We have previously discussed about Direct and Indirect Speech briefly. We shall now continue that discussion and understand these concepts in greater detail.

Direct and Indirect Speech

Direct and Indirect Speech

What is direct speech?

Direct speech reports what someone has said verbatim. This means that when something is being reported in direct speech, it is quoted as is. The words said by the speaker are repeated in their exact form in direct speech.

Eg. “I am feeling guilty,” she confessed.

What is indirect speech?

Indirect speech reports what someone has said by paraphrasing. The speaker is not quoted in indirect speech. Instead the reporter expresses what was said in his own words.

Eg. She said that she was feeling unwell.

How can we change between direct speech and indirect speech?

In order to change the reporting speech, you must do the following two things:

(i) Add or remove quotation marks.

(ii) Change the tense of the verb.

Eg. Direct Speech: “Troy must polish his shoes,” she instructed.

Indirect Speech: She instructed that he had to polish his shoes.

Let us now look at the different forms that words and tenses take as a result of change between direct and indirect speech.

Direct Speech Indirect Speech
Present Simple Past Simple
Present Continuous Past Continuous
Present Perfect Past Perfect
Present Perfect Continuous Past Perfect Continuous
Past Simple Past Perfect
Past Continuous Past Perfect Continuous
must had to
will would
can could
shall should
may might
this that
today yesterday/that day/this day
these those
tomorrow the next day/coming day/following day/day after
yesterday the previous day/day before
now then
ago before
last week the previous week
next (in terms of time span) the following
here there

Keep in mind

  • A comma separates the reporting verb from the words denoting the statement(s) made by the speaker.

Direct speech is usually in the form: Statement within quotation marks + comma (placed before the end quote) +  reporting verb + name of the speaker/ pronoun denoting the speaker.

It can also be in the form: Name of the speaker/Pronoun denoting the speaker + reporting verb + comma + statement within quotation marks.

When the sentence is converted to indirect speech, the word ‘that’ usually replaces the demarcating comma.

Indirect speech is usually in the form: Name of speaker/Pronoun denoting the speaker + reporting verb + ‘that’ + paraphrased statement.

Eg. Direct Speech: “I cannot understand anything,” said Sheila.

Indirect Speech: Sheila said that she could not understand anything.

Eg. Direct Speech: She said,“I am tired.”

Indirect Speech: She said that she was tired.

  • If the sentence which is to be reported may be an iteration of a universal truth. In such cases, the tense of the verb remains the same in both direct and indirect speech.

Eg. Direct Speech: “The Earth is a planet,” she said.

Indirect Speech: She said that the Earth is a planet.

  • When converting direct speech to indirect speech, usage of ‘that’ is optional but preferred.
  • If you are changing direct speech to indirect speech, you need not retain all the original words. You may change the forms of the main words while paraphrasing. However you should try and avoid introducing any entirely new word(s).
  • While paraphrasing in case of indirect speech, ensure that you do not alter the meaning of the sentence altogether. It is important for you to preserve the substance of the statement that you are writing in your own words.
  • For sentences in direct speech which are interrogatory or exclamatory,a question mark or an exclamation mark is used within the quoted portion respectively. When converting to indirect speech, reporting verbs like ‘asked’ and ‘enquired’ are used in place of the question mark. The word ‘exclaimed’ can be used to replace the exclamation mark.

Eg. Direct Speech: “This is impossible to complete!”

Indirect Speech: He exclaimed that it was impossible to complete.

Eg. Direct Speech: “Have you brushed your teeth?”

Indirect Speech: She asked him if he had brushed his teeth.

  • When going from direct to indirect speech, the personal pronoun ‘I’ changes to ‘he/she’.

Eg. Direct Speech: I am going home,” he said.

Indirect Speech: He said that he was going home.

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