Direct and Indirect Speech

Subject: English

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Overview

When the exact words used by a speaker are reproduced, it is called direct speech.When the meaning of a speech is conveyed in the reporter's words, it is called indirect speech or reported speech.In this note,we have discussed direct and indirect speech,rules for the change of tenses,rules of changing of personal pronouns and possessives,Expressions of time and place in indirect speech and Exclamations and wishes.
Direct and Indirect Speech

You may often be required to report what you have heard somewhere. There are two ways of doing that. You can reproduce the actual words of the speaker or you can give the gist of his speech in your own words:

The inspector said, " I am glad to be with you today."

The inspector said that he was glad to be with us that day.

When the exact words used by a speaker are reproduced, it is called direct speech.When the meaning of a speech is conveyed in the reporter's words, it is called indirect speech or reported speech.The direct speech is put within inverted commas. No inverted commas are used with indirect or reported speech. The verb said which is usually found before the speech enclosed within inverted commas is called reporting verb.

If we compare the direct and indirect forms of narration, we find the following points of difference:

  1. The direct speech is always within inverted commas. And it is separated from the rest of the sentence usually by a comma. No inverted commas are used in indirect speech.
  2. In the indirect speech, a conjunction, if necessary, is used to join the reported speech with the rest of the sentences:
    Renu said that she was very hungry.
  3. Tenses, personal pronouns ( I, we, you, etc.), possessive adjectives (my, our, your, etc. ) and adverb denoting nearness of time and place undergo certain changes when the direct speech is changed into indirect speech:
    The inspector said, "I am glad to be with you today."
    The inspector said that he was glad to be with us that day.

Rules for the change of tenses

  1. If the reporting verb is in present tense or future tense, the tense of the verb in the direct speech remains unchanged.
    (a) Direct. Bibek says(simple present), "Saloni is going to England."
    Indirect: Bibek says that Saloni is going(unchanged) to England.
    (b) Direct. The teacher will say,(simple future) "All the children in this class are well-mannered."
    Indirect. The teacher will say that all the children in this class are(unchanged) well-mannered.
  2. If the reporting verb is in past tense, the tense in the direct speech are changed into a corresponding past tense:
    is/are/am was/were
    was/were had been
    had been no change
    has/have had
    had nochange
    do did

    did

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    (simple past)

    had done

    (past perfect)

    will/shall would
    may/can might/could
  3. Exceptions to Rule 2
    (i) If the direct speech expresses a universal truth or a habitual fact, its tenses remain unchanged.
    She said, "Young children are very restless."
    (The direct speech is a habitual fact.)
    She said that young children are very restless.
    (ii) If the direct speech describes a state of affairs which still exists when the speech is reported, its tenses remain unchanged.
    She said, "Ritu does not get along well with her husband."
    (The situation continues to be the same when the speech is reported )
    She said that Ritu does not get along well with her husband.
    (iii) If the direct speech contains a time clause, its tense remains unchanged. The main verb of such a sentence can either remain unchanged or become past perfect.
    She said, "When Anu was living in Biratnagar, she often saw Shishir."
    She said that when Anu was living in Biratnagar, she often saw Shishir.

Rules for the change of pronouns and possessive adjectives

  • Pronoun and possessive adjectives of the first person are changed according to the subject of the reporting verb. For example:
    I said, "I want to consult my parents."
    I said that I wanted to consult my parents.
  • Pronoun and possessive adjectives of the second person are changed according to the object of the reporting verb.
    Ashok said to me, "Your parents are waiting for you."
    Ashok told me that my parents were waiting for me.
  • Pronoun and possessive adjectives of the third person remain unchanged.
    I said to you, "He should be trusted."
    I told you that he should be trusted.

Expressions of time and place in indirect speech

While changing the direct speech into the indirect, the following expressions denoting nearness of time or place are replaced by corresponding expressions denoting remoteness or distance if the reporting verb is in past tense.

Direct speech Indirect speech
this/these that/those
here there
now then*
ago before
today that day
yesterday the day before/the previous day
tomorrow the next day/the following day
next week/year etc. the following week/year, etc.
last week/year, etc. the previous week/year, etc.

Statements

From direct to indirect speech

The rules should be pretty clear. Let us sum them up:

  1. The reporting verb said is usually changed into told if it is followed by an object; if there is no object, it is left unchanged.
  2. That is used as a conjunction.
  3. Tenses, pronouns and possessive adjectives, and words denoting nearness of time or place are changed according to the rules already stated.
  4. Some other words that can be used as a reporting verb in place of said are:
    add, assure, object, remind, admit, complain, point out, reply, answer, deny, promise, argue, explain, remain.

From indirect to direct speech

  1. While changing from the indirect to the direct speech, use say/said as the reporting verb.
  2. If the reporting verb is in the past tense, make requisite changes of tense in the direct speech.
  3. Make necessary changes in pronouns and possessive adjectives.
  4. Replace words denoting remoteness by a corresponding word denoting nearness.
  5. Put the direct speech within inverted commas.

Exclamations and wishes

  1. The reporting verb is changed into exclaim, wish, pray, bless, cry, or any other suitable verb.
  2. The words showing exclamation such as hurrah, alas, oh, etc., are omitted. But the sentiment behind them is conveyed by using such expressions as exclaimed with joy, exclaimed with sorrow, etc.
  3. The exclamatory sentence is changed into a statement before it is converted into the indirect speech.
  4. The sign of exclamation is omitted.

Things to remember
  • When the exact words used by a speaker are reproduced, it is called direct speech.When the meaning of a speech is conveyed in the reporter's words, it is called indirect speech or reported speech.
  • The direct speech is always within inverted commas. And it is separated from the rest of the sentence usually by a comma. No inverted commas are used in indirect speech.
  • In the indirect speech, a conjunction, if necessary, is used to join the reported speech with the rest of the sentences.
  • It includes every relationship which established among the people.
  • There can be more than one community in a society. Community smaller than society.
  • It is a network of social relationships which cannot see or touched.
  • common interests and common objectives are not necessary for society.

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