What Is Direct and Indirect Speech with Examples and Exercises

(A) Study the following sentences

  1. The woman said to her husband, “I met the boy on the road today.”
  2. “Take Mr Gupta upstairs,” Mrs Bethy said to Maggie.
  3. Sukumar said to his father, “Are you ever able to meet her in your heart ?
  4. “Oh, how I want to see her !” Sukumar said.
    In these sentences, the words of some people have been presented within inverted commas. Mark the punctuation marks. These sentences are said to be in the direct speech.

(B) (C) Form of the Direct Speech :

In direct speech :

(i) The exact words of the speaker are put within inverted commas “ ….. ”
(ii) The first word of the direct speech begins with a capital letter.
(iii) The verb that precedes the direct speech is called ‘reporting verb’ ?
(iv) The quoted words are separated from the reporting verb by a comma ( , ).
Remember that in modern times most writers use one ( ‘….. .’) inverted comma instead of two ( “….. ” ) in direct speech.

(C) Now study the following sentences :

1b. The woman told/informed her husband that she had met the boy on the road that day.
2b. Mrs. Bothy told/directed Maggie to take Mr. Gupta upstairs.
3b. Sukumar asked his father if he was ever able to meet her in his heart.
4b. Sukumar said/announced that he wanted very much to see her.

In these sentences, the exact words of the speakers have not been used. But the meaning of their messages has been reported indirectly. So, these sentences are said to be in the reported / indirect speech.

(D) Form of the Indirect Speech :

In indirect speech :

(i) the inverted commas are omitted.
(ii) no comma is used after the reporting verb.
(iii) the reported speech is generally followed by the conjunction ‘that
(iv) the reported speech ends with a full stop ( . ), no matter what type of sentence the direct speech is.
Remember when we change a sentence in direct speech into an indirect one, we generally take into account four important things namely
(1) the tense of the reporting verb.
(2) the tense of the verb in the direct speech.
(3) the noun phrases and the adverbials used in it and finally
(4) the reporter and the time of reporting.
In the sentence (1) the reporting verb is in the past simple tense (said), so the tense of the verb in the direct speech has been pushed back from the past simple to the past perfect tense i.e. from ‘met’ to ‘had met’. Also ‘I’ has been changed to ‘she’ (1b).

(E) Reported Speech as per the Reporting Time :

Usually, a speaker’s words are reported some time after they are spoken. The gap between the speaking and reporting time may be short (only a few minutes) or long (several months). When the speaker’s words remain true or unchanged at the time of reporting, there will be no change in the tense of the verb in indirect speech even if the reporting verb is in the past simple tense.

For example : Mother said, “My son is returning home this evening” may be reported as ‘Mother said that her son is returning home this evening’, if the reporting is done in the same afternoon. It is, however, possible to change the tense as in ‘Mother said that her son was returning home this evening’, if the reporting is made that day late in the evening.

But if the reporting is done some days later, the reported speech, would be ‘Mother said that her son was returning home that evening’.

Study the following sentences :

  1. He said, “I like sweets”..
  2. The teacher said, “Bhubaneswar is a city of temples”.
    When reported they would be He said (that) he likes sweets and The teacher said (that) Bhubaneswar is a city of temples because the words are still true at the time of speaking.

Remember that the present tense in direct speech is not changed into past tense if the direct speech is a universal scientific or geographical truth or a habitual action.

Look at the following examples :

Direct SpeechIndirect Speech
Father said, “The sun rises in the east.”Father said (that) the sun rises in the east. (universal truth)
Tutu said, “I go for a walk every morning.”Tutu said (that) he goes for a walk every morning. (habit)
The teacher said, “Water boils at 100°C.”The teacher said (that) water boils at 100°C (scientific truth)

(F) Mark how the verbs in indirect speech remain unchanged when the reporting verb is in present tense. Here the present tense suggests that the words were spoken only a short time ago and are still relevant.

Examples :

Direct SpeechIndirect Speech
The traveller says, “I am tired.”The traveller says that he is tired.
He will say, “I shall go to bed early.”He will say that he will go to bed early.

(G) You have noticed that when a statement in direct speech is changed into a ‘thatclause’ (noun clause) in indirect speech, the conjunction is usually left out in conversation and in informal writings.

Let’s now see how the sentences in present progressive, present perfect and present perfect progressive in direct speech are changed into indirect speech when reporting verb is in the past tense.

(i) Look at the following examples :

Direct SpeechIndirect Speech
He said, “I am going home”He said (that) he was going home.
I said, “I have done my homework.”I said (that) I had done my homework.
Rekha said, “I have been working in the garden since morning.”Rekha said that she had been working in the garden since that morning.

(ii) ) Now mark how a verb in the past simple tense in direct speech is changed in indirect speech.

Examples :

Direct SpeechIndirect Speech
1. The peon said, “I posted the letter.”The peon said that he had posted the letter.
2. She said, “I took it home with me.”She said that she had taken it home with her.

Here the verb in the past simple tense has been changed into past perfect in indirect speech because the actions of ‘posting the letter’ (as in 1) ‘taking it have’ (as in 2) took place before the time of saying.

However, the past simple tense form of the verb remains unchanged in the following contexts :

(i) Direct Speech: The teacher said, “India became independent on 15th August 1947.”
Indirect Speech: The teacher said (that) India became independent on 15th August 1947.
(ii) Direct Speech: Father said, “I decided to buy the house because it was on the main road.”
Indirect Speech: Father said he had decided to buy the house because it was on the main road.
(Statement in (i) and (ii) are relevant or true at the time of reporting)
(iii) Direct Speech: The monitor of the class said, “When the teacher entered the class, all the students stood up.”
Indirect Speech: The monitor of the class said that when the teacher entered the class all the students stood up.
(iv) Direct Speech: She said, “When I left home, it began to rain.”
Indirect Speech: She said that when she left home, it began to rain.
(Here in all the cases two actions took place at the same time)
(v) Direct Speech: “If I were the Primeminister of India, he said, I would raise her economic status to a high level.”
Indirect Speech: He said if he were the Primeminister of India he would raise her economic status to a high level.
(vi) Direct Speech: He said, “When I saw them, they were playing tennis.”
Indirect Speech: He said that when he saw them, they were playing tennis.

Now mark the use of adverbials, modal verbs, demonstratives and pronouns in indirect speech :

(a) Change of Adverbials in indirect Speech :

From direct speech (changes) to indirect speech.

Nowthen / at that time
todaythat day
yesterdaythe day before / the previous day
the day before yesterdaytwo days before
tomorrowthe next day / the following day
this weekthat week
the day after tomorrowin two days’ time
next week/year etcthe following week/year
last week/yearthe week before / the previous week
agobefore
a yeara year before / the previous year
herethere
therethere
thusin that way

(b) Change of modal auxiliaries in indirect speech :

Will Indirect Speech → changes to → would
Shall → changes to → Should / Would

[ should is usually used with first-person ( I, We) and in 2nd and 3rd persons in other meanings. would can also be used with first persons ]

Examples :

Direct Speech: I said, “I shall complain about you to the police.”
Indirect Speech: I said that I would complain about him to the police.
Direct Speech: He said, “What shall I do ?”
Indirect Speech: He asked what he should do.

Can → changes to → could
May → changes to → might
Must → becomes → must / had to / would have to

[ When must is used in the meaning of necessity, it remains unchanged in indirect speech or changes to had to, When it refers to the future, it changes to would have to. ]

Examples :

Direct Speech: I thought, “There must be some mistake.”
Indirect Speech: I thought there must be some mistake. (certainty)
Direct Speech: “I must go soon”, said Sarita.
Indirect Speech: Sarita said (that) she would have to go soon. (future)

Direct Speech Indirect Speech

mustn’t → changes to → mustn’t / wasn’t to
Needn’t → changes to → needn’t / didn’t have to

Note that should, would, might, could, used to and ought to do not generally change in indirect speech.

here→ changes to → there
there → remains unchanged → there

(c) Change of pronoun / demonstratives (determiners) in indirect speech :

Direct Speech Indirect Speech

this (time expression) → changes to → that
(this week) → changes to → that week
these (time expression) → changes to → those
(these days changes to those days)
This, that, and these used as pronouns can become it, they/them. But this and these used as demonstratives (determiners) usually change to ‘the’.

Examples :

He said, “I brought this saree /these sarees for my mother.”
He said that he had bought the saree/sarees for his mother.

(H) Reporting verbs for statements :

You have noticed that the reporting verb in direct speech in most cases is ‘say’. But in indirect speech we sometimes replace it by another verb appropriate to the meaning of the statement. Some of such reporting verbs in indirect speech are :

tell, state, announce, declare, promise, order, complain, protest, allege, explain, think, realise, admit, advise, ask, agree, observe, remark etc.

Moreover, when something is said in continuation of another statement, we generally use the reporting verbs ‘add’, ‘continue’ and ‘further’ said. And if something is said in reply to a remark or a question, we use the verbs reply, answer, respond, deny, refuse etc.

Note that ‘yes’ or ‘no’ are expressed in indirect speech by subject + appropriate auxiliary verb e.g. ‘will’ in direct speech changes to ‘would’ in indirect speech, for ‘yes’, and for ‘no’ it changes to would and wouldn’t etc.

(i) Questions in Indirect Speech :

You know there are two types of questions namely (a) Wh-questions and (b) Yes-No type questions. Let’s now see how such questions are changed in indirect speech. Look at the following examples :

Direct SpeechIndirect Speech
Rakesh said to his servant, “Where are you going ?”Rakesh asked his servant where he was going.
My friend said to me, “When did you return home last night ?”My friend asked me when I had returned the previous night.
Gita said to her younger brother, “Who are you talking to on the phone ?Gita asked her younger brother / wanted to know from her younger brother who he was talking to on the phone.
Who lives next door ?” He saidHe asked who lived next door.
“What happened ?” She said.She asked what had happened.

Mark that we generally use the verb ask to report a question. The other reporting verbs used with question sentences in indirect speech are : enquire, question, wonder, want and know, etc.

Remember that :

(i) The conjunction that is not used after the reporting verb.
(ii) The wh-questions are changed into statements beginning with wh-words.
(iii) The structure of the indirect speech is: subject + ask + person addressed + wh-noun clause i.e a statement beginning with the wh-word with which the question is formed.

(j) Yes-No questions in Indirect Speech :

Look at the following examples :

Direct SpeechIndirect Speech
(i) He said to me, “Do you know him ?”He asked me if/whether I knew him.
(ii) The teacher said to me, “Have you done your homework ?”The teacher asked me if/ whether I had done my homework.
(iii) “Was it raining heavily at your place last month ?” he said to me.He asked me if / whether it had been raining heavily at my place the previous month / the month before.

It is evident from the above examples that :

(i) Yes-No questions become statements beginning with if/whether.
(ii) the conjunction ‘that’ is not used after the reporting verb as done in the case of declarative sentences.
(iii) He asked me if/whether it had been raining heavily at my place the previous month / the month before.
(iv) the verb ask/enquire/want to know / wonder is used to report the question.
(v) question mark is not given at the end of the indirect speech.
(vi) the change of the verb form, person, demonstratives, pronouns and adverbials are the same as they are for statements.

(k) Imperatives in Indirect Speech :

Study the following examples :

Direct SpeechIndirect Speech
The teacher said to the students, “Move out of the class silently.”The teacher asked the students to move out of the class silently.
The N.C.C. teacher said, “March on boys.”The N.C.C. teacher ordered / commanded the boys to march on.
“Please help me cross the road”, he said to the policeman.He requested the policeman to help him cross the road.
Mother said to me, “Don’t go to bed late.”Mother advised me not to go to bed late.

Mark the modals in the following sentences :

He said, “We must have a party to celebrate your success.”He said that we must have a party to celebrate my success.
He said, “I must go there.” (here ‘must’ is used in the meaning of necessity.)He said he had to go there.
They said, “We must mend the roof properly before the rains set in.”They said they would have to mend the roof properly before the rains set in.

(Here must implies selfimposed obligation / or a natural action.)

“Can I have a sweet ?” said the little boy.The little boy asked to have a sweet / asked if he could have a sweet.
“Could I speak to the Secretary, please ?” said Mr Roy on the phone.Mr Roy asked on the phone if he could speak to the Secretary.
She said, “Let’s go on a picnic to Nandankanan tomorrow.”She suggested their going on a picnic to Nandankanan the next day / the day after or She suggested that they (should) go on a picnic to Nandankanan the next day / the day after.
My sister said, “Remember to bring the umbrella.”My sister reminded me to bring the umbrella.
Mother said to me, “Don’t leave the door unlocked.”Mother told/asked / advised me not to leave the door unlocked.

Note :

(i) When reporting an imperative sentence, we use one of the following verbs ask, order, request, suggest, tell, remind, command, beg, warn, advise, promise, agree, refuse, etc instead of ‘say’.

(ii) We use to / not to before the verb of the imperative sentence so that it takes a to + infinitive + noun phrase form.

(iii) Its structure in indirect speech will then be; ask / order / request etc + person addressed / not to + the imperative sentence.

(L) Exclamations in Indirect Speech :

Look at the following sentences and mark how exclamatory sentences become statements in indirect speech :

Direct SpeechIndirect Speech
“What a splendid sunset this is !” he said.He exclaimed in joy that it was really a splendid sunset.
He said, “Alas ! The poor old man is dead.”He exclaimed in sorrow that the poor old man was dead.
He said, “Good luck !”He wished me good luck.
He said to me, “Congratulations!He congratulated me.
He said, “Liar !”He called me a liar.
He said, “How dreadful!He exclaimed that it was very dreadful.
He said, “Hello! Where do you live ?”He greeted me and asked me where I lived.
He said, “Good morning !”He wished me a good morning.

Mark the modals in the following sentences :

My teacher said, “Can you work out this sum ?” and I said, “No.”My teacher asked me if/whether I could work out the (that) sum and I replied that I could not.
He said, “Can you go to the circus this evening ?” “Yes”, I replied.He asked me if/whether I could go to the circus that evening and I replied that I could.

Note that :

(i) Exclamatory sentences become statements in indirect speech.
(ii) We use ‘very’ to’ emphasize the intensity of exclamation in the indirect speech.
(iii) In some cases statements may fail to convey the meaning or the force of exclamations. In such cases we often use other sentences to convey the similar sense or meaning.

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