Direct and Indirect Speech

The exact words that someone says are called direct speech. Quotation marks are used to set off direct speech. You can report what someone says without using their exact words. This is called indirect speech.

Direct Speech

The exact words that someone says are called direct speech. Quotation marks are used to set off direct speech.

  • Mom said, “Where are my keys?”
  • “This ice cream is delicious,” said Tom.
  • “Have you boys washed your hands?” asked Dad.
  • “Please get out of the car,” the police officer ordered.
  • “What a beautiful dress!” said Sally.

Indirect Speech

You can report what someone says without using their exact words. To do this, use a verb like say, ask or tell, followed by that. This is called indirect speech.

There are several differences between a sentence with direct speech and a sentence with indirect speech.

  • You don’t use quotation marks with indirect speech.
  • You change the tense of the verb.
  • You change the pronouns and determiners.

Direct Speech

  • Maggie said, “I feel ill.”
  • Sumiko said, “It’s time to leave.”
  • “I can’t find my book,” said Alice.
  • “John is hitting me,” said Peter.
  • Dad said, “I haven’t had my breakfast yet.”
  • “My car won’t start,” said Mom.

Indirect Speech

  • Maggie said that she felt ill.
  • Sumiko said that it was time to leave.
  • Alice said that she couldn’t find her book.
  • Peter said that John was hitting him.
  • Dad said that he hadn’t had his breakfast yet.
  • Mom said that her car wouldn’t start.

Tense is not changed

When you are using indirect speech to report a statement that is still true now, you don't change the tense of the verb.

Direct Speech

  • John said, “My mom doesn’t like fish.”
  • “I live in a house by the sea,” said Anna.
  • Dad said, “Paris is a beautiful city.”

Indirect Speech

  • John said that his mom doesn’t like fish.
  • Anna said that she lives in a house by the sea.
  • Dad said Paris is a beautiful city.

Indirect Commands

Use verbs like order, tell and warn to report orders and instructions. The construction to + verb or not to + verb may also be used.

Direct Speech

  • The teacher said, “Stop running in the corridor!”
  • “Put your books away, children,” said Mr. Park.
  • Dad said to David, “Please help me by washing the dishes.”
  • Jack said to Maggie, “Please don’t tell anyone my secret!”
  • Miss Lee said to Alan, “Don’t be late again tomorrow.”

Indirect Speech

  • The teacher ordered us to stop running in the corridor.
  • Mr. Park told the children to put their books away.
  • Dad asked David to help him by washing the dishes.
  • Jack begged Maggie not to tell anyone his secret.
  • Miss Lee warned Alan not to be late again the next day.

Indirect Questions

The verb ask is usually used to report questions.

Direct Speech

  • Sally said, “Where is my backpack?”
  • Peter said, “Have you finished your homework?”

Indirect Speech

  • Sally asked where her backpack was.
  • Peter asked if I had finished my homework.

To report a question, put the subject before the verb or helping verb. The subject comes after the helping verb when you ask a question.

Asking a question

  • “Where are they going?”
  • “Can Jack ride his bike?”
  • “Did Miss Lee sing a song?”
  • “Has she finished her homework?”

Reporting a question

  • I asked where they were going.
  • I asked if Jack could ride his bike.
  • I asked whether Miss Lee sang a song.
  • I asked if she had finished her homework.

When you are reporting yes or no questions, use if or whether after the verb.

Direct Speech

  • “Is it raining?” asked Tom.
  • Alice said, “Can you help us?”
  • Dad said, “Is the train on time?”

Indirect Speech

  • Tom asked if it was raining.
  • Alice asked whether I could help them.
  • Dad asked if the train was on time.