Important Rules Relating to Reported Speech

Quoting the exact words of the speaker is called Direct Narration. Reporting the words of speaker without quoting his exact words is called Indirect Narration. There are two ways to convey a message of a person or the words spoken by a person or the other person.

  1. Direct Narration 
  2. Indirect Narration 

Direct Narration

In Direct Narration, the words of the speaker is exactly said in his words what someone says. What a speaker says, his words are mentioned within the quotation marks (‘…..’ or “…..”). The speaker’s words should be unaltered. Eg:
  • She said, “Today lesson is on presentations”. 
  • I said to her, ‘You are wise and great’. 

Indirect Narration

In Indirect Narration, the words of the speaker is not exactly said in his words. What a speaker says, his words are not mentioned within the quotation marks. The speaker’s words will be altered slightly. Eg:
  • She said that today’s lesson was on presentation. 
  • I said to her that she was wise and great. 
Note: Use ‘that’ after removing inverted commas.
Change ‘is’ into ‘was’.

Reporter/Reporting verb/Reported Speech

Reporter: The speaker or narrator is called the reporter.
Reporting verb: The verb used by the reporter is called reporting verb.
Reported Speech: Sentence enclosed within inverted commas is called reported speech. It always begins with a capital letter.
Eg: She said to me, “I am learning computer”.
In this sentence, Reporter is She; Reporting verb is said and Reported Speech is I am learning computer.
While we change a narration from direct to indirect, inverted commas are removed.

Some important rules

Rule 1. 

  • First of all ascertain the tense of the Reporting Verb.
  • If the reporting verb is in Present or Future Tense, the tense of Reported speech remains unchanged.

Reporting Verb in Direct Speech Reporting Verb in Indirect Speech
Say Say
Says Says
Say to Tell
Says to Tells
Will say Will say
Will say to Will tell
Said Said
Said to Told/asked

Rule 2.

If the reporting verb is in Past, the tense of the reported speech changes as the following :
Tense of Reported Speech
S. NoDirect NarrationIndirect Narration
1Present IndefinitePast Indefinite
2Present ContinuousPast Continuous
3Present PerfectPast Perfect
4Present Perfect ContinuousPast Perfect Continuous
5Past IndefinitePast Perfect
6Past ContinuousPast Perfect Continuous
7Past PerfectNo change of tense
8Past Perfect ContinuousNo change of tense
Change in Future Tenses (Reported Speech)
1Will/shallWould/should
2CanCould
3MayMight
4Could/should/would/mightNo change

Rule 3.

When the Reporting Verb is in Past, words denoting time or place in reported speech change as following:
S. No Direct Narration Indirect Narration
1 This That
2 These Those
3 Here There
4 Hence Thence
5 Hither Thither
6 Now Then
7 Ago Before
8 Thus So
9 Today That day
10 Tomorrow The next day/the following day
11 Yesterday The previous day
12 Last week/month/year The previous week/month/year
13 The last fortnight The previous fortnight
14 The day before yesterday The day before the previous day.

Rule 4.

If the Reported Speech contains universal truth, proverb, mathematical fact, historical fact, habitual act, an expression of morality or an unchanged fact, the tense of the reported speech remains unchanged. Eg:
  • Direct: He said, “The sun rises in the East”.
  • Indirect: He said that the sun rises in the East.
  • Direct: The teacher said, “God helps those who helps themselves”.
  • Indirect: The said that God helps those who helps themselves.


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