Direct and Reported or Indirect Speech

Sequence of Tenses


Sometimes we want to tell somebody what another person said. We call this reported speech. We can report another person’s words or our own words.

In reported speech we usually need to change the pronoun.

We usually change the tense of the verb from the present to the past.

Direct Speech Reported Speech
Present Simple  he goes Past Simple  he went
Present Continuous  he is going Past Continuous  he was going
Present Perfect  he has gone Past Perfect  he had gone
Present Perfect Continuous  he has been going Past Perfect Continuous  he had been going
Future Simple  he will go Future Simple in the Past  he would go
Future Continuous  he will be going Future Continuous in the Past  he would be going
Future Perfect  he will have gone Future Perfect in the Past  he would have gone
Future Perfect Continuous  he will have been going Future Perfect Continuous in the Past   he would have been going
Past Simple  he went Past Perfect  he had gone
Past Continuous  he was going generally remains unchanged or is replaced by the Past Perfect Continuous   he was going  or he had been going
Past Perfect  he had gone Past Perfect  he had gone
Past Perfect Continuous  he had been going Past Perfect Continuous  he had been going
Subjunctive (Conditional) remains unchanged
he used to go remains unchanged
he must (should, ought to) go remains unchanged

The Change of Time Words in Reported Speech


 Said and Told

We can use both said and told in reported speech. We use said if we don’t say who the person was talking to.

She said they were having fun at the beach.

We use told when we mention who person was talking to. We usually put a name or an object pronoun after tell.

She told me they were staying in a nice hotel.

Remember the object pronouns are me, you, him, her, it, us, you, them.said-toldThere are no changes in the verb tenses if the reporting verb is in the Present, Future or Present Perfect tense.

She says, “I am very busy at the moment“. – She says she is very busy at te moment.

He says, “I will do it“. – He says he will do it”.

There are also no changes when we speak about something which is always true.

He said, “Spring comes after winter“. – He said that spring comes after winter.


When we report commands, requests and suggestions we use such reporting verbs as: to order, to ask, to tell, to suggest, to beg, to advise,to forbid, to warn, to insist, to promise, to agree, to refuse, to remind, ter which we use to-infinitive or not to-infinitive.

We don’t normally use the word please in the reported speech.


He said, “Close the door!” – He ordered to close the door.

She said, “Don’t open the window!” – She asked not to open the window.

He said, “Give me your address.” – He told me to give him my address.

She said, “Don’t drink cold juice.” – She advised not to drink cold juice.

She said, “I will write to you.” – She promised to write to me.

He said, “Tell me the time, please.” – He asked to tell him the time.


Reported Suggestions

“Let’s play chess,” said Nick. – Nick suggested playing chess.

She said, “Why don’t you get a mechanic?” – She suggested getting a mechanic.

Tom said, “What about going to the cinema tonight?” – Tom suggested going to the cinema tonight.

The Reported Questions

  • We report questions with the help of the verbs to ask, to wonder, to want to know.
  • In the reported question the subject comes before the verb, as in the statements.
  • The tenses change in the reported questions according to the general rules.
  • We don’t use the auxiliary verbs do, does, did in the reported questions.
  • The question mark is not put at the end of the reported questions.


Yes / No Reported Questions

The girl said, “Did you go shopping?” – The girl asked if I had gone shopping.

The man said, “Have they returned yet?” – The man wanted to know whether they had already returned.

The boy said, “Do you know my cousin?” – The boy wondered if I knew his cousin.


Wh-questions are reported with the help of the words when, what, where, which, how, etc.

“When do you usually come home?” Jack said. – Jack askedwhen I usually came home.

Polly asked, “What have you done?” – Polly wondered what I had done.

Mother asked her daughter, “Where are you going?” – Mother wanted to know where her daughter was going.reported-wh-questions