learn how to use the reported speech in your daily conversations

Reported speech

Reporting statements

When you report speech, you usually need to go back a tense.

‘I’m hungry.’                 ————-> She said she was hungry.

‘We’ve been to Rome.’ ————->  They said they’d been to Rome.

Note that the past perfect doesn’t change. It remains past perfect. Note also that you can use that in reported speech or you can leave it out.

Zack told me (that) he’d fallen over. Belinda said (that) she was hungry.

If the situation is still true, it isn’t always necessary to go back a tense. However, you’ll always be right if you go back a tense so if you’re in doubt, change the present to the past.

‘The earth is round.’ The teacher said that the earth is/was round.

You change can to could and will to would in reported speech. 

‘I can/can’t see you!’    ————-> He said he could/couldn’t see me.

‘I will/won’t call you.’ ————-> She said she would/she wouldn’t call me.

You usually need to change the pronouns when you report speech.

‘We can’t find our toys.’ ————-> They said they couldn’t find their toys

Words like today, tomorrow, next Saturday, next year, etc. also change if the time period has changed.

‘We’re going to France today’ (said on Tuesday)

They said they were going to France that day. (said on Saturday)

Always put a personal direct object or someone’s name after tell. Never put a personal direct object after say.

Peter told me/Ann he was happy.  NOT          Peter told he was happy.

Peter said he was happy.                NOT          Peter said me he wes happy.

Reporting questions

When you’re reporting questions with a question word (who, what, where, when, whose, how), you use normal word order: subject + verb. Don’t use do and don’t, did and didn’t.

‘Where are you?’       ————-> She asked me where I was.      NOT     where was I.

‘Where do you live?’ ————-> She asked me where I lived.    NOT     where did I live.

When you’re reporting yes/no questions you use if or whether. 

‘Do you like working in teams?’ ————-> He asked if I liked working in teams.

‘Did you enjoy the party?’           ————-> She asked me whether I’d enjoyed the party.

Orders, requests, promises, etc.

You can use the infinitive or object + infinitive to report orders. requests, promises, offers, advice. agreements, etc.

‘I will write!’                       ————->   Jill promised to write.

‘We’ll wash up for you.’      ————->   They offered to do the washing-up.

‘Keep quiet!’                       ————->   Mr Sykes ordered the children to keep quiet.

‘You shouldn’t call again.’  ————->   He advised me not to call again.

In negative statements ‘not‘ goes between the object and the infinitive.

She told me not to do it.      NOT      She told me to not do it

Say and suggest

You don’t use the infinitive or object + infinitive after the reporting verbs say and suggest. Use told or suggest + ing form.

He told me to leave.                          NOT        He said me to leave.

Mum told us not to go to the park.   NOT        Mum said us not to go to the park.

I suggested trying the new cafe.       NOT        I suggested to try the new cafe.

They suggested using their car.        NOT       They suggested us to use their car.

Would, could, should, etc.

You don’t usually change the form of the verbs after would, could, should, ought to, must, might and had better after past reporting verbs.

‘I could buy some fruit.’       ————->  She said she could buy some fruit.

                                            NOT              She said she could have bought some fruit.

‘You’d better stay the night.’ ————->  He told me I’d better stay the night.

                                            NOT              He told me I’d better have stayed the night.