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 Speech||Equivalent in Reported Speech|
|Simple present||Simple past|
|“I always drink coffee”, she said||She said that she always drank coffee.|
|Present continuous||Past continuous|
|“I am reading a book”, he explained.||He explained that he was reading a book|
|Simple past||Past perfect|
|“Bill arrived on Saturday”, he said.||He said that Bill had arrived on Saturday.|
|Present perfect||Past perfect|
|“I have been to Spain”, he told me.||He told me that he had been to Spain.|
|Past perfect||Past perfect|
|“I had just turned out the light,” he explained.||He explained that he had just turned out the light.|
|Present perfect continuous||Past perfect continuous|
|They complained, “We have been waiting for hours”.||They complained that they had been waiting for hours.|
|Past continuous||Past perfect continuous|
|“We were living in Paris”, they told me.||They told me that they had been living in Paris.|
|“I will be in Geneva on Monday”, he said.||He said that he would be in Geneva on Monday.|
|Future continuous||Conditional 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 Continuous
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 speech||Equivalent in reported speech|
|“I saw him today“, she said.||She said that she had seen him that day.|
|yesterday||the day before|
|“I saw him yesterday“, she said.||She said that she had seen him the day before.|
|The day before yesterday||two days before|
|“I met her the day before yesterday“, he said.||He said that he had met her two days before.|
|Tomorrow||the next/following day|
|“I’ll see you tomorrow“, he said||He said that he would see me the next day.|
|The day after tomorrow||in 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/year||the 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/year||the 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.|
|“Do you like this shirt?” he asked||He 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 speech||reported 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.|
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 speech||reported speech|
|now||then, at that time|
|today||that day, on Sunday, yesterday|
|tonight||that night, last night, on Sunday night|
|tomorrow||the next day/ the following day, on Sunday, today|
|yesterday||the day before/ the previous day, on Sunday|
|last night||the night before/ the previous night, on Sunday night|
|this week||that week, last week|
|last month||the month before/ the previous month, in May|
|next year||the following year, in 2014|
|two minutes ago||two minutes before|
|in one hour||one hour later|
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 speech||indirect speech|
|here||there, in Starbucks|
|this book||the book, that book, War and Peace|
|in this room||in 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
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.)