English Lessons

Everything About Direct and Indirect Speech

In English there are two ways to report what someone says. One of the ways is simply to use the words uttered by the speaker. This might seem a bit unnatural, but as a matter of fact, would be straightforward. If the exact words of the speaker get used by the reporting individual, the speech is said to be direct. This mode is usually adopted by journalists, for people, more often than not, want to know the exact words a personality used while speaking or addressing a gathering.

In spoken English, however, it would make little sense to report something using the direct speech. It would not just sound peculiar but also a bit theatrical for the listener. Therefore, another way to report is to use one’s own words and yet convey what the speaker had said. This does not mean that one can casually add words of one’s own choices for the essence of what was said should not be lost. This is exactly where the role of indirect speech comes into the picture. Indirect Speech is, hence, the second type of narration in English.

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The Two Types of Narration

  • Direct Speech
  • Indirect Speech

Let us learn about both in detail in this chapter.

What do you understand by the term ‘speech’ or ‘narration’?

A speech or narration is a compilation of words or sentences uttered by the speaker. It is simply the manifestation of thoughts in the form of spoken words.

What does ‘direct speech’ mean?

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Direct speech is one of the two types of reported speech habitually used in written English. If you report the words or sentences uttered by someone as they are, without making any changes to them, it implies that you have used the direct speech.

What does ‘indirect speech’ mean?

This is another type of reported speech, commonly used in spoken English and television journalism. When a person reports the words uttered by an individual using one’s own words but without changing the meaning and the essence of the sentence, we say the person has used the indirect speech.

Some Important Terms

Before proceeding, read the following sentence and try grasping the meanings of the terms explained after.

John Rosario said, “My best friend lent me some money the day before yesterday.”

  • Announcer or reporter โ€“ The person who reports the words or sentences uttered by an individual to others is known as an an announcer or reporter. Noticeably, the person who has reported the words uttered by John Rosario is the reporter.
  • Reporting verb โ€“ The verb used by the reporter before saying the sentence is known as the reporting verb. In the highlighted sentence, the introductory verb that the announcer has used is ‘said’. Therefore, ‘said’ is the reporting verb in that sentence.
  • Reported speech โ€“ Reported speech is that part of the speech which is enclosed within inverted commas. In the highlighted sentence, the reported speech is this: My best friend lent me some money the day before yesterday.
  • Sentence type โ€“ It is almost impossible to convert a sentence from the direct to the indirect speech appropriately if one fails to identify the type of sentence enclosed within inverted commas. It is important to know whether the sentence is affirmative, negative, negative interrogative, adverb interrogative, adverb negative interrogative, imperative or exclamatory. In the highlighted sentence, the reported speech is an affirmative sentence in the past indefinite tense.
  • Tense of the reporting verb and the reported speech โ€“ It is very essential to understand the form of the verb used by the reporter in the reported speech not only to understand the tense but also to apply the rules correctly while converting a given sentence from the direct to the indirect speech. As per the rules governing direct and indirect speech, the tense of the sentence in the reported speech undergoes a change based on the form of the reporting verb in the direct speech and also the tense of the reported speech. In the example sentence, the main verb in the reported speech is ‘lent’, which is the second form of the verb ‘to lend’. Therefore, the sentence is in the simple past tense. And only because the reporting verb ‘said’ is in its second (past) form, the sentence will undergo modifications in the indirect speech.
  • Voice โ€“ Before converting a sentence from the direct to indirect speech, it is also important to understand the voice in which the reported speech is. There are two voices in English โ€“ active and passive. It is essential to know that the standard rules are applicable only if the reported speech is in the active voice. The reported speech in the highlighted sentence is evidently in the active voice because the subject ‘my best friend’ is the one who is performing the action.
  • Inverted commas โ€“ If the reporter uses the exact words uttered by a person in their report, the compilation of words or sentences needs to be enclosed within single or double inverted commas in written English. The narration is then said to be direct. However, if the reporter uses one’s own words to communicate, inverted commas should not be used. The conjunction ‘that’ must precede the reported speech in such a scenario. The narration is then said to be in the indirect speech. Nevertheless, the conjunction ‘that’ is often dropped in informal speech when the reporting verb is a form of ‘to say’, ‘to tell’. ‘to state’, and the like.

Now, let us convert the highlighted sentence mentioned above into indirect speech. After applying all the rules, the sentence will be modified as stated below.

John Rosario said that his best friend had lent him some money two days before.

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RULES GOVERNING DIRECT AND INDIRECT SPEECH

STANDARD RULES GOVERNING AFFIRMATIVE AND NEGATIVE SENTENCES IN THE PRESENT AND PAST TENSES

While some standard rules govern both direct and indirect speech, there are also some exhaustive rules. The standard rules are confined to affirmative and negative sentences. To change a statement from the direct to the indirect speech, you must follow the mentioned rules unfailingly.

RULE 1: Remove the inverted commas and use the conjunction ‘that’ to introduce the reported speech, previously enclosed within inverted commas. Look at the following two sentences, both in direct and indirect speech, to understand this rule better.

Jacob says, “I hardly drink tea.”
Jacob says that he hardly drinks tea.

Megan tells me, “I love Samuel.”
Megan tells me that she loves Samuel.

RULE 2: Check what tense the reporting verb is in. If the reporting verb is in any of the present or future tenses, the tense of the reported speech in the indirect narration will remain unchanged. However, if the reporting verb is in the past tense, then the rules need to be applied, and therefore, the tense of the reported speech will undergo a change. Pay attention to the following sentences in the direct and indirect speech to understand this rule.

Max claims, “I know all these theories.”
Max claims that he knows all these theories.

Robert told me, “I want to become a doctor.”
Robert told me that he wanted to become a doctor.

I will tell Mary’s father, “Mary is not a spendthrift.”
I will tell Mary’s father that Mary (she) is not a spendthrift.

In the first and third sentences, the tenses of the reported speech in indirect narrations have not undergone any change because the reporting verbs ‘claims’ and ‘will say’ are in the simple present tense and future indefinite tense respectively. However, in the second sentence, the tense of the reported speech in indirect narration has undergone a change because the reporting verb ‘told’ is in the past tense. Therefore, the sentence within inverted commas in the simple present tense has been changed to the simple past tense in the indirect speech as per the rules governing direct-indirect speech.

RULE 3: While changing the direct speech into indirect, the pronouns that form a part of the reported speech undergo a change irrespective of the form of the reporting verb. This means that even if the reporting verb is in any of the present or future tenses, the pronouns must be modified. While the first person (I or we) changes according to the subject of the reporting verb, the second person (you) changes according to the object of the reporting verb. The third person (he, she, they, or it) customarily remains unchanged. One must pay attention to whether the pronoun that appears as part of the reported speech is in the nominative, accusative, or genitive case. Read the following sentences, each of them in direct and indirect speech, to understand this rule.

She said, “I like traveling.”
She said that she liked traveling.

Raphael told me, “I want to meet you and your sister.”
Raphael told me that he wanted to meet me and my sister.

Albin tells his mother, “You are the best person in this world.”
Albin tells his mother that she is the best person in this world.

In all the above-mentioned sentences, the pronouns have undergone changes regardless of the forms of the reporting verb. In the first sentence, the pronoun ‘I’, which is a part of the reported speech has been changed with respect to the subject of the reporting verb ‘she’. Since it is in the nominative case, we have simply replaced ‘I’ with ‘she’. Please note that the case should not be changed but only the pronoun needs to be modified.

In the second sentence, the pronouns ‘I’ and ‘your’ have undergone changes in the indirect speech. The personal pronoun ‘I’ has been changed according to the subject of the reporting verb ‘Raphael’. Clearly, Raphael, a male name, can be given the pronoun ‘he’ in the nominative case. Similarly, ‘you’ has been changed into ‘me’ in the accusative case and ‘your’ has been changed into ‘my’ in the genitive case, depending on the object of the reporting verb (me).

RULE 4: While using the reporting verb ‘to tell’, regardless of its form, we must mention the object. However, the object can be omitted if the reporting verb is simply one of the forms of the verb ‘to say’. One must also note that if the reporting verb in the direct speech has the ‘to say’ verb in any of its forms along with an object, it is advisable to use a corresponding form of the verb ‘to tell’ in the indirect speech. Look at the following three sentences and pay attention to the reporting verbs.

He says to me, “I do not want to be here anymore.”
He tells me that he does not want to be here anymore.

I will tell her, “I have made a mistake.”
I will tell her that I have made a mistake.

That person said, “I eat apples.”
That person said that he ate apples. (Correct)
That person told that he ate apples. (Incorrect โ€“ Told whom?)
That person told us that he ate apples. (Correct)

RULE 5: If the reporting verb is in the past tense, then the below-mentioned list of words will change in the indirect speech. Please look at the table and observe the modification that these words undergo. Some words can be said in various ways in indirect speech. The most preferred option has been highlighted.

Direct SpeechIndirect Speech
Today/This dayThat day
Tonight/This nightThat night
YesterdayThe previous day
TomorrowThe following day/ The next day/On the morrow
Day before yesterdayTwo days before/ The day before/ The previous day
Day after tomorrowIn two daysโ€™ time/ Two days later
Last dayThe previous day/ The day before
Last night The previous night/ The night before 
Last weekThe previous week/ The week before
Last fortnightThe previous fortnight
Last monthThe previous month/ The month before
Last yearThe previous year/ The year before
Next dayThe following day
Next nightThe following night
Next weekThe following week/ The week after
Next fortnightThe following fortnight
Next monthThe following month/ The month after
Next yearThe following year/ The next year
In one hourOne hour later
NowThen
AgoBefore
ThusSoIn that way
ThisThis (when indicating a specific object)/ That (when referring to time)/ The (when used as a demonstrative adjective)
TheseThese (when indicating specific objects)/ Those (when referring to time)/ The (when used as a demonstrative adjective)
HereThere
So (when used in exclamatory sentences)Very
Come (when used as an invitation)Go
HenceThence

RULE 6: If the reporting verb is in the past tense, then the tense of the reported speech may undergo a change depending on its tense.

โ€ข If the reported speech in direct narration is in the simple present tense, it should be changed into the simple past tense in the indirect speech. Look at the below-mentioned sentences.

Jack said to me, “I play badminton every day.”
Jack told me that he played badminton every day.

Mila told her father, “I am afraid of the dark.”
Mila told her father that she was afraid of the dark.

He said, “I do domestic chores.”
He said that he did domestic chores.

You said with a frown, “I hate exams.”
You grumbled that you hated exams.

I told you, “I like being alone.”
I told you that I liked being alone.


Please note that in the fourth sentence, the reporting verb in the indirect speech has been changed to ‘grumbled’. This is possible because this verb conveys the aspect or the mood with which the person said the statement. Particular verbs have characteristics that express the way an action happens. This is called aspect in English grammar and it has absolute relevance as far as this topic is concerned.


โ€ข If the reported speech in direct narration is in the present continuous tense, it should be changed into the past continuous tense in the indirect speech. Look at the below-mentioned sentences.

Michael said, “My brother is shouting at me now.”
Michael said that his brother was shouting at him then.

Renee told us, “I am suffering from typhoid.”
Renee told us that she was suffering from typhoid.

I told my children, “I am preparing fried rice for dinner.”
I told my children that I was preparing fried rice for children.

His father said, “I am going to London next week.”
His father said that he was going to London the following week.

She told us, “I am learning Russian these days.”
She told us that she was learning Russian those days.

โ€ข If a sentence in the direct speech is in the present perfect tense, it will be changed to the past perfect tense in the indirect speech. Look at the following sentences.

He said to the lecturer, “I have completed my assignment.”
He told the lecturer that he had completed his assignment.

Cathy told me, “I have already been to Italy.”
Cathy told me that she had already been to Italy.

I informed my mother, “I have already met the doctor.”
I informed my mother that I had already met the doctor.

She said, “Shalom has not kept the keys here.”
She said that Shalom had not kept the keys there.

His friend told us, “I have accidentally told them the secret.”
His friend told us that he had accidentally told them the secret.

.
โ€ข If a sentence in the direct speech is in the present perfect continuous tense, it should be changed into the past perfect continuous tense in the indirect speech. Look at the following sentences.

My colleague said, “I have been living in this city for a decade.”
My colleague said that he had been living in the city for a decade.

I told my girlfriend, “I have been learning English since January this year.”
I told my girlfriend that I had been learning English since January that year.

She told us, “My son has been doing official work since last night.”
She told us that her son had been doing official work since the previous night.

They said, “We have been cultivating plants at our place since last year.”
They said that they had been cultivating plants at their place since the previous year.

You told me, “I have been writing a letter since this morning.”
You told me that you had been writing a letter since that morning.

โ€ข If a sentence in the direct speech is in the simple past tense, it will be changed to the past perfect tense in the indirect speech. Look at the following sentences.

Brad Mathews said, “I went to the church the day before yesterday.”
Brad Mathews said that he had gone to the church two days before.

He said, “I did not sing any song this Sunday.”
He said that he had not sung any song that Sunday.

The investigator said to the gathering, “Our department found the offender last week itself.”
The investigator informed the gathering that their department had found the offender the previous week itself.

I told her, “They visited a few cities in Canada last fortnight.”
I told her that they had visited a few cities in Canada the previous fortnight.

Sam said, “We saw a strange, frightening creature last night.”
Sam said that they had seen a strange, frightening creature the previous night.

โ€ข If a sentence in the direct speech is in the past continuous tense, it will be changed to the past perfect continuous tense in the indirect speech. Look at the following sentences.

Peter said to me, “I was playing a video game.”
Peter told me that he had been playing a video game.

She said to her father, “Mother was not waiting for us at the market.”
She told her father that her mother had not been waiting for them at the market.

I told her categorically, “You were not speaking diplomatically.”
I told her categorically that she had not been speaking diplomatically.

Her boyfriend told me, “She was watching a movie last night.”
Her boyfriend told me that she had been watching a movie the previous night.

My doctor said to me, “You are in poor health because you were not taking medicines regularly.”
My doctor told me that I was in poor health because I had not been taking medicines regularly.

โ€ข If a sentence in the direct speech is in the past perfect or past perfect continuous tense, then it does not change in the indirect speech. Look at the following sentences.

I said to them, “I had been riding the bike for two hours when I met with the accident.”
I told them that I had been riding the bike for two hours when I had met with the accident.

The student said to the whole class, “I had already completed the project work before the summer holidays began.”
The student announced that he had already completed the project work before the summer holidays had begun.

Maria told the gathering, “When we spotted the Unidentified Flying Object, we had been playing on the ground for an hour.”
Maria informed the gathering that when they had spotted the Unidentified Flying Object, they had been playing on the ground for an hour.

He said to her, “I had hidden the money under carpet much before officials from the anti-corruption bureau came.”
He told her that he had hidden the money under the carpet much before officials from the anti-corruption bureau had come.

I told my sister, “I had graduated from school before you took birth.”
I told my sister that I had graduated from school before she had taken birth.

Please note that in the above-mentioned sentences, only the verbs in their respective second forms have changed but not the parts of the sentences that are in the present perfect or the present perfect continuous tense.

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POINTS TO BE NOTED

If the reported speech is a universal truth, principle, habit, or proverb, the tense will not undergo any change even if the reporting verb is in the past tense. Look at the below-mentioned sentences.

Our teacher said, “Prevention is better than cure.”
Our teacher told us that prevention is better than cure.

I stated, “The Sun rises in the East.”
I stated that the Sun rises in the East.

The mathematician said, “Two plus three is five.”
The mathematician told us that two plus three is five.

He told me, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”
He told me that a bird in hand is worth two in the bush.

They said, “We go to the gym daily.”
They told me that they go to the gym daily.

โ€ข If a sentence does not denote a completed action in the past continuous tense when another action took place, we should not alter the tense of the reported speech in the indirect narration. Look at the following two sentences to understand this point better.

He said, “She was watching a TV show when I knocked on the door.
He said that she was watching a TV show when he knocked on the door.

Cleopatra told the gathering, “When I saw the man, he was talking to himself.”
Cleopatra told the gathering that when she saw the man, he was talking to himself.

They said, “While we were having a conversation, the teacher entered the classroom.”
They said that while they were having a conversation, the teacher entered the classroom.

โ€ข If the reported speech in the past tense comprises a fact, then it should not be altered in the indirect narration. Look at the following two sentences.

I told my mother, “I did not visit that place because it was situated in a scary area.”
I told my mother that I had not visited that place because it was situated in a scary area. (Fact โ€“ It was situated in a scary area.)

My maternal uncle told me, “I did not purchase that apartment because it was located away from the city.”
My maternal uncle told me that he had not purchased that apartment because it was located away from the city. (Fact โ€“ It was located away from the city.)

โ€ข If the reported speech comprises the verb ‘to wish’ or ‘to hope’, followed by a clause in the past tense, the part of the sentence in the simple past tense will not undergo any change in the indirect narration. Also, if the reported speech begins with ‘it is time’ and if any verb in its past form follows it, the tense will remain unaltered in the indirect speech. Observe the following sentences.

Martha said to her husband, “I wish I were not your wife.”
Martha told her husband that she wished she were not his wife.

I told my co-worker, “I hope you did not steal my money.”
I told my co-worker that I hoped he did not steal my money.

They said, “It is time we started working on this assignment.”
They told us that it was time they started working on the assignment.

RULES GOVERNING AFFIRMATIVE AND NEGATIVE SENTENCES WITH MODAL VERBS

So far, we have seen the rules that govern affirmative and negative sentences in the present and past tenses. Let us now see how sentences comprising modal verbs undergo changes while converting them from direct to indirect speech. Before proceeding, look at the following list of modal verbs and see how they undergo changes in the indirect narration.

Direct SpeechIndirect Speech
WillWould
ShallWould (when indicating future time)/ Should (for offers and suggestions)
Can (present ability)Could
Can (future ability)Would be able to
May (possibility)Might
May (permission, present)Could
May (permission, future)Would be allowed to
Must (moral responsibility)Must
Must (present obligation)Had to
Must (future obligation)Would have to
Need notDidnโ€™t have to (present need)/ Wouldnโ€™t have to (future need)
Would, Should, Might, Could, Ought to and Had toNo change

To understand the conversion of sentences comprising modal verbs from direct to indirect speech, consider the following sentences and observe the modifications.

Will and Shall

‘Will’ and ‘shall’ are modal verbs that are used in future tenses. While on the one hand ‘will’ changes into ‘would’ in the indirect narration, ‘shall’ changes into ‘would’ or ‘should’ depending on whether it refers to a future course of action or an offer or suggestion. We shall study offers and suggestions while discussing the specific rules that govern direct and indirect speech. Also, note that the main verbs in the future tenses will not undergo any change. For now, look at the following sentences.

Philips said, “I shall see you next week.”
Philips told me that he would see me the following week.

I told her, “I will be traveling to Scotland next month.”
I told her that I would be traveling to Scotland the following month.

We said, “We shall have completed our graduation by next year.”
We said that we would have completed our graduation a year after.

Elizabeth told her boss, “I will do this investigative story.”
Elizabeth told her boss that she would do the investigative story.

My father said, “She will punish you for your mistake.”
My father told me that she would punish me for my mistake.

May and Can

As has been mentioned in the table above, ‘may’ changes into ‘might’ when referring to possibility, whereas ‘can’ changes into ‘could’ or ‘would be able to’ depending on whether it is a present or a future ability. We shall see the changes that take place when ‘may’ is used for permission while discussing the specific rules that govern narrations. For the time being, look at the following sentences and observe the changes that these modal verbs undergo.

They said, “We may not be able to meet you this year.”
They told me that they might not be able to meet me that year.

Joshua told us, “I can help you with this task tomorrow.”
Joshua told us that he would be able to help us with the task the following day. (Future ability)

I told the gathering, “It may rain the day after tomorrow.”
I told the gathering that it might rain in two days’ time.

She said, “I cannot speak Japanese fluently.”
She said that she could not speak Japanese fluently. (Present ability)

His brother told my sister, “These people can influence young minds.”
His brother told my sister that those people could influence young minds.

Must and Need Not

‘Must’ and ‘need not’ are modal verbs that undergo a change based on whether the obligation or need was a present scenario or aimed at the future. If ‘must’ in the direct speech refers to a present obligation, then it changes into ‘had to’ in the indirect speech. However, if it refers to a future obligation, then it changes into ‘would have to’ in the indirect narration. On the other hand, the modal verb ‘need not’ changes into ‘didn’t have to’ if it refers to a present need. However, if it refers to a future need, then it changes into ‘wouldn’t have to’ in the indirect speech. Look at the following sentences.

The administrator said, “The police must cordon off this area right now.”
The administrator said that the police had to cordon off the area right then. (Present obligation)

They told me, “You must complete this project latest by next year.”
They told me that I would have to complete the project latest by the following year. (Future obligation)

His doctor said to him, “You need not take these medicines from now on.”
His doctor told him that he didn’t have to take the medicines from then on. (Present need)

I told my sister, “We must respect our parents.”
I told my sister that we must respect our parents. (Moral responsibility)

He said to my cousin, “You need not speak with Della from next week.”
He told my cousin that she wouldn’t have to speak with Della from the following week. (Future need)

Would, Should, Might, Could, Ought to, and Had to

All the above-mentioned modal verbs should not be changed while converting a sentence from one speech to the other. Look at the below-mentioned sentences.

Jim said, “I would not be able to complete this work on time.”
Jim said that he would not be able to complete the work on time.

Martha told her father, “I should meet James next month.”
Martha told her father that she should meet James the following month.

The weatherman said, “It might not snow today.”
The weatherman said that it might not snow that day.

I said to her at night, “We could have done this task together.”
I told her at night that we could have done the task together.

They told us, “You ought to obey the traffic signals.”
They told us that we ought to obey the traffic signals.

My aunt said, “I had to meet the surgeon last week.”
My aunt said that she had to meet the surgeon a week before.

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SPECIAL RULES GOVERNING DIRECT AND INDIRECT NARRATION

The special rules that govern direct and indirect speech are instructions that are applicable for all types of sentences excluding basic affirmative and negative sentences. We have already discussed affirmative and negative sentences and the changes that take place while converting these sentences from direct to indirect speech. These special rules, nevertheless, also focus on different types of affirmative and negative sentences. Please note that all these rules are applicable only if the reporting verb is in the past tense.

SPECIAL RULE 1

If the reported speech comprises a noun that is used by the speaker to address the listener, it becomes a part of the object of the reporting verb while converting a given sentence from direct to indirect speech. Look at the following three sentences.

  1. He said, “You are very kind, George.”
    He told George that he was very kind.
  2. Abby said, “Amy, I have fallen for you.”
    Abby told Amy that he had fallen for her.
  3. She said, “You are the most intelligent person I have ever met, Dennis.”
    She told Dennis that he was the most intelligent person she had ever met.

SPECIAL RULE 2

If the reported speech comprises terms of address such as ‘ladies and gentlemen’, ‘dear brothers and sisters’ or ‘dear friends’, it is modified in indirect speech using the reporter’s own words. Look at the following sentences to understand this rule better.

  1. The Minister said to the gathering, “Dear ladies and gentlemen, I welcome all of you to this extraordinary seminar on human rights.”
    Addressing the gathering as ladies and gentlemen, the Minister said that he welcomed all of them to the extraordinary seminar on human rights.
  2. The speaker said, “Dear friends, we must eat a balanced diet to stay fit and healthy.”
    The speaker addressed the people as friends and said that they had to eat a balanced diet to stay fit and healthy.

SPECIAL RULE 3

If the reported speech comprises greetings or words that denote farewell, then a relevant reporting verb (‘to wish’ for greetings, and ‘to bid’ for farewell) is often used after the subject in the indirect speech. After the initial reporting verb, we must specify the object and then include the wish or greeting that formed a part of the sentence. After this, we must use the conjunction ‘and’ followed by ‘said’ and apply the general rules that govern direct and indirect speech. Look at the following sentences to understand this rule better.

  1. Della said to us, “Good morning, I am very happy today.”
    Della wished us good morning and said that she was very happy that day.
  2. My colleague said to me, “Goodbye. It was nice talking to you.”
    My colleague bade me adieu and said that it had been nice talking to me.


SPECIAL RULE 4

If the reporting verb is placed after the reported speech in direct speech, it must be placed before the reported speech in indirect narration. Look at the following two sentences.

  1. “I am desperately in need of some money,” he told me.
    He told me that he was desperately in need of some money.
  2. “I have written a short story,” my comrade said.
    My comrade said that he had written a short story.

SPECIAL RULE 5

If the reported speech enclosed within inverted commas is an interrogative or a negative interrogative sentence (Yes/No question), then apply the below-mentioned rules.

  • Replace the reporting verb ‘to say’, ‘to state’ or ‘to tell’ with a verb that denotes the act of questioning, such as ‘to ask’, ‘to enquire’, ‘to want to know’ or ‘to demand’, depending on the aspect or mood of the sentence.
  • Remove the inverted commas and use the coordinating conjunction ‘if’ or ‘whether’ before the reported speech.
  • Convert any given interrogative sentence into an affirmative sentence and any negative interrogative sentence into a negative sentence in indirect speech.
  • The standard rules need to be applied after applying the above-mentioned rules.

Please note that after the object of the reporting verb ‘to want to know’ or ‘to demand’, the preposition ‘of’ or ‘from’ is used instead of ‘if’ or ‘whether’. On the other hand, the preposition ‘of’ is used in between the reporting verb ‘to enquire’ and its object. Look at the following sentences to understand this rule better.

  1. I said to her, “Are you my friend?”
    I asked her if she was my friend.
  2. Monalisa said to me, “Do you not read newspapers?”
    Monalisa asked me if I did not read newspapers.
  3. The teacher said to the students, “Have you all completed your homework?”
    The teacher asked the students if they had all completed their homework.
  4. My mother said to me, “Have you been playing this video game for five hours?”
    My mother inquired of me whether I had been playing the video game for five hours.
  5. Earl said to me, “Can you not come to my home next week?”
    Earl wanted to know of me whether I would not be able to go to her home the following week. (Future ability)
  6. I said to my classmates, “Shall we discuss this topic?”
    I asked my classmates if we should discuss the topic. (Suggestion)
  7. He said to me, “Will you be able to ride this bike?”
    He wanted to know from me if I would be able to ride the bike.
  8. The lecturer said to the pupils, “Had you not been chit-chatting for an hour before I came?”
    The lecturer asked the pupils if they had not been chit-chatting for an hour before he had come.
  9. She said to me, “Are you a not geologist?”
    She asked me if I was not a geologist.
  10. His sister said to them, “Have you eaten all the mangoes?”
    His sister asked them if they had eaten all the mangoes.

SPECIAL RULE 6

If the reported speech within inverted commas is an adverb interrogative or negative interrogative sentence, then use the reporting verb ‘to ask’ in indirect speech. However, an adverb interrogative or negative interrogative sentence will be converted to an affirmative or negative sentence correspondingly using the interrogative adverb itself as the conjunction. Therefore, coordinating conjunctions ‘if’ or ‘whether’ will not form a part of indirect speech as far as these sentences are concerned. The general rules, nevertheless, need to be applied abidingly. Look at the following sentences.

  1. They said to me, “Where are you going now?”
    They asked me where I was going then.
  2. Earl said to her mother, “How did you not prepare this recipe in five minutes?”
    Earl asked her mother how she had not prepared the recipe in five minutes.
  3. The boss said to his employee, “When will you be back at work?”
    The boss asked the employee when he would be back at work.
  4. I said to him, “What are you doing this weekend?”
    I asked him what he was doing that weekend.
  5. She said to him, “Whom do you work for?”
    She asked him whom he worked work.
  6. Peter said to me, “Who did not go for the excursion?”
    Peter asked me who had not gone for the excursion.
  7. We said to them, “When can you give us the money back?”
    We asked them when they would be able to give us the money back. (Future ability)
  8. My step-mother said to me, “Where have you been hiding since this Monday?”
    My stepmother asked me where I had been hiding since that Monday.
  9. I said to her, “Why do you not respect elders?”
    I asked her why she did not respect elders.
  10. They said to him, “Who the hell are you?”
    They asked him who the hell he was.

SPECIAL RULE 7

If the reported speech within inverted commas is an imperative or a negative imperative sentence (an order, command, request, advice, or suggestion), then the following rules need to be applied unswervingly.

  • The reporting verb must be one of the forms of ‘to order’, ‘to request’, ‘to ask’, ‘to beg’, ‘to advise’, ‘to warn’ or ‘to suggest’.
  • Remove the inverted commas and use the infinitive marker ‘to’ if the sentence is imperative and ‘not to’ if the sentence is negative interrogative. Do not use ‘if’, ‘whether’, or ‘that’.
  • If there is a noun within the reported speech used to address the listener, make it the object of the reporting verb.
  • Always mention the object after the reporting verb in indirect speech. The object can be avoided if the imperative sentence begins with ‘let’.
  • If the word ‘sir’ or ‘madam’ is used to address the listener, please insert the adverb ‘respectfully’ after the object of the reporting verb.
  • If the imperative sentence begins with ‘let’, then remove ‘let’ in the indirect speech and change the objective case of the pronoun that follows ‘let’ into the subjective case. However, you must note that if ‘us’ follows the word ‘let’ in direct speech, it must be changed to ‘they’ if the reporter is not included in the activity concerned, otherwise one must use ‘we’. Use a form of ‘to suggest’ or ‘to propose’ as the reporting verb, followed by the infinitive marker ‘to’. After ‘we’ or ‘they’ use the modal verb ‘should’ followed by the first form of the main verb. Also, note the points mentioned right below.
    • If the sentence conveys a wish or desire, then use a form of ‘to wish’ as the reporting verb.
    • A sentence beginning with ‘let’ indicates permission. In such a case, use a form of ‘to order’ as the reporting verb and after the object of the reporting verb, use ‘to allow’.
    • If the sentence is a ‘let itโ€ฆ.. ever so’ construction, then replace ‘let’ with ‘even if’ and remove ‘so’ in the indirect speech.
    • If the imperative sentence comprises a question tag, then remove the question tag in the indirect speech.
    • Apply the general rules as and when applicable.

Look at the following sentences.

  1. They said to the waiter, “Give us two glasses of milk.”
    They asked the waiter to give them two glasses of milk.
  2. I told my friends, “Let us visit Miami next month.”
    I suggested to my friends that we should visit Miami the following month.
  3. Daniel said to me, “Read this article, please.”
    Daniel requested me to read the article.
  4. Mohammad said, “Let me go home.”
    Mohammad wished that he should go home.
  5. The principal said to the teacher, “Let the students meet me.”
    The principal ordered the teacher to allow the students to meet him.
  6. I said to my teacher, “Sir, explain this theory.”
    I asked my teacher respectfully to explain the theory.
  7. The doctor told him, “Do not smoke.”
    The doctor advised him not to smoke.
  8. The man said to us, “Let us take a pledge to serve the nation.”
    The man suggested that we should take a pledge to serve the nation.
  9. His father told him, “Do not watch this television show from now on.”
    His father warned him not to watch the television show from then on.
  10. Abner said, “Kepler, do as I say, will you?”
    Abner asked Kepler to do as he said.
  11. She said, “Vijay, tell me the truth, please.”
    She requested Vijay to tell her the truth.
  12. I said to him, “Let us play this game together.”
    I suggested to him that we play the game together.
  13. Mr. Sam said, “Let it snow ever so hard, I will not miss going to work.”
    Mr. Sam said that even if it snowed hard, he would not miss going to work.
  14. Sandra told Jill, “Pass me that bottle of wine, will you?”
    Sandra asked Jill to pass her the bottle of wine.

SPECIAL RULE 8

If the sentence enclosed within inverted commas is exclamatory, then the following rules need to be applied prudently.

  • If the exclamatory sentence in direct speech has no subject and verb, then use an appropriate subject and the present form of the ‘to be’ verb to convert the exclamatory sentence into an affirmative sentence first. For example:
    • What pleasant weather!
      The weather is pleasant.
  • If the exclamatory sentence in direct speech begins with ‘how’, followed by an adjective, then convert the sentence into an affirmative sentence. Consider the example below.
    • How nice of him to gift me a lovely dress!
      He was nice enough to gift me a lovely dress.
  • If the exclamatory sentence begins with any of the exclamatory words, then use an adjective to describe the emotion and convert the sentence into an affirmative sentence. Remove the exclamatory verb in the indirect speech.
    • Alas! I lost the match again!
      It is sad that I lost the match again.
    • Bravo! You’ve done a wonderful job yet again!
      It is praiseworthy that you have done a wonderful job yet again.
    • Fie! He turned out to be a bloody murderer!
      It is a matter of disdain that he turned out to be a bloody murderer!
  • After converting the given exclamatory sentence into an affirmative sentence, apply the general rules.

Note that the italicized parts in all the above-mentioned sentences can simply form a part of the object of the reporting verb. For example, if one were to report the first sentence in the indirect speech, one must say: I said with sadness that I had lost the match yet again. Besides, in most cases, one can use a form of ‘to exclaim’ as the reporting verb, along with the preposition ‘with’, followed by an adjective. However, if one wishes to convey the aspect or mood of the sentence, one can use a form of any verb that conveys the mood of the sentence. If the exclamatory sentence is a wish, then use a form of the ‘to wish’ verb as the reporting verb. Look at the sentences below.

  1. She said, “Hurrah! I topped the class this time!
    She exclaimed with joy that she had topped the class that time.
  2. Mario said to me, “Ah! She has ruined my life!”
    Mario exclaimed with grief that she had ruined her life.
  3. His brother said to us, “Merry Christmas!”
    His brother wished us Merry Christmas.
  4. They yelled, “Oh dear! Someone stole our bike!”
    They yelled with sorrow that someone had stolen their bike.
  5. He said, “Ouch! The dog bit me!”
    He exclaimed with pain that the dog had bitten him.
  6. Ralph said, “Wow! Such a magnificent building!”
    Ralph exclaimed with happiness that it was a magnificent building.
  7. The reader said, “What a lovely book!”
    The reader exclaimed that it was a lovely book.
  8. I said, “My goodness! This statue looks so real!”
    I exclaimed with astonishment that the statue looked very real.

SPECIAL RULE 9

If the reported speech comprises an optative sentence (prayer, curse, wish, or blessing), then apply the following rules while converting the sentence from direct to indirect speech.

  • Substitute the reporting verb ‘to say, ‘to state’ or ‘to tell’ with a form of ‘to pray’, ‘to curse’, ‘to wish’ or ‘to bless’, depending on the mood of the optative sentence.
  • Remove the inverted commas and use the conjunction ‘that’ before the reported speech.
  • Convert the optative sentence into an affirmative sentence.
  • Even if the optative sentence does not begin with the modal verb ‘may’, one must include the past form of this verb (might) in the indirect speech, envisaging that it formed a part of the reported speech in direct narration.
  • Apply the general rules as and when applicable.

Look at the following sentences.

  1. My grandmother told me, “May you live a long and healthy life!”
    My grandmother blessed me that I might live a long and healthy life.
  2. They said to him, “May you die a terrible death.”
    They cursed him that he might die a terrible death.
  3. Morgan said to Winston, “May you achieve success!”
    Morgan wished Winston that he might achieve success.
  4. I told her, “Have a wonderful day!”
    I wished her that she might have a wonderful day.
  5. She said, “May his soul rest in peace.”
    She prayed that his soul might rest in peace.
  6. My paternal aunt said to me, “May all your dreams come true.”
    My paternal aunt wished me that all my dreams might come true.
  7. They said, “May you be happy forever.”
    They wished me that I might be happy forever.
  8. Emerson said to his mother, “Get well soon!”
    Emerson wished her mother that she might get well soon.
  9. Sandy told him, “Go to hell!”
    Sandy cursed him that he might go to hell.
  10. She said to me, “May you attain salvation!”
    She wished that I might attain salvation.

DO READ | Ten Phrasal Verbs With ‘Play’

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