20 Nov 2021 Admin User 0 Spoken English

There are multiple occasions where we are required to explain or describe an action or event that occurred. More often than not, it involves repeating what a person has said earlier. To describe what someone said, you can use two different speech types, namely Direct Indirect Speech. When you have knowledge of these two speech forms and how to correctly use them, you can significantly enhance your communication skills in English. Experts at Learner's Classroom define both the speech clearly here with examples.

What is Direct Indirect Speech?

People use direct and indirect speech extensively to tell stories. You use direct speech when you describe what someone is doing or saying. With direct speech, people generally utilize the verb ‘to say.’ But you can also use other verbs like ‘reply’, ‘shout’, ‘ask’, etc. 

Indirect speech is used when you desire to report what a person said without using the speech marks or the same words. It is also known as reported speech. You can understand it with the help of the following direct indirect speech examples.

  • Direct speech – I reside in the City Center.
  • Indirect speech – He said he resided in the City Center.

When you report what a person says in the present simple tense, you generally don’t modify the tense. But when you report things in the past, you generally modify the tense. 

What are Direct Indirect Speech Rules?

There are 9 direct indirect speech rules for converting a sentence in direct speech into indirect speech. They are as follows.

Reporting verb

When the direct speech’s reporting verb is in the past tense, then every present tense in the direct speech is modified to the past tense that corresponds to it in indirect speech. For example

  • Direct– He said, “I am angry.”
  • Indirect– He said (that) he was angry.

Tenses don’t change when the words that are within the quotation marks discuss a universal truth or a habit. 

  • Direct– She said, “We cannot live without food.”
  • Indirect– She said that we cannot live without food.

The tenses of indirect speech are not modified when the reporting verb is in the present tense or future tense. 

Present tense 

When you change the direct speech to indirect speech, you also change the present tense. The present perfect tense changes to past perfect. You can understand it well with the examples of direct and indirect speech given below.

  • Direct– “I have been to Sydney”, he told me.
  • Indirect– He told me that he had been to Sydney.

The present continuous tense changes to the past continuous tense.

  • Direct– “I am making a cake”, she commented.
  • Indirect– She commented that she was making a cake.

The present perfect tense modifies to the past perfect tense. For example:

  • Direct– She said, “He has completed her school project.”
  • Indirect – She said that he had completed his school project.

The simple present tense changes to the simple past tense. For example:

  • Direct – “I am leaving”, he said.
  • Indirect – He said that he was leaving.

 Past and future tense 

You should change the simple past tense to past perfect. 

  • Direct – He said, “Sam arrived on Monday.”
  • Indirect – He said that Sam had arrived on Monday.

Change the past continuous tense to past perfect continuous tense.

  • Direct – “We were singing Christmas carols,” they told me.
  • Indirect – They told me that they had been singing Christmas carols. 

Change the future tense to present conditional.

  • Direct – He said, “I will be in the U.S. tomorrow.”
  • Indirect – He said that he would be in the U.S. the next day.

The future continuous tense modifies to conditional continuous. 

  • Direct – She said, “I’ll be disposing of the old clothes next Thursday.”
  • Indirect – She said that she would be disposing off the old clothes the following Thursday. 

Interrogative sentences

You’ll not use any conjunction if the direct speech sentence starts with a question word.

  • Direct – “Where do you play?” asked the child.
  • Indirect – The child inquired where I played.

If the direct speech sentence starts with a helping verb, the joining phrase should be whether or if.

  • Direct – He said, “Will you come for the event.”
  • Indirect – He asked whether we would come for the event.

To make yourself sharp in this grammar concept, ensure that you practice direct and indirect examples with answers.

 Changes in modals

When you need to change the direct to indirect speech, the changes in modals will happen as follows.

  • ‘Can’ will become ‘could.’
  • ‘Must’ will become ‘had to’ or ‘would have to.’
  • ‘May’ will become ‘might.’ 

You can understand it with the following direct indirect speech examples.

  • Direct – He said, “I can cook.”
  • Indirect – He said that he could cook. 

The modals like ‘would,’ ‘could,’ ‘should,’ ‘ought to,’ and ‘might’ don’t change.


The first person in the direct speech sentence modifies according to the subject. 

  • Direct- She said, “I am in class 10.”
  • Indirect- She says that she was in class 10.

The second person of the direct speech sentence modifies according to the object.

  • Direct- He says to them, “You have completed your task.”
  • Indirect- He tells them that they have completed their task.

The third person does not modify.

 Request, wish, command, explanation

The imperative tone in the direct speech modifies into informative in the reported speech. 

  • Direct- He said to her, “Please work on it.”
  • Indirect- He requested her to work on it.

In exclamatory sentences, you will remove the interjections and make the sentence assertive.

  • Direct- He said, “Alas! I am undone.”
  • Indirect- He exclaimed that he was broke.


Indirect speech, the spoken words must be in (“) quotes. They should always start with a capital letter. Punctuation marks like comma, exclamation, full stop, or question marks are always put within the inverted ending commas. For example, they enquired, “Can we dance with you?”

Modification of time 

In direct speeches, the words expressing nearness in place or time are modified to words that convey distance in indirect speech. For example

  • Ago turns to before
  • Today turns to that day.
  • This turns to that.
  • Next week becomes the following week. 

It’s important for students to practice lots of direct indirect speech exercises so that they know the right implementation of the rules described above.

Also Read: Learn Active Passive Voice

Final Words

Reading short stories and novels is a great way to expose yourself more to direct indirect speech and become fluent in this grammatical concept. Don’t memorize these rules, rather practice exercises of this concept. You will soon get better at it.

BY: Admin User

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