Rules on Direct and Indirect Speech Explained

This is Direct & Indirect Speech’s class where students explore the rules on direct and indirect speech in details along-with their examples.

rules on direct and indirect speech

 

Direct and Indirect Speech

Direct and indirect speech refers how to talk about what someone said, such as telling something that person A said to the person B. How we can convert speech from direct to indirect.

You can answer the question to the person B about what did person A  say? in two ways:

  • by repeating the words spoken (direct speech)
  • by reporting the words spoken (indirect or reported speech).

 

What is Direct Speech

In Direct speech the spoken words are repeats as the exact words spoken. In writing, we place the spoken words between quotation marks (” “).

Reporting Speech is something that’s being said exactly now and telling it later to someone about a earlier discussion.

  • Direct Speech –reporting the message of the speaker in the exact words as spoken by him.
  • Direct Speech Example: Maya said ‘I am busy now’.

 

What is Indirect Speech

Indirect speech (reported speech) is typically used to talk about the past, so we generally change the tense of the spoken words. We use reporting verbs like  ‘tell’, ‘say’, ‘ask’, and we may use the word ‘that’ to introduce the reported words. Reported speech do not used Inverted commas.

 

Indirect Speech: reporting the message of the speaker in our own words

Direct Speech example: She said, “I saw him.”

Indirect Speech example: She said that she had seen him.

 

“That” may be omitted:
She told him that she was happy. = She told him she was happy.

 

Rules on Direct And Indirect Speech

Following factors are considered for converting the direct speech sentences into indirect speech sentences.

  • Reporting Verb
  • Model Verb
  • Pronoun
  • Tense
  • Time
  • Place

Let’s discuss each one and learn.

 

Rule 1 – Reporting Verb

If the reporting verb of direct speech is in past tense then all the present tenses in the indirect speech changed into the corresponding past tense. For example:

Direct: She said, ‘I am happy’.

Indirect: She said (that) she was happy.

 

If the reporting verb of direct speech is in future tense and in present tense then the tenses in indirect speech do not change For Example:

Direct: She says/will say, ‘I am going’

Indirect: She says/will say she is going.

 

If habitual actions or factual sentences are used in quotation mark (“) in direct speech, then tenses do not change in indirect speech. For Example:

Direct: He said, ‘We cannot live without air’.

Indirect: He said that we cannot live without air.

 

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Rule 2 – Present Tense

If present perfect sentence used in quotation mark of direct speech, then it will changed into past perfect for conversion into indirect speech. For example:

Direct: “I have been to Boston”, she told me.

Indirect: She told me that she had been to Boston.

 

If present continuous sentence used in quotation mark of direct speech, then it will changed into past continuous for conversion into indirect speech. For example:

Direct: “I am playing the guitar”, she explained.

Indirect: She explained that she was playing the guitar.

 

If present simple sentence used in quotation mark of direct speech, then it will changed into simple past for conversion into indirect speech. For example:

Direct: “I am unwell”, she said.

Indirect: She said that she was unwell.

 

Rule 3 – Past Tense & Future Tense

If simple past sentence used in quotation mark of direct speech, then it will change into past perfect for conversion into indirect speech. For example:

Direct: She said, “Irvin arrived on Sunday.”

Indirect: She said that Irvin had arrived on Sunday.

 

If past continuous sentence used in quotation mark of direct speech, then it will change into past perfect continuous for conversion into indirect speech. For example:

Direct: “We were playing basketball”, they told me.

Indirect: They told me that they had been playing basketball.

 

If future sentence used in quotation mark of direct speech, then it will change into present conditional for conversion into indirect speech. For example:

Direct: She said, “I will be in Scotland tomorrow.”

Indirect: She said that she would be in Scotland the next day.

 

If future continuous sentence used in quotation mark of direct speech, then it will change into conditional continuous for conversion into indirect speech. For example:

Direct:  He said, “I’ll be disposing of the old computer next Tuesday.”

Indirect:  He said that he would be disposing of the old computer the following Tuesday.

 

Rule 4 –Interrogative Sentences

Reporting verbs in direct speech such as ‘said/ said to’ changes into enquired, asked, or demanded etc in indirect speech.

Direct:  He said to me, ‘What are you wearing’?

Indirect: He asked me what I was wearing.

 

If a sentence begin with question-word such as what, who, where etc. in direct speech then No conjunction is used, because itself acts as a joining clause. For example:

Direct:  “Where do you live?” asked the boy.

Indirect: The boy enquired where I lived.

 

If sentence begins with a helping word or auxiliary verb in direct speech, then joining clause should be if or whether in indirect speech. For example:

Direct:  She said, ‘Will you come for the party’?

Indirect: She asked whether we would come for the party.

 

Rule 5 –Changes in Modal Verbs

If model verbs are used in sentences in direct speech, then it will change in following behavior while conversion into indirect speech.

  1. Can becomes could
  2. May becomes might
  3. Must becomes had to /would have to

Example:

Direct: She said, ‘She can dance’.

Indirect: She said that she could dance.

 

Direct: She said, ‘I may buy a dress’.

Indirect: She said that she might buy a dress.

 

Direct: Rama said, ‘I must complete the assignment’.

Indirect: Rama said that he had to complete the assignment.

 

Some modals verbs do not change such as Could, Would, Should, Might, Ought to

Direct: She said, ‘I should clean the house’

Indirect: She said that she should clean the house.

 

Rule 6 –Pronoun

Pronoun of First person, second person and third person changes as per following rules given in the table for conversion from direct speech to indirect speech.

Direct: He said, “I am in class Twelfth.”

Indirect: He says that he was in class Twelfth.

 

The second person of direct speech changes as per the object of reporting speech.

Direct: She says to them, “You have done your work.”

Indirect: She tells them that they have done their work.

 

The third person of direct speech doesn’t change.

Direct: He says, “She dances well.”

Indirect: He says that she dances well.

 

The first person in direct speech changes as per the subject of the speech.

Direct: He said, “I am in class Twelfth.”

Indirect: He says that he was in class Twelfth.

 

The second person of direct speech changes as per the object of reporting speech.

Direct: She says to them, “You have done your work.”

Indirect: She tells them that they have done their work.

 

The third person of direct speech doesn’t change.

Direct: He says, “She dances well.”

Indirect: He says that she dances well.

 

Rule 7 – Direct Speech to Indirect Speech Conversion – Request, Command, Wish, Exclamation

If imperative sentence are used in direct speech, it will change to the infinitive in Indirect Speech and  is supported by some verbs like requested, ordered, suggested and advised. Forbid-forbade is used for negative sentences.

Direct: She said to her ‘Please complete it’.

Indirect: She requested her to complete it.

 

Direct: Hamid said to Ramid, ‘Sit down’.

Indirect: Hamid ordered Ramid to sit down.

 

Exclamatory sentences expressing grief, sorrow, happiness, applaud, Interjections are removed and the sentence is changed to an assertive sentence.

Direct: She said, ‘Alas! I am undone’.

Indirect: She exclaimed sadly that she was broke.

 

Rule 8 – Direct Speech to Indirect Speech Conversion – Punctuations

In direct speech, the words actually spoken should be in (‘’) quotes and always begin with a capital letter.

Example: She said, “I am the best.”

 

Full stop, comma, exclamation or question mark, are placed inside the closing inverted commas.

Example: They asked, “Can we sing with you?”

 

If direct speech comes after the information about who is speaking, a comma is used to introduce the speech, placed before the first inverted comma.

Example: He shouted, “Shut up!”

Direct speech example: “Thinking back,” he said, “she didn’t expect to win.” (Comma is used to separate the two direct speeches and no capital letter to begin the second sentence).

 

Rule 9 – Direct Speech to Indirect Speech Conversion – Change of Time

Word expressing time or nearness of places such as now, here, today, tomorrow etc In Direct speeches, is changed into following manner given in table below:

  • Now becomes then
  • Here becomes there
  • Ago becomes before
  • Thus becomes so
  • Today becomes that day
  • Tomorrow becomes the next day
  • This becomes that
  • Yesterday becomes the day before
  • These become those
  • Hither becomes thither
  • Come becomes go
  • Hence becomes thence
  • Next week or month becomes following week/month

 

Direct: He said, ‘His girlfriend came yesterday.’

Indirect: He said that his girlfriend had come the day before.

 

Please note that if reporting verb is in the present or future tense then time expression does not change.

Direct: He says/will say, ‘My girlfriend came yesterday.’

Indirect:  He says/will say that his girlfriend had come the day before.

 

Dear Students, I hope you would have liked this post and have learned all the rules on direct and indirect speech explained above. Do not forget to share this post with your friends and colleagues.

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