someone says something, how do you describe it to another person?
This lesson will focus on reported speech, or you can call it
Direct speech: "This meat smells bad," said Tom.
Indirect Speech: Tom said that
the meat smelled bad.
Notice that the spoken words
are in quotation marks:
"This meat smells bad."
The verb "smells" is in the present
It changes to "smelled" -- the
The chart below shows the sequence
of tenses and how verbs change when using indirect speech:
Sequence of Tenses
Present Continuous Past
Present Perfect Past
Practice. Write your answers
on a piece of paper. Then look below for the correct verb choices.
"I will be ready by 10:00" She
said that she ______ be ready by 10:00.
"The mail isn't here yet." He
said that the mail ________here yet.
"They have lived here 10 years." Bill
said they _________here 10 years.
"Is it going to rain today?" She
asked if it _____________ to rain today.
"Joe knows a lot of people." He
said that Joe ________ a lot of people.
"Can you play the guitar?" She
asked me if I _________play the guitar.
Answers: 1. would; 2. wasn't; 3.
had lived; 4. was going; 5. knew; 6. could
Indirect speech for a
question usually uses "if" or "whether" in the sentence. Notice
that #4 and #6 are not written with a question mark. That's because
the speaker is describing the question, not asking it.
Here are some more examples:
"I love this baby very much," said
The mother said that she loved
The mother said she loved her baby.
(In this sentence "that" is optional)
"My daughter graduated from college,"
John said that his daughter had graduated from
John said his daughter had graduated from college.
John said his daughter graduated from college.
(This doesn't follow the sequence of tenses, but it's a little
mistake which most people won't notice.
"Can we ride on the bike again?"
the students asked.
The students asked if they could ride on the
The students asked whether they could ride on
the bike again.
Remember to use if or whether when
describing a question.