Direct and Indirect Speech – Rules and Examples

Any word spoken by a speaker can be written in two different ways. Those two are direct and indirect speech. Direct Speech is when the speaker’s actual words are quoted and these words are put in inverted commas (“…..”) while Indirect Speech is when the speaker’s words are said indirectly with the same meaning without repeating the exact words. For Example, the statement in direct speech She said to me, “I am going to the park” changes into She told me that she was going to the park in indirect speech.

Direct and Indirect Speech

Basic Changes while changing from Direct speech to indirect speech

The comma ( , )after the reporting verb is removed and the conjunction that is added in the indirect speech.
If the direct speech contains ‘said to’, it will be converted into ‘told’ in the indirect speech.
The quotation marks (Inverted commas) are to be removed in the indirect speech.
The pronoun in the first/second person in direct speech is generally changed into the third person in the indirect speech.
I becomes He/ She
We becomes they
You becomes He / She/ They
Me becomes Him/ her (Depending on the gender in the direct speech)
My becomes His/ Her.
Our becomes their
Us becomes them
Your becomes His/ her/ their.
Rules in changing a sentence from Direct and Indirect Speech
Rule 1: The Verb in the simple present tense in the direct speech changes into the simple past tense in indirect speech
Example: He said to me, “I am happy” becomes He told me that he was happy

(The verb in the direct speech ‘am’ is converted into ‘was’.)

Rule 2: The verb in the simple past tense becomes past perfect tense in indirect speech.
Example: He said to me, “I was happy” changes into He told me that he had been happy

Rule 3: A present continuous tense in direct speech becomes past continuous tense in indirect speech.
Example: The peon said, “The professor is teaching in that classroom” changes into The peon said that the professor was teaching in that classroom.

Rule 4: If the direct speech contains present perfect tense, it changes into the past perfect tense in indirect speech.
Example: She said, “I have passed the test” becomes She said that she had passed the test.

Rule 5: If the direct speech contains a statement talking about a universal truth or a factual statement, there will be no change of tense in indirect speech.
Example: The teacher said, “The sun rises in the East” becomes The teacher said that the sun rises in the east in indirect speech.

Example: Samuel said, “I know the university’s address.” and the indirect speech for that is Samuel said that he knows the university’s address

Rules for converting Interrogatory sentences

Rule 6: While converting interrogative sentences, the verb ‘said to’ becomes ‘asked’ and if/ whether will come in the place of ‘that’. The connecting word ‘that’ will not be used in indirect speech. Also, the interrogation mark (?) is not repeated in the indirect speech.
Example: He said to her, “Will you marry me?” changes into He asked her whether she would marry him in the indirect speech.

Rules for Converting Imperative Sentences

Rule 7: During the conversion of imperative sentences, the verb “said to” is changed into ordered, advised, requested, suggested, proposed, etc. depending on the situation. Also, the connecting word ‘that’ is not used. Instead of that, ‘to’ is used before the reporting verb.
Example: My father said to me, “prepare well for your examination”. It can be converted to My father advised me to prepare well for my examination.

Rules for Converting Exclamatory Sentences

Rule 8: For exclamatory sentences, the verb is converted into: exclaimed with joy or sorrow or with surprise, wished, prayed, applauded,/ etc. The exclamatory words and the exclamation are not mentioned anymore in the indirect speech. For example,
Example: The coach said, “Hurrah! we won the match!” is changed as The coach exclaimed with joy that we had won the match.

These are the changes in helping verbs while changing from Direct and Indirect Speech

Direct Speech Indirect Speech
Am/ Is Was
Are Were
Have/ Had/ Did had
Do/ Does Did
Will Would
Shall Should
Can Could
May Might
Must Had to
Was/ Were had been
Should Should
Had Had
Would Would
Could Could
Note: There is no change in the helping verbs “would, should, could, might, had” in the direct speech and they remain the same in indirect speech as well.

Changes in Time and Place

Direct Speech Indirect Speech
This That
These Those
Here There
Now Then
Today That Day
Tonight That Night
Tomorrow The next day/ The following day
The Day after tomorrow In two days
The Day before yesterday Two days before
Ago Before
Next The following
Last The previous
Thus So
This Evening That Evening
Hence Thence
Changes in pronouns

The changes in pronouns in indirect speech depends on the subject and the object of the reporting verb.

Rule 1: The first person of reported speech changes based on the subject of the reporting verb.
Example: She said, “I watched a movie” can be converted into She said that she had watched a movie. Hence, the first person in the direct speech “I” has become “she” based on the subject.

Had there been “he” instead of “she”, the first person in reported speech changes accordingly into “he”.

Rule 2: The second person in reported speech changes based on the object of the reporting verb.
Example: She said to me, “You watched a movie” can be converted into She told me that I had watched a movie.

Rule 3: The third person in the reported speech remains unchanged.
Example: I said to her, “He will play Chess” can be converted into I told her that he would play Chess.

Stay tuned for more examples of direct and indirect speech.

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Hi I am Michael Baxter I am a professional writer

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