Reported Speech: Changes

Reported Speech: Changes


Do you like retelling stories or events? 
Then you will need to know everything in this podcast! 

Written and voiced by Inna Zharuk

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Reported Speech: Changes

What a useful topic! Every day we retell our friends what our mom said, we retell our mom what our boss told us to do, and so on. You will definitely need to know how to use it.

When we report what somebody said, we usually need to move our main verb one tense into the past.

The Present Simple must be changed into the Past Simple.

Direct speech:  ‘I go on holidays,' he said.
Reported speech:  He said he went on holidays.

The Present Continuous moves one tense back and we form the Past Continuous.

Direct speech:  ‘She is developing a new product now,' our boss told us.
Reported speech:  Our boss told us she was developing a new product then.

The Present Perfect becomes the Past Perfect.

Direct speech: ‘He has broken a record,' the TV presenter added.
Reported speech: The TV presenter added that he had broken a record.

The Present Perfect Continuous changes into the Past Perfect Continuous.

Direct speech: ‘I have been revising for 2 hours already,' my sister answered.
Reported speech: My sister answered that she had been revising for 2 hours already.

The Past Simple must be changed into the Past Perfect.

Direct speech:  ‘I saw a great movie yesterday,' my dad told me.
Reported speech:  My dad told me he had seen a great movie the day before.

The Past Continuousbecomes the Past Perfect Continuous.

Direct speech:  ‘Your dad was working all morning,' my mum said.
Reported speech:  My mum said that my dad had been working all morning.

The Past Perfect and Past Perfect Continuous don't change in Reported Speech because there is no tense before them.

In all future tenses we change will into would.

Direct speech:  ‘I will find you,' he said.
Reported speech:  He said that he would find me.

Direct speech:  ‘I will be waiting for you,' he said.
Reported speech:  He said he would be waiting for me.

Is going to we have to change into was going to.

Direct speech:  ‘We are going to buy a new car next month,' the Jones told us.
Reported speech:  The Jones family told us that they were going to buy a new car the following month.

Apart from tenses we need to show any changes in the situations, such as change in the speaker, the time or the place.

Direct speech:  ‘I will help you with your homework today,' my bother said.
Reported speech:  My brother said that he would help me with my homework yesterday.

Here are some typical changes of time and place.

  • now → then/at that time
  • this week  → that week, last week
  • today → that day
  • tonight → that night
  • yesterday → the previous day/the day before
  • last week → the previous week/the week before
  • ago → previously/before
  • tomorrow → the following day/the day after
  • next week → the following week/the week after
  • here → there


Direct speech:  ‘He is going to meet me here tonight,' she said.
Reported speech: She said he was going to meet her there that night.

The most common reporting verbs are say, tell, answer, reply, add.

The verb say doesn't take a direct object, but tell always does.

He said (that) I would see him soon.
He told me (that) I would see him soon.

In both cases that can be left out. It's up to you to use it or not. Without that it sounds less formal.

He said I would see him soon.
He told me I would see him soon.

You have listened to the main rules about forming reported speech, but there are a lot more rules about how to retell somebody's questions or orders. And of course there are a lot of exceptions when we don't need to change anything if we want to report what someone said or we can avoid using tense changes using verbs that summarize what people say.

If you want to find out more, listen to our podcasts ‘Reported Speech: Questions and Imperatives', ‘Reported Speech: No Changes' and ‘Reported Speech: Reporting Verbs'.

Thanks for listening.