We use reported speech (indirect speech) to talk about what people said or asked. When moving from direct speech (“I am tired.”) to reported speech (He said he was tired.) the verbs, pronouns, and word order usually change. When reporting normal direct speech we usually use say or tell. When reporting questions, requests, orders, and advice we use other words.

Direct speech: simple present

I like ice cream.”

Reported speech: past tense

He said he liked ice cream.

If what was said in the direct speech is still true, the verb can stay as the simple present in reported speech.

I eat lunch at 1pm every day.”

She told me (that) she eats lunch at 1pm every day.

Direct speech: present continuous

I’m working on it.”

Reported speech: past continuous

He said he was working on it.

Direct speech: past simple

John ate a sandwich for lunch.”

Reported speech: past perfect

She said John had eaten a sandwich.

Direct speech: past continuous

We were watching a movie.”

Reported speech: past perfect continuous

They told me (that) they had been watching a movie.

Direct speech: present perfect

I have traveled to 10 countries.”

Reported speech: past perfect

He told me he had traveled to 10 countries.

Direct speech: past perfect

I had finished the test right before the bell rang.”

Reported speech: past perfect (no change)

He said (that) he had finished the test right before the bell rang.

Say/said doesn’t have an indirect object but tell/told must have an indirect object

He said he was tired.

He told me he was tired.

When reporting speech you can include or omit ‘that’.

He said that he was tired. / He said he was tired. (Both okay)

He told me that he was tired. / He told me he was tired. (Both okay)

Requests, orders, and advice can be reported using an infinitive instead of changing the tense of the verb. We usually use ask, tell, and advise to report requests, orders, and advice.

Could you hold this for a moment?”

He asked me to hold this for a moment.

You should get more sleep.”

The doctor advised me to get more sleep.

Take out a pencil and paper.”

The teacher told us to take out a pencil and paper

Modals also change:

Direct – Reported Speech

  • will – would
  • may – might
  • must – had to
  • can – could

But some modals don’t change:

Direct – Reported Speech

  • should – should
  • would – would
  • could – could

When reporting questions, say or tell cannot be used. Ask is usually used, although wonder and want to know can also be used.

Where are you from?”

She asked me where I was from.

Where is he going?”

Amy wondered where he was going.
wanted to know where he was going.

Reported speech questions

  1. What’s some advice your parents told you?
    Mom: Go to bed early!
  2. What did one of your teachers always tell you to do?
    Krishna teacher: Don’s study too hard!
  3. What was the last question someone asked you?
    Classmate: Do you have an umbrella?
  4. What’s something strange someone said to you recently?
  5. What was the last time someone asked you to do something? What did they ask?
    Store clerk: You have forgotten your snack!
  6. What did your parents always tell you to do?
    Parents: Don’t waste your time!
  7. What was a great piece of advice that someone gave to you?
    Stranger: Learn how to be free!
  8. When was the last time someone asked you for money? What did they say?
    Younger brother: can you lend me 1000 won?
  9. What’s something you always tell people about yourself?
    You: I am taller than most of my friends!
  10. Has anyone told you an interesting piece of news recently? What did they tell you?
  11. What did the last homeless person you met say to you?
    Mwaaaaa! I’m so hungry! Give me some money!
  12. What’s some advice you gave a friend recently?
    You: you have to go to bed and wake up 1 hour earlier every day!
  13. What was a surprising question that someone asked you?
    Someone: What will you do if your cat eats your homework?
  14. What’s a memorable quote from someone you look up to?
    Bismark: History is like a piece of meat! The winner gets it!
  15. What did your parents always tell you not to do?
    Dad: Don’t walk on the street alone late at night!
  16. What do you say to telemarketers when they call?
    You: Sorry, I’m not interested!
  17. What was the last thing you said to your friend?
    You: How are you feeling today?