Reported speech | Rules for changing tenses

If the reporting verb (the verb outside the quotation marks or inverted commas) is in the past tense, the reported speech must also be in the past tense.

Study the example given below.

Direct speech: He said, ‘I write a letter.’

Indirect speech: He said that he wrote a letter.

Rani said, ‘I work at a bank.’

Rani said that she worked at a bank.

Direct speech: She said, ‘I’m waiting for you.’

Indirect speech: She said that she was waiting for me.

Here are the basic rules.

When the reporting verb is in the past tense

Change simple present tense to simple past tense

Maya said, ‘I like oyster.’
Maya said that she liked oyster.

Suresh said, ‘I enjoy watching movies.’
Suresh said that he enjoyed watching movies.

Pooja said, ‘I don’t know the answer.’
Pooja said that she didn’t know the answer.

Change present continuous tense into past continuous tense

Rashmi said, ‘I am preparing for my test.’
Rashmi said that she was preparing for her test.

The boys said, ‘We are waiting for the bus.’
The boys said that they were waiting for the bus.

The teacher said to the boy, ‘What are you doing there?’
The teacher asked the boy what he was doing there.

Change present perfect tense into past perfect tense

Meera said, ‘I have watched this film.’
Meera said that she had watched that film.

The girl said, ‘I have finished my lunch.’
The girl said that she had finished her lunch.

Mother said, ‘I have laid the table.’
Mother said that she had laid the table.

Change present perfect continuous tense into past perfect continuous tense

He said to me, ‘I have been waiting for you since morning.’
He told me that he had been waiting for me since morning.

Ramesh said, ‘I have been looking for a job for two years.’
Ramesh said that he had been looking for a job for two years.

Change simple past into past perfect

Aliya said, ‘I received his letter yesterday.’
Aliya said that she had received his letter the previous day.

Pooja said, ‘I didn’t receive the notification.’
Pooja said that she had received the notification.

Change past continuous into past perfect continuous

The students said, ‘We were waiting outside the gate.’
The students said that they had been waiting outside the gate.

Rohan said, ‘I was working in the garage.’
Rohan said that he had been working in the garage.

Past perfect and past perfect continuous tenses do not undergo any change.

Mahesh said, ‘I had finished the job.’
Mahesh said that he had finished the job.

Rekha said, ‘I had been waiting to hear from them.’
Rekha said that she had been waiting to hear from them.

Change will into would, shall into should, can into could and may into might.

Supriya said, ‘I will come.’
Supriya said that she would come.

Father said, ‘I cannot come now.’
Father said that he could not go then.

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Manjusha Nambiar

Hi, I am Manjusha. This is my blog where I give English grammar lessons and worksheets.

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