Daisy has just had an interview for a summer job. 

We use reported speech when we want to tell someone what someone said. We usually use a reporting verb (e.g. say, tell, ask, etc.) and then change the tense of what was actually said in direct speech.

So, direct speech is what someone actually says? Like 'I want to know about reported speech'?

Yes, and you report it with a reporting verb.

He said he wanted to know about reported speech.

I said, I want and you changed it to he wanted.

Exactly. Verbs in the present simple change to the past simple; the present continuous changes to the past continuous; the present perfect changes to the past perfect; can changes to could; will changes to would; etc.

She said she was having the interview at four o’clock.
(Direct speech: 'I’m having the interview at four o’clock.')
They said they’d phone later and let me know.
(Direct speech: 'We’ll phone later and let you know.')

OK, in that last example, you changed you to me too.

Yes, apart from changing the tense of the verb, you also have to think about changing other things, like pronouns and adverbs of time and place.

'We went yesterday.'  > She said they had been the day before.
'I’ll come tomorrow.' > He said he’d come the next day.

I see, but what if you’re reporting something on the same day, like 'We went yesterday'?

Well, then you would leave the time reference as 'yesterday'. You have to use your common sense. For example, if someone is saying something which is true now or always, you wouldn’t change the tense.

'Dogs can’t eat chocolate.' > She said that dogs can’t eat chocolate.
'My hair grows really slowly.' > He told me that his hair grows really slowly.

What about reporting questions?

We often use ask + if/whether, then change the tenses as with statements. In reported questions we don’t use question forms after the reporting verb.

'Do you have any experience working with people?'
They asked if I had any experience working with people.
'What acting have you done?'
They asked me what acting I had done.

Is there anything else I need to know about reported speech?

One thing that sometimes causes problems is imperative sentences.

You mean like 'Sit down, please' or 'Don’t go!'?

Exactly. Sentences that start with a verb in direct speech need a to + infinitive in reported speech.

She told him to be good. (Direct speech: 'Be good!')
He told them not to forget. (Direct speech: 'Please don’t forget.')

OK. Can I also say 'He asked me to sit down'?

Yes. You could say 'He told me to …' or 'He asked me to …' depending on how it was said.

OK, I see. Are there any more reporting verbs?

Yes, there are lots of other reporting verbs like promise, remind, warn, advise, recommend, encourage which you can choose, depending on the situation. But say, tell and ask are the most common.

Great. I understand! My teacher said reported speech was difficult.

And I told you not to worry!



What was the most memorable conversation you had yesterday? Who were you talking to and what did they say to you?


Ax33LCH4vez's picture
Ax33LCH4vez 26 April, 2020 - 18:58

Yesterday I had a conversation with my brother. He told me that if we played a videogame while we waited for the food to be ready, while we played he told me that if at night we also saw a movie and accept. It was a good day

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Orangeflowers's picture
Orangeflowers 30 July, 2019 - 19:36

Last night,I had a conversation with my cousin.He lives in Canada.He came to Bangladesh after a long time.He shared a lot of experience with me which he had in Canada.He said”I visited Niagra Falls in Canada and it was one of my best moments of my life”.He said”I have taken admission in one of the best school in Canada”.Then I asked if he had make any friends,he replied “yes I have made friends from different countries as well as Canada.....

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Youjiro's picture
Youjiro 2 February, 2019 - 13:26

Most memorable conversation I had yesterday was cloth store.One of my friend ask me where is the best store to buy affordable cloth in my city.I said "uniqlo is best store in my city".It sale every things with affordable price. He said"I'd like to go cloth shop because next week I'm going to go first date".He want to dress up with nice jacket and pants. Store that I recommend is eazy to get everything.

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KemoF's picture
KemoF 17 August, 2018 - 10:20

In a reported speech, I learned that there should be an agreement in the tense in a sentence, but this sounds odd to me. Could you explain a bit more about this?
e.g. He said he loved me. He said he had loved me. He said he loves me. Which is which??

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Tina - Coordinator's picture
Tina - Coordinator 23 August, 2018 - 08:45

Hi KemoF,
Good question! It all depends on what he originally said, and if you think it is still true now. So if he said 'I love you' you could say:
He said he loved me (changing from present simple to past simple), or
He said he loves me (not changing the tense - especially if you think it is still true now that he loves you)
If he said 'I loved you', you could say:
He said he had loved me (past simple changing to past perfect)
If he said 'I have loved you' (for example, 'I have loved you ever since we met'), you could say:
He said he had loved me ever since we met (present perfect changing to past perfect), or
He said he has loved me ever since we met (not changing the tense - especially if you think it is still true now that he loves you).
Hope that helps!
Best wishes, the LearnEnglishTeen Team
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KemoF's picture
KemoF 23 August, 2018 - 14:03

Hi Tina,
Thanks millions for your kind explanation! I realized the sentence like 'He said he loves me' was not incorrect. I remembered I had learned that when we talked about "truth", we use present tense, like the Earth is round. Is that the same reason?
Anyway, it's fun to know more about grammar! :)

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editor_rachael's picture
editor_rachael 23 August, 2018 - 15:06

Hi KemoF,


Sort of! But you're right, we usually use the present simple for general truths. Our planet is round and it orbits the sun :-)


We think grammar can be fun too!


LearnEnglish Teens team

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