Direct And Indirect Speech Basic Rules

Rules for the change of tenses

When the reporting verb is in the past tense, all present tenses within the inverted commas are changed into the corresponding past tenses.

Simple present will change into simple past.

Present continuous will change into past continuous tense.

Present perfect tense will change into past perfect tense.

Present perfect progressive will change into past perfect progressive.

Simple past will change into past perfect.

Past perfect will not change.

Points to be noted

1. The tenses may not change if the statement is still relevant or if it is a universal truth. We can often choose whether to keep the original tenses or change them.

2. After present, future and present perfect reporting verbs, tenses are usually the same as in the original.

Modal verbs in indirect speech

The modals will, shall, can and may change to their corresponding past tense forms in indirect speech.

The modals would, should, could, might, ought and must are normally unchanged after past reporting verbs in indirect speech. This is also true of modal need and had better.

First person shall and conditional should may be reported as would in indirect speech (because of the change of person).

Rules For The Change Of Pronouns

A change in speaker may mean a change of pronoun.


In the example given above, Alice says to refer to herself. Mary, talking about what Alice said, naturally uses she.

Rules for the change of Pronouns

  1. First person pronouns(I, we, me, mine, us, ours) normally change to the third person (he, she, they, his, her, their, him, her, them).
  1. There will be no change in the pronoun when the speaker reports his own words.
  1. Second person pronouns (you, yours) change according to the person of the object of the reporting verb.
  1. Third person pronouns do not normally change in the reported speech.

Rules for the change of adverbs

Words showing nearness in direct speech are normally changed into words showing distance in indirect speech. The most common changes are given below.

Now/just changes to then
Come sometimes changes to go
Today changes to that day/the same day
Tomorrow changes to the next day/the following day
Yesterday changes to the day before/the previous day
Next week/month/year changes to the following week/month/year
Last week/month/year changes to the previous week/month/year
Ago changes to before
This sometimes changes to that
Here changes to there

Examples are: