Wednesday, 9 May 2012


Reported speech
We use reported speech when we are saying what other people say, think or believe.
  • He says he wants it.
  • We think you are right.
  • I believe he loves her.
  • Yesterday you said you didn't like it but now you do!
  • She told me he had asked her to marry him.
  • I told you she was ill.
  • We thought he was in Australia.
When we are reporting things in the present, future or present perfect we don't change the tense.
  • He thinks he loves her.
  • I'll tell her you are coming.
  • He has said he'll do it.
When we tell people what someone has said in the past, we generally make the tense 'more in the past'.
  • You look very nice. = I told him he looked very nice.
  • He's working in Siberia now. = She told me he was working in Siberia now.
  • Polly has bought a new car. = She said Polly had bought a new car.
  • Jo can't come for the weekend. = She said Jo couldn't come for the weekend.
  • Paul called and left a message. = He told me Paul had called and had left me a message.
  • I'll give you a hand. = He said he would give me a hand.
However, when we are reporting something that was said in the past but is still true, it is not obligatory to make the tense 'more in the past'. The choice is up to the speaker. For example:
"The train doesn't stop here."
  • He said the train doesn't stop here.
  • He said the train didn't stop here.
"I like Sarah."
  • She said she likes Sarah.
  • She said she liked Sarah.
When we are reporting what was said, we sometimes have to change other words in the sentence.
We have to change the pronoun if we are reporting what someone else said. Compare these two sentences. In each case the person actually said "I don't want to go."
  • I said I didn't want to go.
  • Bill said he didn't want to go.
We have to change words referring to 'here and now' if we are reporting what was said in a different place or time.

Compare these two sentences. In each case the person actually said "I'll be there at ten tomorrow."

  • (If it is later the same day) He said he would be there at ten tomorrow.
  • (If it is the next day) He said he would be there at ten today.
Now compare these two sentences.
  • (If we are in a different place) He said he would be there tomorrow at ten.
  • (If we are in the place he is coming to) He said he would be here at ten tomorrow.

There are four things you need to remember to change.
  1. The tense. If the events are now in the past, you need to change the verbs to the past forms.
  2. present simplechanges topast simple
    present continuouspast continuous
    present perfectpast perfect
    musthad to
    is going towas going to

  3. The pronouns. Words like 'I' and 'his' and 'they' will all change, because the people speaking have changed.

  4. Some time expressions. If the time has changed, words like 'yesterday' are meaningless. Instead, we say
    the day/week before or the previous day/week
    the following day/week or the next day/week

  5. If the place has changed, "here" should change to "there".

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