Reported speech – Rules and exercises for intermediate level

Wednesday, 14 September 2016
"I like ice cream". She said (that) she liked ice cream. "I like ice cream". She said (that) she liked ice cream. This image by is licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license

This is a general view of direct and reported speech in different tenses as an English grammar lesson online for intermediate level students.

Form and uses of the reported speech:

Direct speech is what we say in real time.

Reported speech is used when we want to repeat what the person says or said to another person.

To do this we usually use two ‘reporting’ verbs: ‘say’ and ‘tell’.

Note: We ‘say’ something; we ‘tell’ someone. (She said that...; He told Bill....)


Direct speech: “I am going to a concert.”

Reported speech: “She said (that) she was going to a concert.”

Note: We don’t need ‘that’ but we can add it if we want to.To report tenses, the general rule is “one tense back”.


Direct speech (Present Simple): “I like ice cream.”Reported speech (Past simple): She said (that) she liked ice cream.


Here is a table with all the tenses (positive and negative) and the modal verbs:

Tense Direct speech Reported speech
Present tense I like ice cream She said (that) she liked ice cream.
Present continuous I am living in London He said (that) he was living in London.
Past simple I bought a smartphone

She said (that) she had bought a smart phone


She said (that) she bought a smartphone.

Past continuous I was walking along the lane  She said (that) she had been walking along the lane.
 Present perfect I haven't seen Larry  He said (that) he hadn't seen Barry.
 Past perfect*   I had taken English lessons before   She said (that) she had taken English lessons before
 Will I'll see you later She said (that) she would see me later.
 Would*  I would help, but...  She said (that) she would help but...
 Can   I can speak perfect English   He said (that) he could speak perfect English.
Could* I could swim when I was five She said (that) she could swim when she was five
Shall I shall come later She said (that) she would come later
Should* I should call my doctor  He said (that) he should call his doctor
 Might*   "I might be late"  She said (that) she might be late
 Must  "I must study at the weekend"   She said (that) she must study at the weekend OR She said she had to study at the weekend


*doesn't change.


Reported speech: question

In reported speech it is no longer a question but a normal sentence.We usually report questions using “ask” (+someone).


Direct question: “Where do you live?”

Reported speech: She asked me where I lived.


Reported speech: be careful!

 In reported speech the question verbs “do", "does", "did” disappear but the tense changes!

What about questions with “Yes” or “No” answers? Simple; we don’t use the question word, we use “if”.


Direct speech: "Do you like chocolate?"

Reported speech: She asked me if I liked chocolate.

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Last modified on Sunday, 05 February 2017 22:59

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