Reported Speech is used when we are talking to someone about what another person has said. It can be used to pass on information from person to person or to tell someone about information they missed.

Here are some examples of when to use reported speech.

  • Your friend misses class and wants to know what the teacher said.
  • Your coworker is late for a meeting and needs to know what information they missed.
  • You want to complain about something a person said to you in the past.

How to Use Reported Speech

1. Don’t Use Quotation Marks

Reported speech is not a direct quote from a person, so quotation marks should not be used. When you use reported speech, you are speaking on behalf of someone else. Therefore, you are not quoting a person.

2. Use Say and Tell

The verbs say and tell are often used in reported speech. Tell must be followed by the subject, while say does not. Using say to me is also incorrect.

Direct speech: I am on my way.

Reported speech with say: He said (that) he was on his way.

Reported speech with tell: He told me (that) he was on his way.

3. Experiment with Reporting Verbs

There are more verbs to choose from other than say and tell. These are general words, but you can also use more defined verbs to show emotion behind the speech you are reporting. Here are some examples.

AdviseAgreeArgue
AskBragComplain
DecideEncourageInvite
MentionOfferPromise
RemindSuggestWarn

4. Know How the Words Change

There are many rules for word changes in reported speech.



Past Tense

When speaking about a message that was delivered in the past, the verb should jump back one verb tense.

Direct speech: I am a doctor.

Reported speech: She declared (that) she was a doctor.

Pronouns

The pronouns in reported speech still refer to the same person, but the pronouns change because the person delivering the message changes.

Direct SpeechReported Speech
I/youHe/she
Me/youHim/her
My/yourHis/her
Mine/yoursHis/hers
We/youThey
Us/youThem
Our/yourTheirs
Ours/yoursTheirs

Modals

Present modals are changed to past modals.

Direct SpeechReported Speech
CanCould
MayMight
MustMust
Have toHad to
WillWould

Questions

Reported questions are used to tell someone what another person asked in the past. The structure of the question changes to a statement. The subject comes first and is followed by the verb (one tense back).

Direct question: Where is the market?

Reported question: He asked where the market was.

Commands

When reporting commands, the verb changes to an infinitive verb.

Direct command: Sit down.

Reported command: He told me to sit down.

Reported speech is a useful English grammar function to master. There are many times in our lives when we want to share a message with another person. You will be surprised by how often you need to use reported speech each day.