In Part 1, we discussed what reported speech was. In this part, we will learn how to convert direct speech to reported speech. When doing this, we must consider the following:
- What pronoun should we use? (depends on who you are talking about)
- What verb tense should we use? (usually past tense)
Direct: On the first day of class, the professor said, I speak English.
(The professor is a male.)
Indirect: (You and I are in class. You dont speak English, and I am translating the professors words for you.) He says (that) he speaks English.
Analysis: Reported speech generally uses a that noun clause to introduce the reported speech. The that is optional and may be omitted. I chose the pronoun he because the professor is a male. I chose present tense because I am telling you what he is saying as he is saying it.
Direct: On the first day of class, the professor said, I speak English and Russian.
(The professor is a female.)
Indirect: (Outside of class the next day, you ask me what language the professor speaks.) She said (that) she spoke English and Russian.
Analysis: I chose the pronoun she because the professor is a female. I chose past tense because I am telling you what she said yesterday.
Direct: I said, Its about time you showed up. Ive been waiting for over an hour.
Indirect: (You asked me what I said.) I said that it was about time you showed up because I have been waiting for over an hour.
Analysis: I used the pronoun I because I am reporting what I said a few minutes ago. I used the pronoun you because I am talking about you (not someone else). I used past tense because I am reporting what I said in the past.
For questions, we have two considerations:
- For questions using a question (interrogative) word, such as why/how/who/what/when, the verb-subject order must be reversed to subject-verb order.
- For question without a question word (e.g., to do/to have/to be), convert the question into a whether/if statement.
Direct: A group of people ask me, Excuse me. What time is it?
Indirect: (After they leave, you ask me what they said to me.) They asked me what time it was.
Analysis: I use the pronoun they because I am referring to a group of people. I used past tense because they asked me in the past. Note that:
Direct speech uses question order or verb-subject: What time is it?
Reported speech uses statement order or subject-verb (what time it was).
Failure to convert question order to statement order for questions is a common error that students make.
Direct: Where is the post office? a cute blonde girl asked me.
Indirect: She wants to know where the post office is. (present tense)
She asked me where the post office was. (past tense)
Analysis: I used the pronoun she because I am reporting what a girl said. If I am telling you what she said while she is waiting for me to answer her, I can use present tense. If she left, and I am telling you what she asked, I would use past tense.
Direct: My friend saw that my arm was in a cast and asked, Does a broken bone hurt?
Indirect: My friend asked me if a broken bone hurt.
Analysis: I didnt use a pronoun here. I just used my friend. This question does NOT use a question word (who/what/when/where/why/how). Instead it uses does. In this case, I must convert the question to an if/whether form. I chose if in this case. Note that in this case, BOTH direct and indirect use statement order (subject-verb)bone hurt. Therefore, all I need to do is to replace does with if (or whether). Finally, something in English that is easy!
Direct: Is the class time long enough to cover this material? the principal asked the teacher.
Indirect: The principal asked the teacher whether the class time was long enough to cover the material.
Analysis: I didnt use any pronouns. I just used principal and teacher. I used past tense. This question does NOT use a question word (who/what/when/where/why/how). Instead it uses is. In this case, I must convert the question to an if/whether form. I chose whether in this case but I could have used if as well. The subject-verb order was changed from is time to time was.