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Lesson 6.1

Direct and Reported Speech

El estilo directo y indirecto
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When we want to communicate or report what another person has said, there are two ways of doing so: direct speech and indirect or reported speech.

Direct Speech

To report exactly what another person has said, we use direct speech. In direct speech, what the person has said is placed within quotation marks (“…”) and should be word for word.

Examples:

 “I am going to London next week,” she said.
 “Do you have a pen I could borrow,” he asked.
 Alice said, “I love to dance.”
 Chris asked, “Would you like to have dinner with me tomorrow night?”

Indirect/Reported Speech

With indirect or reported speech, as opposed to direct speech, we do not use quotation marks and it does not have to be word for word. In general, when we use indirect or reported speech, the verb tense changes. Below is a table with an explanation of the tense changes in indirect or reported speech.

We sometimes use “that” in affirmative and negative sentences to introduce what the other person has said. In interrogative sentences, “if” or “whether” are used.

Note: Keep in mind that time expressions also change in reported speech. Note the changes in time in the examples below and at the end of the lesson you will find a table with more information regarding the changes in expressions of time in indirect or reported speech.

Direct Speech Reported Speech
Present Simple Past Simple
  “He is American,” she said.   She said he was American.
 I’m happy to see you,” Mary said.   Mary said that she was happy to see me.
 " He asked, “Are you busy tonight?”   He asked me if I was busy that night.
Present Continuous Past Continuous
  “Dan is living in San Francisco,” she said.   She said Dan was living in San Francisco.
  He said, “I’m making dinner.”   He told me that he was making dinner.
  “Why are you working so hard?” they asked.   They asked me why I was working so hard.
Past Simple Past Perfect Simple
  “We went to the movies last night,” he said.   He told me they had gone to the movies the night before.
  Greg said, “I didn’t go to work yesterday.”   Greg said that he hadn’t gone to work the day before.
 Did you buy a new car?” she asked.   She asked me if I had bought a new car.
Past Continuous Past Perfect Continuous
  “I was working late last night,” Vicki said.   Vicki told me she’d been working late the night before.
  They said, “we weren’t waiting long.”   They said that they hadn’t been waiting long.
  He asked, “were you sleeping when I called?”   He asked if I’d been sleeping when he called.
Present Perfect Simple Past Perfect Simple
  Heather said, “I’ve already eaten.”   Heather told me that she’d already eaten.
  “We haven’t been to China,” they said.   They said they hadn’t been to China.
 Have you worked here before?” I asked.   I asked her whether she’d worked there before.
Present Perfect Continuous Past Perfect Continuous
 I’ve been studying English for two years,” he said.   He said he’d been studying English for two years.
  Steve said, “we’ve been dating for over a year now.”   Steve told me that they’d been dating for over a year.
 Have you been waiting long?” they asked.   They asked whether I’d been waiting long.
Past Perfect Simple Past Perfect Simple
(NO CHANGE)
 I’d been to Chicago before for work,” he said.   He said that he’d been to Chicago before for work.
Past Perfect Continuous Past Perfect Continuous
(NO CHANGE)
  She said, “I’d been dancing for years before the accident.”   She said she’d been dancing for years before the accident.
Note: When we speak of something that has not changed (that is still true) or of something in the future, we don’t need to change the verb tense.

Examples:

 I’m 30 years old,” she said. → She said she is 30 years old.
 Dave said, “Kelly is sick.” → Dave said Kelly is sick.
 “We are going to Tokyo next week,” they said. → They said they are going to Tokyo next week.
 I’ll cut my hair tomorrow,” Nina said. → Nina said she is cutting her hair tomorrow.

Modal Verbs

The verb tense also changes in indirect or reported speech with some of the modal verbs.

Note: With “would”, “could”, “should”, “might” y “ought to”, the verb tense does not change.

Direct Speech Indirect Speech
Will Would
 I’ll go to the movies tomorrow,” John said.   John said he would go to the movies the next day.
 Will you help me move?” she asked.   She asked me if I would help her move.
Can Could
  Debra said, “Allen can work tomorrow.”   Debra said Allen could work the next day.
 Can you open the window, please?”, he asked.   He asked me if I could open the window.
Must Had to
  “You must wear your seat belt,” mom said.  My mom said I had to wear my seat belt.
  " She said, “You must work tomorrow.”   She said I had to work the next day.
Shall Should
 Shall we go* to the beach today?”, Tom asked.   Tom asked if we should go to the beach that day.
  “What shall we do tonight?” she asked.  She asked me what we should do that night.
May Might/Could
 " Jane said, “I may not be in class tomorrow.”   Jane said she might not be in class the next day.
 May I use the bathroom, please?”, the boy asked.   The boy asked if he could use the bathroom.
Note: Below is a table with an explication of how expressions of time change in indirect or reported speech.
Direct Speech Indirect Speech
today that day
tonight that night
this week/month/year that week/month/year
tomorrow the next day
next week/month/year the following week/month/year
yesterday the day before or the previous day
last week/month/year the week/month year before or the previous week/month/year
now then/at that moment
Other changes
here there
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