Monday, May 16, 2011


When using indirect or reported speech, the form changes. Usually indirect speech is introduced by the verb said, as in I said, Bill said, or they said. Using the verb say in this tense, indicates that something was said in the past. In these cases, the main verb in the reported sentence is put in the past. If the main verb is already in a past tense, then the tense changes to another past tense; it can almost be seen as moving even further into the past.

Verb tense changes also characterize other situations using indirect speech. Note the changes shown in the chart and see the table below for examples. With indirect speech, the use of that is optional.

*Note than when a Yes/No question is being asked in direct speech, then a construction with if or whether is used. If a WH question is being asked, then use the WH to introduce the clause. Also note that with indirect speech, these are examples of embedded questions.

The situation changes if instead of the common said another part of the very to say is used. In that case the verb tenses usually remain the same. Some examples of this situation are given below.

Another situation is the one in which modal constructions are used. If the verb said is used, then the form of the modal, or another modal that has a past meaning is used.

While not all of the possibilities have been listed here, there are enough to provide examples of the main rules governing the use of indirect or reported speech. For other situations, try to extrapolate from the examples here, or better still, refer to a good grammar text or reference book.

Some other verbs that can be used to introduce direct speech are: ask, report, tell, announce, suggest, and inquire. They are not used interchangeably; check a grammar or usage book for further information.


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