ENG2: Tense, Places and Time Changes to Indirect Speech

This unit is a continuation of the Indirect and Direct Speech and elaborates the changes in verbs, places, Tenses

Normally, the tense in reported speech is one tense back in time from the tense in direct speech:
She said, “I am tired.” = She said that she was tired.

Phrase in Direct SpeechEquivalent in Reported Speech
Simple presentSimple past
“I always drink coffee”, she saidShe said that she always drank coffee.
Present continuousPast continuous
“I am reading a book”, he explained.He explained that he was reading a book
Simple pastPast perfect
“Bill arrived on Saturday”, he said.He said that Bill had arrived on Saturday.
Present perfectPast perfect
“I have been to Spain”, he told me.He told me that he had been to Spain.
Past perfectPast perfect
“I had just turned out the light,” he explained.He explained that he had just turned out the light.
Present perfect continuousPast perfect continuous
They complained, “We have been waiting for hours”.They complained that they had been waiting for hours.
Past continuousPast perfect continuous
“We were living in Paris”, they told me.They told me that they had been living in Paris.
FuturePresent conditional
“I will be in Geneva on Monday”, he said.He said that he would be in Geneva on Monday.
Future continuousConditional continuous
She said, “I’ll be using the car next Friday”.She said that she would be using the car next Friday.

You do not need to change the tense if the reporting verb is in the present, or if the original statement was about something that is still true, e.g.

  • He says he has missed the train but he’ll catch the next one.
  • We explained that it is very difficult to find our house.


These modal verbs do not change in reported speech: might, could, would, should, ought to:

  • We explained, “It could be difficult to find our house.” = We explained that it could be difficult to find our house.
  • She said, “I might bring a friend to the party.” = She said that she might bring a friend to the party.

 Conversion Rules of Present Tense in Direct Speech

Simple Present Changes to Simple Past

a) Direct: “I am happy”, she said.

b) Indirect: She said that she was happy.

Present Continuous Changes to Past ContinuousImage result for Tense, Places and Time Changes to Indirect Speech

a) Direct: “I am reading a book”, he explained.

b) Indirect: He explained that he was reading a book.

Present Perfect Changes to Past Perfect

a) Direct: She said, “He has finished his food“.

b) Indirect: She said that he had finished his food.

Present Perfect Changes to Past Perfect

a) Direct: “I have been to Gujarat”, he told me.

b) Indirect: He told me that he had been to Gujarat.

Conversion Rules of Past & Future Tense

Simple Past Changes to Past Perfect

a) Direct: He said, “Ira arrived on Monday.”

b) Indirect: He said that Ira had arrived on Monday.

Past Continuous Changes to Past Perfect Continuous

a) Direct: “We were living in Goa”, they told me.

b) Indirect: They told me that they had been living in Goa.

Future Changes to Present Conditional

a) Direct: He said, “I will be in Kolkata tomorrow.”

b) Indirect: He said that he would be in Kolkata the next day.

Future Continuous Changes to Conditional Continuous

a) Direct: She said, “I’ll be using the car next Friday.”

b) Indirect: She said that she would be using the car next Friday.

Changing Time and Places 

Time and place must often change when going from direct to reported speech.

Phrase in direct speechEquivalent in reported speech
todaythat day
“I saw him today“, she said.She said that she had seen him that day.
yesterdaythe day before
“I saw him yesterday“, she said.She said that she had seen him the day before.
The day before yesterdaytwo days before
“I met her the day before yesterday“, he said.He said that he had met her two days before.
Tomorrowthe next/following day
“I’ll see you tomorrow“, he saidHe said that he would see me the next day.
The day after tomorrowin two days time/ two days later
“We’ll come the day after tomorrow“, they said.They said that they would come in two days time/ two days later.
Next week/month/yearthe following week/month/year
“I have an appointment next week“, she said.She said that she had an appointment the following week.
Last week/month/yearthe previous/week/month/year
“I was on holiday last week“, he told us.He told us that he had been on holiday the previous week.
“I saw her a week ago,” he said.He said he had seen her a week before.
this (for time)that
“I’m getting a new car this week“, she said.She said she was getting a new car that week.
this/that (adjectives)the
“Do you like this shirt?” he askedHe asked if I liked the shirt.
He said, “I live here“.He told me he lived there.

In general, personal pronouns change to the third person singular or plural, except when the speaker reports his own words:
I/me/my/mine, you/your/yours = him/his/her/hers
we/us/our/ours, you/your/yours = they/their/theirs

He said: “I like your new car.” = He told her that he liked her new car.
I said: “I’m going to my friend’s house.” = I said that I was going to my friend’s house.

When we report something, we may need to make changes to:

  • time (now, tomorrow)
  • place (here, this room)
direct speechreported speech
She said, “I saw Mary yesterday.”She said she had seen Mary the day before.
He said: “My mother is here.”He said that his mother was there.
Don’t confuse time with tense. “Tense” is the grammatical form of the verb that in the reported clause we sometimes shift back (backshift). “Time” refers to the actual time that something happens, such as “today” or “now” or “5 weeks ago”.

Time words

If we report something around the same time, then we probably do not need to make any changes to time words. But if we report something at a different time, we need to change time words. Look at these example sentences:

  • He said: “It was hot yesterday.” → He said that it had been hot the day before.
  • He said: “We are going to swim tomorrow.” → He said they were going to swim the next day.

Here is a list of common time words, showing how you change them for reported speech:

direct speechreported speech
nowthen, at that time
todaythat day, on Sunday, yesterday
tonightthat night, last night, on Sunday night
tomorrowthe next day/ the following day, on Sunday, today
yesterdaythe day before/ the previous day, on Sunday
last nightthe night before/ the previous night, on Sunday night
this weekthat week, last week
last monththe month before/ the previous month, in May
next yearthe following year, in 2014
two minutes agotwo minutes before
in one hourone hour later

Place words

If we are in the same place when we report something, then we do not need to make any changes to place words. But if we are in a different place when we report something, then we need to change the place words. Look at these example sentences:

  • He said: “It is cold in here.” → He said that it was cold in there.
  • He said: “How much is this book?” → He asked how much the bookwas.

Here are some common place words, showing how you change them for reported speech:

direct speechindirect speech
herethere, in Starbucks
this bookthe book, that book, War and Peace
in this roomin the room, in that room, in the kitchen

Words expressing nearness in time or place in Direct Speech are generally changed into words expressing distance in Indirect Speech.

Now — then

Here — there

Ago — before

Thus — so

Today — that day

Tomorrow — the next day

This — that

Yesterday — the day before

These — those

Hither– thither

Come — go

Hence — thence

Next week/month — following week/month

a) Direct: She said, “My father came yesterday.

b) Indirect: She said that her father had come the day before.

c) Direct: She says/will say, “My father came yesterday.”

Indirect: She says/will say that her father had come yesterday(Here the reporting verb ‘says’ is in the present tense OR ‘will say’ is in future tense; hence the time expression ‘yesterday’ won’t change.)


ASSIGNMENT : ENG: Speech Assignment MARKS : 50  DURATION : 3 days

SEE ALLAdd a note
Add your Comment