Sentences in Reported Speech

Reported Speech - Lesson #2

We use reported speech when we want to tell what was said by another person, newspaper, book, TV show, etc.

When we write in English we use quotation marks for direct speech.

Direct speech: Grace said, "I am hot."

Direct speech: The manager told us, "We are closing at 7 o'clock."

We use reported speech when we are speaking and we can also use reported speech for writing as well.

Reported speech: Grace said that she is hot.

Reported speech: The manager told us that we were closing at 7 o'clock.

We will cover the most important things you need to know about sentences in reported speech.

1. We do not need to use the word "that". It is optional.
  • He said that it was nice.
    (=He said it was nice.)

  • They said that he will come.
    (=They said he will come.)

  • The sign says that the store is open.
    (=The sign says the store is open.)
2. The most common words used with reported speech are "said" and "tell". They have the same meaning, but we use "tell" when we when we say who someone is talking to.

tell + person/pronoun + speech
say + speech
  • I said it was good. / I told her it was good.
  • She said that she will come. / She told us that she will come.
  • Mark said it is hot. / Mark told Kathy it is hot.
We usually use "say" and "tell" in the past tense (said/told). But we use present tense (say/tell) with words like never, always, usually, often, etc.
  • My mom always tells me that I am smart.
  • Mark never says that he is sorry.
We can use present or past tense when we are reporting things from books, the recent news, signs, etc.
  • The news says that it will rain today.
  • This book says it is not healthy to drink coffee.
  • The sign says there is no left turn here.
3. In general, the present tense verbs from the direct speech change to the past tense. We also need to change the names, pronouns, and time to make sense.

Look at a few examples.
  • "It is nice," said Bill.
    Bill said that it was nice.

  • Tim told us, "I do yoga."
    Tim told us that he does yoga.

  • Vince said, "Kathy will come."
    Vince said that Kathy would come.

  • Greg told Kathy, "We are late."
    Greg told Kathy that they were late.

  • "Today is nice," said Ben.
    Ben said that day was nice.

  • Henry said, "Ben needs a pencil."
    Henry said that Ben needed a pencil.

  • "I can't come," said Josh.
    Josh said that he couldn't come.
Important: If the situation has not changed, then we do not need to change the verb. It is your choice. Both ways are fine.
  • Bill said, "McDonald's is delicious."
  • Bill said that McDonald's is delicious.
  • Bill said that McDonald's was delicious.
This situation has not changed. McDonald's was delicious in the past and it is still delicious now. In this case, we do not need to change the verb, but you can.

Personally, I do not change the verb if I do not need to. I think you should keep it simple.

4. In general, the past tense verbs from the direct speech do not change.
  • Bill said, "It was good."
  • Bill said it was good.

  • Sue told us, "I played soccer when I was young."
  • Sue told us that she played soccer when she was young.
However, if we want to emphasize that something happened in the past, then we can change past tense verbs to the past perfect.
  • Bill said, "I woke up at 9."
    Bill said he had woken up at 9.

  • Sue told him, "I saw the Lion King when I was young."
    Sue told him that she had seen the Lion King when she was young.
5. There are many other verbs that we can use instead of "say" and "tell". Some examples are - whisper, yell, scream, confess, mumble, and stutter.

Make sure that you understand this English grammar well. It is important to know if you want to speak English fluently.