Direct And Indirect Speech

Reporting verb

Reporting verb is the verb which reports the speech.

  • She said, “I am fine.” (Reporting verb: said)
  • He asked, “Can I have more of that cheese?” (Reporting verb: asked)
  • She says, “I am going.” (Reporting verb: says)

Said is preferred when there is no object.

  • He said that he was fine.

Tell/told is used when you say who is/was being spoken to.

  • He told me that he was fine.

We use talk and speak when we are referring to the action of communicating.

  • He talked to us.
  • She was speaking on the telephone.

To report a promise, hope or intention we use an appropriate reporting verb followed by a that-clause or a to-infinitive.

  • He said, “I will pay you the money tomorrow.”
  • He promised to pay me the money the next day.
  • He promised that he would pay me the money the next day.

Other verbs used to report hopes, intentions, and promises include: hope, propose, threaten, guarantee and swear.

  • “I will be back by lunch time,” he said.
  • He promised to be back by lunchtime.
  • He promised that he would be back by lunchtime.
  • “We would arrive in London before nightfall,” they said.
  • They hoped to arrive in London before nightfall.
  • They hoped that they would arrive in London before nightfall.
  • “Give me the money or I will shoot you.”
  • He threatened to shoot me if I didn’t give him the money.
  • He threatened that he would shoot me if I didn’t give him the money.

Verbs that can be followed by either a that-clause or a to-infinitive include: decide, expect, guarantee, hope, promise, swear, and threaten.

Reporting questions

In reported questions the subject normally comes before the verb. It is not necessary to use do or did. Question marks are not used in reported questions.

  • He said, “When are you leaving?”
  • He asked me when I was leaving. (NOT When was I leaving?)
  • I said, “Where are you staying?”
  • I asked her where she was staying.
  • “Where does John live?” she asked me.
  • She asked me where John lived.
  • John asked, “Where did you go last weekend?”
  • John asked where I had gone the previous weekend.
  • He asked, “Why are you staring at me?”
  • He asked me why I was staring at him.

Yes/No questions are reported with if/whether.

  • “Do you speak English,” she asked him.
  • She asked him if he spoke English.
  • “Are you British or French?” they asked me.
  • They asked me whether I was British or French.
  • “Did you come by train?” she enquired.
  • She enquired if I had come by train.

We do not normally use say or tell in reported questions.

Wh-questions are reported by using ask (or another verb like ask) + question word + clause. We use normal word order.

  • “What is your name?” he asked me.
  • He asked what my name was.
  • “How old is your mother?” he asked her.
  • He asked her how old her mother was.

When we report questions constructed with who/what/which + be + complement, be can be put before or after the complement.

  • She asked, “Who is the best player here?”
  • She asked me who the best player was.
  • She asked me who was the best player.
  • He asked, “What is the matter?”
  • He asked what the matter was.
  • He asked what was the matter.

Reporting orders, requests and advice

To report orders, requests and suggestions, we normally use a reporting verb like tell with (object) + to infinitive.

  • “Be careful,” I told him.
  • told him to be careful.
  • “Go away,” he said.
  • He told me to go away.
  • “Call the first witness,” said the judge.
  • The judge ordered them to call the first witness.
  • She told him, “Please wait here till I return.”
  • She requested him to wait there till she returned.
  • “Stop smoking,” the doctor said.
  • The doctor told me to stop smoking.
  • The stranger said to me, “Please help me.”
  • The stranger requested me to help him.
  • The clerk said to the officer, “Kindly grant me leave for two days.”
  • The clerk requested the officer to grant him leave for two days.
  • The teacher said to the students, “Work hard.”
  • The teacher advised the students to work hard.
  • I said to the child, “Do not look down into the well.”
  • warned the child not to look down into the well.
  • The doctor said to the patient, “Please come in.”
  • The doctor allowed (or asked) the patient to come in.

Requests for objects are reported using the structure ask + for + object.

  • She asked, “Can I have an apple?”
  • She asked for an apple.
  • “Sugar, please,” she said.
  • She asked for sugar.

Other verbs used in this way include: command, order, warn, ask, advise, invite, beg, teach and forbid.

Verbs that can be followed by object + to-infinitive include: advise, ask, beg, command, forbid, instruct, invite, teach, tell and warn.

Reporting Suggestions

Suggestions are normally reported with a that-clauseThat and should are optional and can be left out.

  • “You should consult a doctor,” she said.
  • She suggested that I should consult a doctor.
  • She suggested I consult a doctor.

Note that suggest cannot be followed by a to-infinitive. However, it can be followed by an -ing form.

  • My mother suggested seeing a dentist.

Other reporting verbs used this way are: insist, recommend, demand, request and propose.

  • The dentist said, “I think you should change your toothpaste.”
  • The dentist recommended that I should change my toothpaste.


Hi, I am Manjusha. This is my blog where I give English grammar lessons and worksheets. You may also want to check out my other blogs IELTS Practice and NCERT Guides

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.