Direct and Indirect Speech


There are two ways to express what someone has said. On this basis, sentences are of two types: sentences with Direct Speech, and sentences with Indirect Speech.  A question such as:  What did he say? Can be answered in two ways:
  • by reiterating or repeating  the words spoken (direct speech)
  • by reporting the words spoken (indirect or reported speech).
Hence Direct speech is quoting the exact words of the speaker  it is also called the Quoted Speech and Indirect Speech is reporting of what a speaker said without quoting his exact words it is also called the Reported Speech. 

Direct Speech

Direct speech repeats, or quotes, the exact words spoken. When you use direct speech, you repeat what someone has said using exactly the words they used. When direct speech is used in writing, the words spoken is usually placed between quotation marks (" ") and accompanied by a reporting verb or phrase and there is no change in the words. We may be reporting something that's being said NOW (for example a telephone conversation), or telling someone later about a previous conversation. 

Examples of Direct Speech
  • He says, "What time will you be home?"
  • Shop assistant: “Are you looking for something special?”
  • She said, "What time will you be home?" and I said, "I don't know! "
  • "There's a fly in my soup!" screamed Simon.
  • John said, "There's a horse outside the window."
  • "I have some good news," she whispered in a mischievous way.
  • "Can't you guess?" she giggled.
  • When I saw it, I was like "This is amazing!"
  • Carol: “There is an excellent band playing later on.”
  • He said to them, ‘Will you listen to such a man?’
  • The driver : “I’m going to turn right at the traffic lights.”
  • "Today's lesson is on presentations", she said.

Indirect Speech

Indirect speech is what a speaker said without quoting his exact words. When reporting speech the tense usually changes, it doesn't use quotation marks to enclose what the person said and it doesn't have to be word for word. This is for the reason that, when we use reported speech, we are usually talking about a time which is in the past. We use reporting verbs like 'say', 'ask' or  'tell' and we may use the word 'that' to introduce the reported words. 

Let’s consider the below sentence:
She said, "I saw him." (direct speech) = She said that she had seen him. (indirect speech)

Things to Remember:

'Say' and 'Tell'
  • We use 'say' when there is no indirect object: He said that he was excited.
  • We use 'tell' when you say who was being spoken to (i.e. with an indirect object): He told me that he was excited.
'Talk' and 'Speak'
  • Use these verbs to describe the action of communicating:
  1. He talked to us.
  2. She was speaking on the mobile.
  • Use these verbs with 'about' to refer to what was said:
He talked (to us) about his sisters.

Examples of Indirect Speech:
  • Antony says, that he eats a mango everyday.
  • Angelina said that she had bought a pen the day before. 
  • He asked them whether they would listen to such a man.
  • He requested them to wait there till he returned.
  • Nelson said that he had been playing cricket all day.
  • He said that he would go to London the next month.
  • The teacher advised the boys not to talk in the class. 
  • Jack asked Jill to bring him a cup of tea.
  • The old man requested them to give him something to eat and said that he was very hungry.
  • I asked my friend if he would not help me to carry that box. 
  • She exclaimed joyfully that, that was a very beautiful dress.
  • He exclaimed sorrowfully that he had broken his watch. 
  • He explained that he never ate meat. 
  • He said that he didn’t know the way and asked her if she did. 
  • He said that he was off to the movies and wanted to know where I was going.
  • The master ordered the servant to go away.

Expression of Time in Direct and Indirect Speech

If the reported sentence contains an expression of time, its required to be changed in order to fit in with the time of reporting. Additionally, if you report something that someone said in a different place to where you heard it you must change the place (here) to the place (there). "Say" is the most popular reporting verb, besides many others such as: mentions, describes, clarifies, states, explains etc. 
  • While changing direct speech to indirect speech we need to change the expression of time in order to match the moment of speaking. 
  • When the reporting verb is in the past tense, all present tenses in the direct speech will change into the corresponding past tenses. 
  • The present continuous will become the past continuous.
  • The present perfect will become the past perfect.
  • If the reporting verb is in the present tense, the tenses in the direct speech do not change.
  • When we report questions, the indirect speech is introduced by verbs such as asked, inquired etc.
  • To report an Yes/No question, we use if or whether.
  • When we report commands and requests, the indirect speech is introduced by verbs expressing a command or request. Examples are: ordered, commanded, requested, shouted etc.
  • If the reporting verb is in the Present or Future tense (e.g., say, will say) there is no change in the tense of the verb in the Indirect speech.
  • If there is 'said' in the direct speech then the  tense of the words inside quotation marks is changed to the past tense.

Expressions that need to be changed if you are changing Direct Speech to Indirect Speech

 now  is changed to  then  
 today   is changed to  that day
 tomorrow   is changed to  the next/following day
 yesterday   is changed to  the day before/ the previous day
 these (days)   is changed to   those (days)
  a month ago  is changed to   a month before
 last weekend   is changed to  the weekend before last 
 last night  is changed to   the night before
 a year ago  is changed to  a year before
 next year  is changed to  the following year / a year after
       this (morning/noon/evening)       
 is changed to        that (morning/noon/evening)     
 come  is changed to  go
 thus  is changed to  so
 these  is changed to  those
 hence  is changed to  thence
 here  is changed to   there