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Jane Mairs, Director of English language Learning Publishing
Reported speech
Tuesday May 10th 2011
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Reported speech
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Weltall asked a question about reported speech. Here is a simple introduction to reported speech, which is sometimes called "indirect speech":

 

Reported speech refers to when A says something to B, and B tells C what A said, without repeating A's exact words. Here is an example:

1. Original statement (Eddie speaking): I have a bad toothache, and I am going to the dentist.

Reported speech: Eddie said he had a bad toothache, and he was going to the dentist.

The trickiest part of reported speech is using the correct verb tense. If the original statement was in the present tense, and the situation has changed, the verb(s) in reported speech shifts to the past tense, as in the example above.

But if the situation hasn't changed, or if the original statement was already in the past tense, then it is not necessary to shift the verb tense, as in these examples:

2. Original statement (Eddie speaking) I have a bad toothache, and I am going to the dentist.

Reported speech: Eddie said he has a bad toothache, and he is going to the dentist. (Eddie hasn't gone to the dentist yet, so the situation hasn't changed.)

 

3. Original statement (science teacher speaking): You're going to fail the test if you don't study.

Reported speech (student speaking): My science teacher said that I'm going to fail the test if I don't study. (The student still hasn't studied, so the situation hasn't changed.)

 

4. Original statement (Carlos speaking): I finished my research paper.

Reported speech: Carlos said that he finished his research paper. (The original statement and the reported speech are both in past tense.)

Note that for example 3 above, if the situation has changed, because the student has already studied or has taken the test, the verbs in reported speech should shift to the past tense:

5. Original statement (science teacher speaking): You're going to fail the test if you don't study.

Reported speech (student speaking): My science teacher said that I was going to fail the test if I didn't study.

 

 

Further discussion of verb tense in reported speech will come in another posting...

 

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