Direct and indirect speech in English

Direct and indirect speech in English

When we communicate with other people, we often convey their words and thoughts. But how can we convey this information correctly? In English, there are two ways to do this: direct and indirect speech. If you know how to use these methods, you will be able to convey information clearly and correctly. Let’s look at the definitions of direct and indirect speech, their general rules and peculiarities, and provide useful tables and examples to help you understand these concepts better. So, direct and indirect speech are two ways of communicating someone else’s words or thoughts.

Direct speech is a way of transmitting other people’s words or our own statements, when we repeat the words that were spoken without any changes. In direct speech, quotation marks and punctuation marks are used to mark written statements.


  • “I love chocolate,” said Emily
  • “Do you want to come with me?” he asked
  • “I will be there at 7 pm,” promised Sarah

Indirect or Reported Speech – conveys the general meaning of the statement, not its exact text. Usually used in written language or when talking about another person’s thoughts or words. In this case, conjunctions and prepositions are used to connect the sentences. Quotation marks are not used. Here are some examples:


  • Emily said that she loved chocolate
  • He asked if I wanted to come with him
  • Sarah promised that she would be there at 7 pm

Agreement of tenses in direct and indirect speech

The tenses in direct speech and indirect speech vary depending on the type of sentence, how the tense of the verb correlates with the moment of speech, and whether the temporal characteristic of verbs is preserved when the sentence is transferred to indirect speech. Below is a table with tenses in direct and indirect speech with examples:

Tenses Direct speechIndirect or Reported Speech
Present Simple“I like pizza.”She says that she likes pizza.
Present Continuous“I am playing tennis.”He says that he is playing tennis.
Present Perfect“I have seen that movie.”They say that they have seen that movie.
Past Simple“I went to the store.”He told me that he went to the store.
Past Continuous“I was watching TV.”She said that she was watching TV.
Past Perfect“I had finished my work.”He said that he had finished his work.
Future Simple“I will go to the party.”She says that she will go to the party.
Future Continuous“I will be studying tomorrow.”He says that he will be studying tomorrow.
Future Perfect“I will have finished my project.”They say that they will have finished their project.
Present Perfect Continuous“I have been studying for hours.”She said that she had been studying for hours.
Past Perfect Continuous“I had been waiting for two hours.”He said that he had been waiting for two hours.
Future Perfect Continuous“I will have been working for 8 hours.”They say that they will have been working for 8 hours.

Changes of pronouns and adverbs

When moving from direct speech to indirect speech, some pronouns are adverbs of time and place and change. Note that indirect speech is usually used to convey more formal or official information. Consider the table with the most frequent changes that occur when moving from direct to indirect speech.

Direct speechIndirect or Reported Speech
todaythat day
tomorrowthe next/following day
the day after tomorrowin two days
yesterdaythe day before
the day before yesterdaytwo days before
this weekthat week
last weekthe previous week

Requests and commands in direct and indirect English

In English, various expressions and constructions are used to express requests and orders. Let’s consider each of them separately.

  1. Request in indirect speech:

To express a request in indirect speech, you can use the following constructions:

  • Could you (please)…?
  • Would you (mind)…?
  • I was wondering if you could…
  • Do you think you could…?


  • Direct speech: “Can you help me with my homework, please?” Indirect speech: “Could you help me with my homework, please?”
  • Direct speech: “Would you pass me the salt, please?” Indirect speech: “Could you pass me the salt, please?”
  • Direct speech: “Can you lend me some money?” Indirect speech: “I was wondering if you could lend me some money.”
  1. Orders in indirect speech:

The following constructions can be used to express orders in indirect speech:

  • I’d like you to (do something).
  • Could you (do something), please?
  • Would you (do something), please?
  • Can you (do something), please?
  • It would be great if you could (do something).


  • Direct speech:”Clean your room!” Indirect speech: “Could you please clean your room?”
  • Direct speech: “Stop talking!” Indirect speech: “I’d like you to stop talking.”
  • Direct speech: “Give me the report by Friday!” Indirect speech: “It would be great if you could give me the report by Friday.”

Objections in direct and indirect speech in English

Objections in direct speech in English are used to reject information spoken by the interlocutor. In indirect speech, negations are used to convey information that the other person was telling a lie or to express disagreement with the information that was said

The main words for expressing an objection in direct speech:

  • No (example: No, I don’t agree.)
  • Don’t (example: I don’t believe you.)
  • Can’t (example: I can’t believe that’s true.)
  • Won’t (example: I won’t accept that.)

The main words for expressing objection in indirect speech:

  • He/she said that he/she didn’t agree
  • He/she said that he/she didn’t believe me
  • He/she said that he/she couldn’t believe it was true
  • He/she said that he/she wouldn’t accept it

Note that indirect speech uses verbs in the past tense (said, told) and additionally the person speaking (he/she). Objections can also be expressed using words such as “deny” and “refuse”.

Interrogative sentences in direct and indirect English

In interrogative sentences in English, the word order usually changes to indicate interrogative intonation. The general structure of an interrogative sentence in English is as follows:

  • Question word (if used) + Auxiliary verb + Subject + Main verb + Object + Other elements

Basic elements in interrogative sentences in English:

  • Question word: This is the word that starts the question (who, what, where, when, why, how).
  • Auxiliary verb: An auxiliary verb used to form a question. Auxiliary verbs are usually used: do, does, did, is, am, are, was, were, have, has, had, can, could, should, would, will, must.
  • Subject: The subject of the question
  • Main verb: The main verb in the sentence
  • Object: An object that directly relates to an action
  • Other elements: Other sentence elements, which may include prepositions, adverbs, time phrases, etc.

For example, consider an interrogative sentence with the question word “what“:

  • Direct speech: “What did you do yesterday?”
  • Indirect speech: She asked me what I had done the day before


  • Do you like coffee?
  • Where is the nearest gas station?

In indirect speech, the word order does not change, but interrogative pronouns and prepositions such as who, what, where, when, why, how are used.


  • She asked me if I liked coffee
  • He wanted to know where the nearest gas station was

Also, special questions can be used in indirect speech to ask about certain aspects of information, for example:

  • Can you tell me what time it is?
  • Do you know where I can find a good restaurant?

In these cases, the word order remains the same, but special words are used to ask about specific details.

Direct and indirect speech in English when congratulating, greeting, saying goodbye

When greeting, greeting and saying goodbye in English, different expressions and formulas are used in direct and indirect speech.

Direct speech uses the exact words and phrases that the interlocutor said:

Direct speechIndirect or Reported Speech
“Hello, how are you?”He greeted me and asked how I was.
“Congratulations on your graduation!”She congratulated me on my graduation.
“Goodbye, have a nice day!”He said goodbye and wished me a nice day.

In indirect speech, other phrases and constructions are used to convey the same meaning, but in a more formal form. Usually, in indirect speech, the verbs “say” or “tell” are used in certain tenses, but not always. This is followed by a pronoun or noun that indicates the person speaking, and then there is a transition to a question/congratulation/farewell.


  • Direct speech: “Congratulations on your promotion, John! You deserve it!”
  • Indirect speech: He congratulated John on his promotion, saying he deserved it.

Greetings and farewells may also use standard expressions used in more informal situations. Example:

Direct speechIndirect or Reported Speech
“Hi! How’s it going?”He said hi and asked how things were going.
“Good to see you again!”She said it was nice to see me again.
“Take care, see you soon!”He said goodbye and said he would see me soon.

Video – REPORTED SPEECH: Verb Tense Changes | Direct and Indirect Speech in English

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