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An English Grammar Lesson on Reported Speech

Part A:

Study this example situation:

Compare: direct Paul said: You want to tell somebody what Paul said.

There are two ways of doing this:

You can repeat Paul’s words (direct speech):

Paul said I’m feeling ill.’

Or you can use reported speech:

Paul said that he was feeling ill.

am feeling ill.’ In writing we use these quotation marks to show direct speech.

reported Paul said that he was feeling ill.

Part B:

When we use reported speech, the main verb of the sentence is usually past (Paul said that … I

I told her that … etc.). The rest of the sentence is usually past too:

Paul said that he was feeling ill.

I told Lisa that I didn’t have any money.

You can leave out that. So you can say:

Paul said that he was feeling ill. or Paul said he was feeling ill.

In general, the present form in direct speech changes to the past form in reported speech:

am/is à was do/does à did will à would

are à were have/has à had can à could

want/like/know/go etc. à wanted/Liked/knew/went etc.

Compare direct speech and reported speech:

You met Anna. Here are some of the things she said in direct speech:

My parents are fine.

I’m going to learn to drive.

I want to buy a car.

John has a new job.

I can’t come to the party on Friday.

I don’t have much free time.

I’m going away for a few days.

I’ll phone you when I get back.

ANNA

Later you tell somebody what Anna said.

You use reported speech:

Anna said that her parents were fine.

She said that she was going to learn to drive.

She said that she wanted to buy a car.

She said that John had a new job.

She said that she couldn’t come to the party on Friday.

She said she didn’t have much free time.

She said that she was going away for a few days and would phone me when

she got back.

 Part C:

The past simple {did/saw/knew etc.) can usually stay the same in reported speech, or you can change it to the past perfect (had done I had seen I had known etc.):

direct Paul said ‘I woke up feeling ill, so I didn’t go to work.’

reported Paul said (that) he woke up feeling ill, so he didn’t go to work. or

Paul said (that) he had woken up feeling ill, so he hadn’t gone to work.

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