Meet Our Academic Team: Direct and Reported Speech Grammar Lesson

Welcome back to our monthly grammar lesson series. This week’s lesson is brought to you by two of our teachers, Belle Balazuela from Kaplan Highline College, and Derek Beacher, the Academic Coordinator from our Empire State school in New York.

“As a plurilingual myself, I believe that a person who can speak another language is a totally different person. Being able to communicate with other people in different ways opens up a whole new world of understanding. My role in teaching English to international students is to make all of that happen.”

Belle Balazuela

From the buzz and bright lights of the Empire State building to the tranquil and scenic campus settling of Highline College in Seattle, our schools have plenty to offer, no matter what you are looking for. Learn more about how you can study English at one of our USA schools.


What is the difference between DIRECT SPEECH and REPORTED SPEECH?

Direct speech refers to the exact words of the speaker. Quotation marks are used before and after the statement, separated by a comma from the rest of the sentence.

            >  “The school bus is waiting,” said Mom.

Reported speech (also called indirect speech) is when we report the statement from the speaker without using the speaker’s exact words.

            > Mom said (that) the school bus was waiting.

Image this scenario: Your phone rings. Your brother is calling to tell your mother that his soccer practice is running late. Your mother just stepped out so you have to take his message and deliver it to her later. How do you relay your brother’s information correctly to her once she returns?

reporting a phone call
So how do you report what your brother said to your mom?


How it works

First, you need a reporting verb. Reporting verbs come in many forms, but the two most common reporting verbs are “say” and “tell”. Before we get back to your brother’s phone call, let’s practice reporting speech in the present tense.

            >  Direct Speech: I like reading comic books.

            >  Reported Speech: He says he likes reading comic books.

The tense doesn’t change, but we do need to change the pronoun “I” to “he”. We use reported speech in the present tense to clarify information that was just given to us.

We often use ‘say’ when we do not mention the listener.

We often use ‘tell’ when we mention the listener.


What about tense?

Let’s get back to the phone call from your brother. After some time passes, your mother returns and you want to report the information to her.

            >  Brother (direct speech): “Tell mom that my soccer practice is running late.”

In order to report this speech, we need to change the tense of the reporting verb.

            >  Reported: He told me that his soccer practice is running late.

When the reporting verb is in the past (e.g. said, told me, asked me, etc.) we usually shift the verbs one tense backward.


Direct Speech

Reported Speech

 present continuous

 I am living in Peru.

 He said he was living in Peru.

 present perfect

 I haven’t seen Star Wars.

 She told me she hadn’t seen Star Wars.

 past simple

 We bought a new car.

 They said they bought a new car. OR They said  they had bought a new car.

 past continuous

 I was riding my bike in the park.

 He said he had been riding his bike in the park.

 past perfect*

 I had taken dance lessons before.

 She told me she had taken dance lessons before.

*stays the same


What about questions and commands?

The same verb changes happen to questions. However, the word order changes too.

‘Wh’ questions – In this case, the subject and verb are NOT inverted in Reported Speech.

            >  “Where do you live?” asked the doctor.

            >  The doctor asked me where I lived.

Yes/No questions – Put ‘if’ or ‘whether’ before the subject + verb

            Have you seen Jackie?” asked Lucas.

            >  Lucas asked me if I had seen Jackie.

For commands, requests, advice, etc. we use to + infinitive

            > Can you open the window, please?” asked my teacher.

            >  My teacher asked me to open the window.

reported speech
When I tell my friend about my day, I am using direct speech


Is there anything else we need to change?

Actually yes, there are more things that need to be changed. Some of these include places, pronouns, and other time references.

Direct Speech

Reported Speech




That night


The day before / the previous day


The following day / the next day

Last week

The previous week

Next Saturday

the following Saturday


Before / previously




Pay attention on how native speakers use Reported Speech in everyday life, movies, TV, etc. With constant practice, these rules will become second nature for any language learner.

Do you feel confident about your comprehension of direct and reported speech? Show us some of your new English grammar skills by posting some examples in the comment section. Similarly, if you have any questions, post them below and we will be happy to help you out.


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