Direct and Indirect Speech

Direct and indirect speech can be a source of confusion for English learners. Let’s first define the terms, then look at how to talk about what someone said, and how to convert speech from direct to indirect or vice-versa.

You can answer the question What did he say? in two ways:

  • by repeating the words spoken (direct speech)
  • by reporting the words spoken (indirect or reported speech).

Direct Speech

Direct speech repeats, or quotes, the exact words spoken. When we use direct speech in writing, we place the words spoken between quotation marks (” “) and there is no change in these words. We may be reporting something that’s being said NOW (for example a telephone conversation), or telling someone later about a previous conversation.


  • She says, “What time will you be home?”
  • She said, “What time will you be home?” and I said, “I don’t know! “
  • “There’s a fly in my soup!” screamed Simone.
  • John said, “There’s an elephant outside the window.”

Indirect Speech

Reported or indirect speech is usually used to talk about the past, so we normally change the tense of the words spoken. We use reporting verbs like ‘say’, ‘tell’, ‘ask’, and we may use the word ‘that’ to introduce the reported words. Inverted commas are not used.

She said, “I saw him.” (direct speech) = She said that she had seen him. (indirect speech)

‘That’ may be omitted:
She told him that she was happy. = She told him she was happy.

‘Say’ and ‘tell’

Use ‘say’ when there is no indirect object:
He said that he was tired.

Always use ‘tell’ when you say who was being spoken to (i.e. with an indirect object):
He told me that he was tired.

‘Talk’ and ‘speak’

Use these verbs to describe the action of communicating:
He talked to us.
She was speaking on the telephone.

Use these verbs with ‘about’ to refer to what was said:
He talked (to us) about his parents.

Reported Speech (Indirect Speech)

If we report what another person has said, we usually do not use the speaker’s exact words (direct speech), but reported (indirect) speech. Therefore, you need to learn how to transform direct speech into reported speech. The structure is a little different depending on whether you want to transform a statement, question or request.

When transforming statements, check whether you have to change:

  • pronouns
  • tense
  • place and time expression

1- Pronouns

In reported speech, you often have to change the pronoun depending on who says what.


She says, “My dad likes roast chicken.” – She says that her dad likes roast chicken.

2- Tenses

  • If the sentence starts in the present, there is no backshift of tenses in reported speech.
  • If the sentence starts in the past, there is often backshift of tenses in reported speech.
Direct speech Reported speech
(no backshift) “I write poems.” He says that he writes poems.
(backshift) “I write poems.” He said that he wrote poems.

No backshift

Do not change the tense if the introductory clause is in a present tense (e. g. He says). Note, however, that you might have to change the form of the present tense verb (3rd person singular).

He says, “I write poems.” – He says that he writes English.


You must change the tense if the introductory clause is in a past tense (e. g. He said).

He said, “I am happy.” – He said that he was happy.



If we want to say what other people said, thought or felt, we can use the direct and indirect speech (reported speech).

Perub Direct to  Indirect Speech :

1.        To be & Auxiliary Verbs

Direct                                       Indirect

Am/is/are                                was/were

Shall/will                                should/would

Can                                           could

May                                          might


Have/has to                              had to

Ought to

2.        Time & Place (keterangan waktu & tempat)

Direct                                       Indirect

now                                 –           then

tomorrow                         –           the following day

next week                        –           the following week

tonight                             –           that night

today                               –           that day

yesterday                         –           the day before

last night                          –           the night before

last week                         –           the week before,

the precious week

here                                  –           there

this                                   –           that

these                                –           those


3.        Tenses

Direct                                       Indirect

Simple present                   –        simple past

Simple past

–        past perfect

Present perfect

Present continous              –        past continous

Present perfect continous  –        past perfect continous

Simple future                     –        past future



In Indirect Statement we use ‘that’ as connection between introduce phrase and   reported words. The example of Introduce phrase :


He said

He said to me                    that + reported words

He told me


e.g  – Mary told her friends “I have been to Bali twice.”

– Mary told her friends that she had been to Bali twice.


–   Father said “I am going out of town tomorrow”

–   Father said that he was going out of town the following day.


–   Mary told John “my father warned me last night”

–   Mary told John that her father had arned her the night before.


–   My sister said to me “I don’t like tennis”

–   My sister said to me that she didn’t like tennis.


–   Tom said “I didn’t go to school this morning”

–   Tom said that he hadn’t gone to school that morning.


If  The introduce phrase in form simple present tense, the reported speech won’t change .

e.g  – John says “I will go to Bandung tomorrow”

– John says that he will go to Bandung tomorrow


–   Mary says “I have seen that film”

–   Mary says that she has seen that film.


–   My brother says “I met Tom at the party last night”

–   My brother says that he met Tom at the party last night.


–   Tom says “I don’t like English”

–   Tom says that he don’t like English.


If direct question use question phrase like : Where, When, Why, What, Who, How, dll, so those phrases use as connection in reported speech. Question reported change to be positive form.

e.g   – The man asked me : “Where do you live ?”

– The man asked me where I lived.


–  John asked Mary : “Why do you get angry with me ?”

–  John asked Mary why she got angry with him.


–  I asked him : “When did you get back from your trip ?”

–  I asked him when he had got back from his trip.


–  He asked me : “How will you go there ?”

–  He asked me how I would go there.


–  John asked the girl : “What is your name ?”

–  John asked the girl what her name was.

If  The direct question doesn’t use question phrase, and only question in form   “Yes & No Question”, so we use phrases  if, whether (jika, apakah) as connection between introduce phrase and question reported.


e.g   – The boy asked John : “Does Mary live near  here?”

– The boy asked John if Mary lived near there.


–  The teacher asked her : “Have you finish your homework ?”

–  The teacher asked her if he had finished her homework.


–  Mary asked me : “Did you she John at the party the night before.

–  Mary asked me whether I had seen John at the party the night before.


–  We asked them : “Will you go to the movie with us tonight ?”

–  We asked them whether they would go to the movie with us that night.


–  Mother asked John : “Are you going to marry her ?”

–  Mother asked John if he was going to marry her.

Note :    Baik if maupun whether dapat digunakan bergantian


  III.      Imperative or Order

Command dibagi dalam 2 (dua) bagian yaitu :

  1. Positive

In positive order we add to in front of command phrase,as connected between introduce and command which reported.Reported phrase in form:

to + infinitive

He asked me

He told me

e.g   – He asked me “Open your book”

– He asked me to open my book.

–  Mary told me “Stop talking to Jane”

–  Mary told me to stop talking to Jane.

–  Mother asked John “Pay attention to what I say”

–  Mother asked John to pay attention to what she says.


–  John told Mary “Wait until I come”

–  John told Mary to wait until he comes.


–  The teacher said to the students “Be quiet while I am talking”

–  The teacher told the students to be quiet while she is talking.

2.      Negative

In negative command we add not to in front commad which  reported.

e.g   – Mary told John “Don’t wait for me”

– Mary told John not to wait for her.

–  I told him “Don’t mention it to anyone”

–  I told him not to mention it to anyone.


–  Father asked her “Don’t go there alone”

–  Father asked her not to go there alone.


–  Ira asked Tom “Don’t come to my house again”

–  Ira asked tom not to come to her house again.


–  Mothers asked John “Don’t smoke too much”

–  Mother asked John not to smoke too much.























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