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DIRECT & INDIRECT SPEECH RULES

DIRECT & INDIRECT SPEECH RULES

1. CHANGE OF TIME EXPRESSIONS

now then
today that day
tonight that night
yesterday the day before or the previous day
the day before yesterday two days before
tomorrow ‘the next day’ or ‘the following day’
the day after tomorrow in two days’ time or ‘two days later’
next week the following week
last week ‘the week before’ or ‘the previous week’
ago before
a week ago a week before or the previous week
hence thence
come go (But not always. While changing COME into GO, one must see if it’s making a proper sense.)
so far till then

These changes can happen in two ways:

a) When the reporting verb is in the past (if the reporting verb is in the present or future these changes do not take place); e.g.

i) “I saw her the day before yesterday,” he said. = He said he had seen her two days before.

ii) “I’ll do it tomorrow,” he promised. = He promised that he would do it the next day/the following day.

iii) “I’m starting the day after tomorrow, mother,” he said. = He told his mother that he was starting in two days’ time.

iv) She said, “My father had died a year ago.” = She said that her father had died a year before/the previous year.

v) She says,”My father had died a year ago.” = She says that her father had died a year ago. (Here you see that the reporting verb ‘SAYS’ is in the present tense; hence the time expression ‘A YEAR AGO’ won’t change.)

vi) She will say,”My father had died a year ago.” = She will say that her father had died a year ago. (Here you see that the reporting verb ‘WILL SAY’ is in the future tense; hence the time expression ‘A YEAR AGO’ won’t change.)

b) When the speech is made and reported on the same day, these time changes are not made even if the reporting verb is in the past; e.g.

At the breakfast this morning he said, “I’ll be very = At the breakfast this morning he said that he would be very busy today.” busy today.

2. THIS AND THESE

a) As adjectives

If the reporting verb is the past, in time expressions THIS becomes THAT, and THESE becomes THOSE; e.g.

He said, “She is coming this week.” = He said that she was coming that week.

NOTE-I: But if the reporting verb is in the present or the future, there is no change in THIS and THESE; e.g.

He says, “She is coming this week.” = She says that she is coming this week.

NOTE-II: Otherwise THIS and THAT as adjectives usually change into THE; e.g.

He said, “I bought these pearls for my mother.” = He said that he had bought the pearls for his mother.

b) As pronouns

THIS/THAT used as pronouns become IT, and THESE/THOSE becomes THEY/THEM; e.g.

1. He showed me two bullets and said, “I found these = He showed me two bullets and said he had found them embedded in the paneling.” embedded in the paneling.

2. He said, “We will discuss this tomorrow.” = He said that they would discuss it the next day.

c) As adjectives or pronouns

When these words are used to indicate choice or to distinguish some things from others, can become THE ONE NEAR or THE ONES NEAR or the statement can be reworded. REWORDED = To write something again using different words in order to make it clearer or more acceptable; e.g.

“I’ll have this,” he said to me. = He said he would have the one near him.
OR He pointed to/touched/showed/ me the one he wanted.

3. Change of HERE

If the reporting verb is in the past HERE becomes THERE, but only when it is clear what place is meant; e.g.

1. At the station he said, “I’ll be here again tomorrow.” = He said that he’d be there again the next day.

2. He said, “Come here, boys.” = He called the boys.

4. Use of THAT as conjunction in the indirect speech

THAT can usually be omitted after SAY and TELL+OBJECT in the indirect speech. But it should be kept after other verbs such as complain, explain, object, point out, protest etc; e.g.

1. I said to my sister, “I brought you a doll yesterday.”
= I told my sister that I had brought her a doll the previous day.
= I told my sister I had brought her a doll the previous day.

2. He said, “The teacher usually does not ask any question.”
= He said that the teacher usually did not ask any question.
= He said the teacher usually did not ask any question.

5. CHANGE OF PRONOUNS

1. 1st Person according to the subject of the reporting clause.

2. 2nd Person according to the object of the reporting clause (If the object is not given pronouns of 2nd person change according to the requirement.)

3. 3rd Person do not change

NOTE-I: If the pronoun WE is in a universal truth, it does not change even if the reporting verb is in the past; e.g.

They said, “We cannot live without air.” = They said that we cannot live without air.

The teacher said, “We all are sinners.” = The teacher said that we all are sinners.

NOTE-II: If a plural pronoun like WE/OUR/US is for a newspaper, magazine, etc., we change them to IT/ITS; e.g.

The Times of India says, “We are trying our best to = The Times of India says that it is trying its best to keep us keep you well informed.” well informed.

6. WORDS OF RESPECT AND WORDS OF AFFECTION/LOVE

Words of respect such as SIR, DEAR SIR, MADAM, MY LORD, YOUR HOUNOUR, etc. in the Reported Speech are converted to RESPECTFULLY. And Words of affection/love such as DEAR, MY LOVE, DARLING, etc. are converted to AFFECTIONATELY/LOVINGLY; e.g.

1. He said to his boss, “Have you finished writing that = He asked his landlord respectfully if she had finished article, dear Madam? writing that letter.

2. She said, “Would you wait half an hour, dear? = She asked lovingly/affectionately if I would wait half an hour.

7. Correct use of SAY and TELL in indirect speech

a) In indirect speech we normally use SAY or TELL + OBJECT, but SAY TO + OBJECT is also correct however is much less usual than TELL + OBJECT; e.g.

He said, “I just heard the news.”
= He said that he had just heard the news.
= He told me that he had just heard the news.
= He said to me that he had just heard the news.

b) Though TELL in the indirect speech requires the person address; in TELL LIES, TELL THE TRUTH, TELL STORY, the verb TELL need not be followed by the person address necessarily; e.g.

1. HE told me a lie. = He told a lie.

2. I’ll tell you a story. = I’ll tell a story.

8. CHANGE OF TENSE IN INDIRECT SPEECH

If the tense of the reporting verb i.e. tense outside the reported speech is present or future, the tense of the reported speech never changes. But when the reporting verb is in the past, the tense of the reported verb gets changed in the following manner. However if it’s a universal truth, proverb or historical fact in the reported speech, the tense is not changed even if the reporting verb is in the past:

A) PRESENT TENSES
Present tenses change into corresponding past tenses in the following manner:

i) Present Simple Past Simple
ii) Present Continuous Past Continuous
iii) Present Perfect Past Perfect
iv) Present Perfect Continuous Past Perfect Continuous

B) PAST TENSES
Past tenses change in the following manner:

i) Past Simple Past Perfect
ii) Past Continuous Past Perfect Continuous

NOTE: Past Perfect and Past Perfect Continuous Tanses do not change.

MORE ON CHANGE IN THE PAST TENSES
i) In time clauses, Past Simple and Past Continuous tenses do not normally change, and verb of the main clause either can remain unchanged or become the Past Perfect; e.g.

a) He said, “When we were living in Mumbai we often saw Ramesh.
= He said that when they were living in Mumbai they often saw Ramesh.”
= He said that when they were living in Mumbai they had
often seen Ramesh.

[Here ‘When we were living in Mumbai’ is the time clause, and ‘we often saw Ramesh’ is the main clause.]

b) He said, “It was three hours ago since he fell asleep.”
= He said that it was three hours before since he fell asleep.
= He said that it had been three hours before since he had fallen asleep.

NOTE: We use the past perfect after WHEN if we wish to emphasize that the first action was completed before the second one started; e.g.

He said, “When I shut the window she opened the door of the cage.
= He said that when he had shut the window she opened the door of the cage. (She waited for the window to be quite shut before opening the cage.)

ii) A past tense used to describe a state of affairs which still exists when the speech is reported remains unchanged; e.g.

He said, “I decided not to buy the house because it was on a main road.”
= He said that he had decided not to buy the house because it was on a main road.
[You see that here the location of the house is the same i.e. it is still on a main road.]

iii) UNREAL PAST (SUBJUNCTIVE)
Unreal past tenses after WISH, WOULD RATHER, WOULD SOONER. IT IS TIME do not change; e.g.

a) “We wish we didn’t have to take exams,” said the = The children said they wished they didn’t have to take children. exams.

b) “Raman wants to go alone, “ said Reema, “but I’d rather he went with a group.” = Reema said that Raman wanted to go alone but she’d rather he went with a group.

c) “It’s time we began planning our holidays,” he said. = He said it was time they began planning their holidays.

iv) When two actions, both either in the Past Simple Tense or the Past Continuous Tense are used in pair, we do not change the tense of the sentence; e.g.

a) Mohan said,”I cleaned and Richa cooked.” = Mohan said that he cleaned and Richa cooked.

b) “The spectators were cheering while we were playing.”, said the players. = The players reported that the spectators were cheering while they were playing.

v) When the simple past tense is used to describe an historical event, we do no not change the tense; e.g.

He said, “Gandhiji started the Quit India Movement.” = He said that Gandhiji started the Quit India Movement.

C) FUTURE TENSES

Simple future Conditional tense (means both WILL and SHALL change into WOULD.)

NOTE: Both WILL and SHALL of the indirect speech normally become WOULD, but if the sentence is reported by the original speaker, SHALL can become either WOULD or SHOULD. Similarly SHOULD of the indirect speech normally becomes WOULD, but if the sentence is reported by the original speaker, SHOULD can either remain unchanged or can become WOULD; e.g.

1. “I shall be 21 tomorrow,” said Raman. = Raman said he would be 21 the following day/the next day.
(Here SHALL can’t be changed into SHOULD as the speech is not reported by the original speaker i.e. Raman.)

2. “If I had the instruction manual I should know what to do,” said Mohan. = Mohan said that if he had the instruction manual he would know what to do. (Here SHOULD can’t remain SHOULD, rather it has to be changed into WOULD as the speech
is not reported by the original speaker i.e. Mohan.)

3. I said, “I should like to see it.” = I said I WOULD/SHOULD like to see it. (Here, as the speech is reported by the original speaker i.e. ‘I’, SHOULD can remain SHOULD or can be changed
into WOULD also.

When SHALL is used in offers, requests for advice and confirmation, etc. then we can also use SHOULD in the indirect speech; e.g.

He said, “Where shall I put this box?” = He asked where he WOULD/SHOULD put the box.

9. OTHER CHANGES IN INDIRECT SPEECH

a) HAD BETTER
1st/3rd PERSON + HAD BETTER remains unchanged, but 2nd PERSON + HAD BETTER either can remain unchanged or be reported by ADVISE + OBJECT + TO-INFINITIVE; e.g.

1. He said, “I’d better hurry.” = He said that he’d better hurry. (1st PERSON + HAD BETTER, so no change)

2. The children had better go to bed early,” said Mohan. = Mohan said that the children had better go to bed early. (3rd PERSON + HAD BETTER, so no change)

3. You’d better not drink the water,” she said.
= She said that you had better not drink the water.
= She advised/warned us not to drink the water. (2nd PERSON + HAD BETTER, so it can be a change there or not.)

4. “What shall I do with this broken cup? Ritu asked. “You’d better throw it away.” said her mother.
= Ritu asked what she should do with the broken cup and  her mother told her that she’d better throw it away.
= Ritu asked what she should do with the broken cup and her mother advised her to throw it away.

b) MIGHT
MIGHT remains unchanged except when used as a request; e.g.

1. He said, “Aman might ring today.” = He said that Aman might ring that day.

2. “You might post these for me,” he said. = He asked/requested me to post them for him. (It’s a request here.)

c) OUGHT TO/SHOULD
OUGHT TO and SHOULD for obligation or assumption remain unchanged, but if used to express advice/encouragement/urge/warning, can be reported by ADVISE + OBJECT + TO-INFINITIVE; e.g.

1. They ought to/should widen this road,” I said. = I said they ought to/should widen this road. (It’s an obligation here, so no change.)

2. I said, “I should be back by six.” = I said I should be back by six. (It’s an assumption, so no change.)

3. “You ought to/should/must read the instructions,” said Ritu.
= Ritu said that I ought to/should/must read the instructions.
= Ritu advised/urged/warned me to read the instructions.

(It’s advice, urge or warning, so it can be a change there.)

4. She said, “You should take the job, Mohan.” = She told Mohan that he should take the job.
= She encouraged/advised Mohan to take the job. (It’s advice or an encouragement, so it can be a change there.

d) IF I WERE YOU/ SHOULD/WOULD
The advice form ‘IF I WERE YOU I SHOULD/WOULD ——’ is reported by ADVISE+OBJECT+TO-INFINITIVE; e.g.

1. “If I were you I’d wait,” I said. = I advised him to wait.

2. I said, “Shall I write to Shweta?” “I should have phone her if I were you,” said Jitan. = I asked if I should write to Shweta and Jitan advised me to  phone her.

3. “I was thinking of going by bus,” said Raja. “I shouldn’t have gone by bus if I were you,” said his aunt. = Raja said he was thinking of going by bus. His aunt advised him not to go by bus.

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Maha Gupta

Maha Gupta

Founder of SSCEXAMFORUM.COM and guiding aspirants on SSC exam affairs since 2010 when objective pattern of exams was introduced first in SSC.

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