friday 5 and the training finished on Thursday 4, then sentence 2 would be correct. Sentence 1 could also be used, but it would be a little less specific, as it could mean the training was still going to continue later (e.g. on Monday 8 March).

Hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Submitted by Danalcade on Sat, 06/03/2021 - 18:55

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Hello, I'd like to know. Why is the first part it mentioned "direct speech: 'Who did you see?' she asked. indirect speech: She asked me who I'd seen" It means I should change to Past simple for Past Perfect but in othe part I've read Direct Speech: 'Where did he go?' Indirect Speech: She asked where he went. Directo: Past simple and Reported : past simple, Is that okay? and I want to know if you could explain to me, thanks !!

Hi Danalcade,

Good question :) Yes, both the past simple and past perfect are possible in the reported speech. Changing to the past perfect is traditionally regarded as correct, but in real life speakers often simplify by using the past simple instead. 

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Smith Jay on Tue, 02/03/2021 - 00:26

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When we report a question like ' what does he say?' can we repeort it as ' He says that he wants to go now' . I have heard it among English speakers . And I too feel it as correct. The usual way is ' He said that he wanted to go ' But if it is aksed in present tense as above, can we report it as it is. I feel no harm as langauge sometimes is arbitrary!

Hi Smith Jay,

Yes, it's possible, especially if what he said is still true at the time you report it. For example, if he said 'I want to go now' only a moment ago, you can use the present simple (He says that he wants to go) to show clearly that he still wants to go at the time you say this (i.e. in the present moment). 

Using the past simple is correct too, but is more ambiguous about whether or not he still wants to go. It may suggest that his desire to leave has changed between the past and present.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sheikh Salauddin on Wed, 24/02/2021 - 06:11

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Can we report "What's the matter?" as "He asked what was the matter"?

Hello Sheikh Salauddin,

Yes, you can, because the question 'What's the matter?' asks for the subject. When the interrogative word 'what' (or 'who' or 'which') asks for a subject, the usual word order for the reported clause (subject first, verb second) can be used, or, as is the case here, the verb can come first.

Hope that helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by haoi on Sat, 16/01/2021 - 20:34

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Hello,whoever know how to change those Active into Passive Voice. 1.The employess brought up this issue during the meeting. 2.The professor told him not to talk in class. Two or more passive 1.Nobody would have stared at him if they had told him beforehand what clothes one had to wear in such a place. 2.No one has ever taken me for an Englishman before,although someone did once speak to me as if I were an American PLEASE HELP ME ABOUT THOSE.

Hello haoi,

I'm afraid we don't provide answers to tasks from elsewhere like this. If we started doing this then we would end up doing our users' homework and tests for them, which is not our role!

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by farhad zada on Mon, 28/12/2020 - 05:45

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Hi, LernEnglish Team. I want to know if this direct speech match with following indirect speech? Thank you in advance. ‘I’ll be having just coffee. What about him?’ he asked. He said he’d be having just a cup of coffee and asked what you would?

Hi farhad zada,

The first part is right! But for the second part, we need to keep him from the direct question (because you refers to a different person). Also, we need to use the complete verb phrase after would (the same structure as in the first clause).

  • ... and asked what he would be having.

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Jessica Pereira on Wed, 04/11/2020 - 12:39

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Hello, please In the sentence: 'I dont know if he's coming' Why is it also a reported question? Thanks

Hello Jessica,

I wouldn't call that a reported question. It is, however, formed in the same way as a reported question.

Imagine, for example, you friend asked you 'Is he coming?' You could report this as 'Paolo asked me if he's coming'. You can change 'Paolo asked me' to 'I don't know' and use the same structure afterwards.

Hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Submitted by Be_sofya on Fri, 09/10/2020 - 21:15

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Please, help. 'Am I dying or is it my birthday?' She asked whether she was dying or (whether) it was her birthday/She asked if she was dying or (if) it was her birthday. Do we need another whether/if? Thank you!

Hello Be_sofya,

Yes, you need to include 'whether' or 'if' before both clauses.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by emmanuelniyomugabo12 on Tue, 29/09/2020 - 17:55

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Thanks!!!!!

Submitted by Bonto on Thu, 17/09/2020 - 09:07

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Hello :) Which reported question is correct, or both? "I wonder what the price of a car like that can be. | I wonder what can be the price of a car like that."

Hello Bonto,

The first one is correct. Although many non-native speakers use the second one -- and anyone will understand it -- it is not correct in standard British English.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Karan Narang on Thu, 30/07/2020 - 04:53

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If we could have used indirect to direct speech to remember the sequence of tense which is used whether we use by condition as come.

Submitted by Alanso on Wed, 24/06/2020 - 18:48

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'What time does the train leave?' He asked me what time the train left. 'Where did he go?' She asked where he went. In second example, why did the tense not to change in the report? She asked where he'd gone

Hello Alanso,

You can change the verb to the past perfect but it's generally not necessary when the verb is past tense in active speech. Thus, both went and had gone are correct here.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rsb on Sun, 10/05/2020 - 06:24

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Hi sir, What would be the indirect speech of below sentence? He said to me "I might call you". (with showing least possibility)

Submitted by Shrabani on Thu, 04/06/2020 - 19:48

In reply to by Rsb

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Answer: Indirect speech - He told to me that he might call me .

Submitted by Rsb on Mon, 08/06/2020 - 08:20

In reply to by Shrabani

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Thanks. But if there is "may" in above direct speech then it changes to might in indirect speech ?? He said to me "I may call you"- direct speech He told me that he might call me - indirect speech

Hello Rsb

Yes, that is correct. 'might' is also a past form of the verb 'may' and is the correct form in the sentence in indirect speech.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks Kirk sir. "The gate has closed."- present perfect tense Sir above sentence is correct or incorrect.

Hello Rsb,

The sentence is grammatically correct. It treats the action of closing as something that the gate is capable of doing (rather than a person). You might use this when you are talking about an automated gate, for example, or a gate whose operator you cannot see.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir Is it grammatically correct? Gates are closing. Or Gates are getting closed.

Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 11/06/2020 - 14:42

In reply to by Rsb

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Hello Rsb

The first one is better, though in many cases you'd also need to use 'the': 'The gates are closing'.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Right sir! "I have finished the contract" here I put my physical effort to finish the contract. Hence, finish is an action verb. "The contract has finished" here what kind a verb is finish ??

Hello Rsb,

Finish is an ergative or labile verb, which means a verb which can be both transitive (requiring an objet) and intransitive (having no object). In this sentence it is intransitive. It is a past participle which is part of a present perfect form with the auxiliary has.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, I understood it. But I am confused about an action verb ? In both sentences is there any action going on by the subject??

Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 14/06/2020 - 07:07

In reply to by Rsb

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Hello again Rsb,

The present perfect here describes an action in the past with a present result. The verb is dynamic and could be used in a continuous form, for example:

The gate is closing

The gate has been closing for ten minutes. It's very slow!

 

The same thing is true with the verb finish:

The contract is finishing soon.

The tax year is ending this week, so we'll have to hurry with the accounts.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, Are these below sentences a part of quasi active voice as here subject is non living things. The gate is closing. The gate has been closing for ten minutes. The contract is finishing soon. The tax year is ending this week..

Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 24/06/2020 - 06:29

In reply to by Rsb

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Hello Rsb,

Quasi-passive is not a term that all grammarians accept, but those could be seen as examples of it, yes.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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