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Grammar Lesson: Reported Speech

English Grammar in Use www.LELB.net

Part A:

It is not always necessary to change the verb in reported speech. If the situation is still the same, you do not need to change the verb to the past. For example:
Direct: Paul said ‘My new job is boring.’
Reported: Paul said that his new job is boring.
{The situation is still the same. His job is still boring now.)
Direct: Helen said ‘I want to go to Canada next year.’
Reported: Helen told me that she wants to go to Canada next year.
(Helen still wants to go to Canada next year.)
You can also change the verb to the past:
Paul said that his new job was boring.
Helen told me that she wanted to go to Canada next year.
But if the situation has changed or finished, you must use a past verb:
Paul left the room suddenly. He said he had to go. (not has to go)

Part B:
You need to use a past form when there is a difference
between what was said and what is really true.
For example:
You met Sonia a few days ago.
She said: Joe is in hospital.
Later that day you meet Joe in the street. You say:
Hi, Joe. I didn’t expect to see you. Sonia said you were in hospital.
(not ‘Sonia said you are in hospital’, because clearly he is not)

Part C:

Say and tell
If you say who somebody is talking to, use tell:
Sonia told me that you were in hospital. (not Sonia said me)
What did you tell the police? (not say the police)
Otherwise use say:
Sonia said that you were in hospital. (not Sonia told that … )
What did you say?
But you can ‘say something to somebody’:
Ann said goodbye to me and left. (not Ann said me goodbye)
What did you say to the police?

Part D:

Tell/ask somebody to do something
Have you heard?
Joe is in hospital.
Hi, Joe. Sonia said you were in hospital.
We also use the infinitive (to do / to be etc.) in reported speech, especially with tell and ask (for orders and requests):
Direct: ‘Drink plenty of water,’ the doctor said to me.
Reported: The doctor told me to drink plenty of water.
Direct: ‘Don’t be late,’ I said to Joe.
Reported: I told Joe not to be late.
Direct: ‘Can you help me, please,’ Jackie said to me.
Reported: Jackie asked me to help her.
You can also say ‘Somebody said (not) to do something’:
Paul said not to worry about him. (but not Paul said me)


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This topic contains 1 reply, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Sasan 2 days, 21 hours ago.

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  • #40593

    Dr. Hariri

    Would you rather be happy yet slow-witted and unimaginative, or unhappy yet bright and creative? For instance, would you rather live the life of a brilliant yet tortured artist, such as Vincent van Gogh, or that of a happy but carefree soul who is a bit simple-minded?

  • #40672


    I prefer to challenge this question at first and bring up my viewpoint next.
    There are different successful people in the world who reached the apex through different procedures. Although some have faced torture to reach their goals, it does not mean we have to necessarily lose something in our life to climb the ladder of success. Anyway, I suppose the most enjoyable part of life is making progress and relying on your abilities to flourish and thrive. So, I personally go for intelligence and innovation rather than happiness along with naivety. Many people have lived an ordinary life so far and repeating this story can never excite me at all. We need to gain new adventurous experiences and foster our abilities so as to break out of comfort zone.

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