Questions in Reported Speech

Reported Speech - Lesson #3

Changing questions from direct speech to reported speech can be a little difficult.

However, before we talk about how to do this properly, I want to show you a very easy way to do it. When you speak English, it is always okay to just repeat the question exactly the same as you heard it.

For example, if Janes asks you:
  • "How are you?"
Now you want to tell Bill what Jane asked you, then you can simply just say:
  • Janes asked me, "How are you?"
And when you are speaking, you do not need to worry about the quotation marks ("). So, your sentence will sound 100% natural. This is the easy way to do it.

Now, let's look at the proper way to change questions to reported speech. This is the way that you will see in grammar books and it is also used a lot by native speakers. So, you may choose to use the easy way above, but you definitely need to know this way too.

Here are the things you need to know.

1. Use the verb "ask" for questions. We can put a person after the verb "ask", but it is not necessary.
  • Tara asked, "What is your name?"
    She asked me what my name is.

  • Greg asked, "When will Mark leave?"
    Greg asked when Mark will leave.
2. Questions in reported speech are not actually questions. They are sentences. Therefore, they use the same word order as sentences. This is the thing that gives most English learners a hard time.

Pay attention to how the word order changes.
  • Can you swim well?
    She asked me if I can swim well.
"I can swim well" is like a sentence.

Here are some more examples.
  • "Where is the bank?"
    She asked where the bank is.

  • "Who are you?"
    They asked me who I was.

  • "Would you like some coffee?"
    He asked me if I would like some coffee.
3. In general, we change present tense verbs to the past tense in reported speech.
  • "How old are you?"
    She asked me how old I was.
Past tense verbs usually do not change.
  • "What did you eat last weekend?"
    He asked me what I ate last weekend.
But if you want to emphasize that something happened in the past, you can use the past perfect tense.
  • "What did you eat last weekend?"
    He asked me what I had eaten last weekend.
4. We use "if" with yes/no questions.
  • "Is it cold?"
    Bill asked if it is cold.

  • "Was it fun?"
    They asked me if it was fun.

  • "Have you been to China?"
    She asked if I had been to China.

  • "Can you speak English?"
    He asked me if I could speak English.

  • "Would you like to see a movie with me?"
    Henry asked Mary if she would like to see a movie with him.
For other questions, use the question word from the question.
  • "What is your name?"
    She asked me what my name is.

  • "Where did you go?"
    They asked her where she went.

  • "When will you go?"
    He asked her when she will go.

  • "Where will you live?"
    Pete asked me where I would live.
Because of the change in word order, reported questions can be harder for English learners than reported sentences.

Keep practicing and this will become easy and you will begin to do it naturally.