Direct and Indirect Speech: Verb Tense Changes | Grammar

Learn how to use Direct and Indirect Speech and Tense Changes When Using Reported Speech.

Reported speech is often also called indirect speech. When we use reported speech, we are usually talking about the past (because obviously the person who spoke originally spoke in the past). The verbs therefore usually have to be in the past too.

For example:

Direct speech: I’ve lost my umbrella.

Reported speech: He said (that) he had lost his umbrella.

Direct and Indirect Speech | Verb Tense Changes

When changing from direct to indirect speech, you need to change the grammar in certain ways.

Tense changes in Reported speech

Direct and Indirect Speech

Verb tense forms usually need to change. The tenses generally move backwards in this way:

  • Present Simple Tense into Past Simple Tense

For example:

Direct speech: She always wears a coat.

Reported speech: He said (that) she always wore a coat.

  • Present Continuous Tense into Past Continuous Tense

For example:

Direct speech: I‘m looking for my keys.

Reported speech: She said that she was looking for her keys.

  • Present Perfect Tense into Past Perfect Tense

For example:

Direct speech: She has written three letters for her friend.

Reported speech: He said she had written three letters for her friend.

  • Past Simple Tense into Past Perfect Tense

For example:

Direct speech:  My friend gave me a bar of chocolate.

Reported speech: He said that his friend had given him a bar of chocolate.

  • Past Continuous Tense into Past Perfect Continuous Tense

For example:

Direct speech: We were living in London.

Reported speech: They said that they had been living in London.

  • Past Perfect Tense (The tense remains unchanged)

For example:

Direct speech: The bread had gone stale.

Reported speech: She said the bread had gone stale.

  • Future Simple Tense (e.g. will) into “would

For example:

Direct speech: I will finish my report in two days.

Reported speech: He said that he would finish his report in two days.

  • Future Progressive Tense (e.g. will be) into “would be

For example:

Direct speech: I will be making tea.

Reported speech: He said (that) he would be making tea.

  • Future Perfect Tense (e.g. will have) into “would have

For example:

Direct speech: I will have called a doctor.

Reported speech: He said (that) she would have called a doctor.

  • Future Perfect Tense (e.g. will have been) into “would have been

For example:

Direct speech: All the money will have been spent.

Reported speech: He said (that) all the money would have been spent.

Other verb form changes in Reported speech

Direct and Indirect Speech

  • Can into Could

For example:

Direct speech: I can speak English.

Reported speech: She said she could speak English.

  • Could (The verb remains unchanged)

For example:

Direct speech: He could play in the match.

Reported speech: They said he could play in the match.

  • Have to into Had to

For example:

Direct speech: I have to submit this assignment by 3 pm tomorrow.

Reported speech: She said she had to submit this assignment by 3 pm tomorrow.

  • Must into Must/Had to

For example:

Direct speech: I must go to the bank and get some money.

Reported speech: She said she must/had to go to the bank and get some money.

  • May into Might

For example:

Direct speech: I may invite them to dinner.

Reported speech: She said that they might invite them to the dinner.

  • Might (The verb remains unchanged)

For example:

Direct speech: He might get a flight tomorrow.

Reported speech: She said he might get a flight the next day.

  • Should (The verb remains unchanged)

For example:

Direct speech: I should start a job.

Reported speech: She said that she should start a job.

5 responses on "Direct and Indirect Speech: Verb Tense Changes | Grammar"

  1. This page is most helpful for knowing English correctly.

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