Reported Speech


To report someone’s words, we use two different ways: we can use either the Direct Speech  (“I work in a hotel”), or the Reported Speech (or Indirect speech) (He said he worked in a hotel).

In Reported Speech, the tenses, word-order and pronouns may be different from those used in the original sentence.

Present simple and present continuous tenses

  • Direct speech: “I travel a lot in my current job”
  • Reported speech: She said that she travelled a lot in her current job.

The present simple tense (I travel) usually changes to the past simple (he/she travelled) in reported speech.


  • Direct speech: “Be quiet! The baby is sleeping.”
  • Reported speech: She told me to be quiet because the baby was sleeping.

The present continuous usually changes to the past continuous.


  • Direct Speech: “I live in India” 
  • Reported speech: He told me that he lives in India.

It is not always necessary to change the tense. If something is still true now – he still lives in India – the present simple can be used in the reported sentence.

Past simple and past continuous tenses

  • Direct speech: “We lived in Thailand for four years.”
  • Reported speech: She told me they had lived in Thailand for four years.

The past simple tense (we lived) usually changes to the past perfect (they had lived) in reported speech.


  • Direct speech: “I was watching TV when somebody knocked at the door.” 
  • Reported speech:  He told me he had been watching TV when somebody had knocked at the door.

The past continuous usually changes to the past perfect continuous.

Perfect tenses

  • Direct speech: “They’ve always been very kind to me”.
  • Reported speech: She said they’d always been very kind to her.

The present perfect tense (have always been) usually changes to the past perfect tense (had always been).


  • Direct speech: “They had already eaten when I arrived”
  • Reported speech: He said they’d already eaten when he’d arrived.

The past perfect tense does not change in reported speech.


Remember that in reported speech we usually change the tense of the direct statement. The present simple tense changes to the past simple, the past simple changes to the past perfect and so on.

Here are some other points to consider.

‘Can’ and ‘will’

  • Direct speech: “I can’t remember his name.”
  • Reported speech: She said she couldn’t remember his name.

Can’ and ‘can’t’ in direct speech change to ‘could’ and ‘couldn’t’ in reported speech.


  • Direct speech: “I’ll be there for two weeks.”
  • Reported speech: He told me he’d be there for two weeks.

Will’ and ‘won’t’ in direct speech change to ‘would’ and ‘wouldn’t’ in reported speech.

Other modal verbs

  • Direct speech: “You could be right.”
  • Reported speech: I said that he could be right.


  • Direct speech: “You must call me.”
  • Reported speech: She said that I must call her.

Other modal verbs don’t change in reported speech.


Reporting orders, requests and advice

  • Direct speech: “Sit down and shut up!” Reported speech: The teacher told me to sit down and shut up.
  • Direct speech: “Can you hold this for me please?” Reported speech: He asked me to hold it.
  • Direct speech: “You should do more exercise.” Reported speech: He advised me to do more exercise.


Orders, request and advice can be reported using an infinitive.


Reporting verbs
There are a number of verbs that we use to report statements. These can make your speech and writing more interesting than simply reporting every word of the direct speech.


  • Direct speech: “It wasn’t me who broke the window.” > He denied breaking the window.
  • Direct speech: “I’ll help you if you want” > She offered to help.


There are a number of verbs that can be used to report.
These include: promiseclaimsuggestadviserefuseargue,confirm and others.