Direct speech and reported speech

Direct speech and reported speech

Direct speech and reported speechReported speech ia also called indirect speech

Indirect speech focuses more on the content of what someone said rather than their exact words. In indirect speech, the structure of the reported clause depends on whether the speaker is reporting a statement, a question or a command.

  direct indirect reported clause
statement ‘I’m tired,’ I said. I told them (thatI was tired. that-clause
question ‘Are you ready?’ the nurse asked Joel.

‘Who are you?’ she asked.

The nurse asked Joel if/whether he was ready.

She asked me who I was.



command ‘Leave at once!’ they ordered. They ordered us to leave at once. to-infinitive clause


Indirect speech: reporting statements

Indirect reports of statements consist of a reporting clause and a that-clause. We often omit that, especially in informal situations:

The pilot commented that the weather had been extremely bad as the plane came in to land. (The pilot’s words were: ‘The weather was extremely bad as the plane came in to land.’)

I told my wife I didn’t want a party on my 50th birthday. (that-clause without that) (or I told my wife that I didn’t want a party on my 50th birthday.)


Indirect speech: reporting questions

Reporting yes-no questions and alternative questions

Indirect reports of yes-no questions and questions with or consist of a reporting clause and a reported clause introduced by if or whetherIf is more common than whether. The reported clause is in statement form (subject + verb), not question form:

She asked if [S] [V]I was Scottish. (original yes-no question: ‘Are you Scottish?’)

The waiter asked whether [S]we [V]wanted a table near the window. (original yes-noquestion: ‘Do you want a table near the window?)

He asked me if [S] [V]I had come by train or by bus. (original alternative question: ‘Did you come by train or by bus?’)


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