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How to Correctly Use Reported Speech in English

How to Correctly Use Reported Speech in English

Have you ever wanted to tell someone what somebody else said to you? Are you having trouble remembering how to use it correctly? Well, this article is for you! Read on for some straightforward tips and explanations about the reported speech in English.

What is Reported Speech?

It is common to report what someone has said, rather than quote them directly. This is called reported speech. Reported speech can be direct or indirect. Direct reported speech repeats the exact words that were spoken, while indirect reported speech changes some of the words and usually doesn’t include quotation marks.
For example, if someone says “I’m going to the store,” direct reported speech would repeat their exact words: “She said she was going to the store.” But if we use indirect reported speech, we might say something like “She said she needs to go to the store.”
Indirect reported speech often includes verbs like “tell,” “say,” “explain,” and “ask.” It can also include phrases like “according to,” and “as he put it.” Using these phrases helps to show that you are reporting what someone said, rather than quoting them directly.
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 Reported speech can be tricky to use correctly. But with a little practice, you’ll be using it like a native speaker in no time!

Reporting Verbs

There are three main reporting verbs that are used in English: say, tell, and ask. Each one of these has a different meaning and usage.
Say: Used to report someone’s exact words. This is the most common reporting verb.
Tell: Used to report someone’s instructions or news.
Ask: Used to report someone’s questions.
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Here are some examples of reported speech using each of these verbs:
John said, “I’m going to the store.”
John told me that he was going to the store.
John asked, “Where is the store?”
John asked me where the store was.

Example of Reported Speech

When we report someone else’s words, we usually change the tense of the verbs. This is because we are talking about something that happened in the past. For example, if someone says “I am going to the store,” we might report this by saying “She said she was going to the store.” We would not say “She said she goes to the store” because that would be in the present tense and would not be reporting what was said in the past.

Here are some more examples of reported speech:

Original statement: “I am hungry.”
Reported speech: She said she was hungry.
Original statement: “I will go to the store.”
Reported speech: He said he would go to the store.

When and Where to Use Reported Speech

There are two main situations when you need to use reported speech in English:
1. When you want to repeat what someone has said
2. When you want to report someone’s words as part of a conversation
Here are some tips on how to use reported speech correctly in each situation:
When repeating what someone has said:
1. Make sure to use the same verb tense as the original speaker.
If the person said “I am going to the store,” you would say “She said she was going to the store.”
2. Use pronouns and possessive adjectives that match the original speaker. 
For example, if a man says “My car is broken,” you would say “He said his car was broken.”
3. Don’t change the meaning of what the person said. 
For example, if someone says “I’m not hungry,” don’t say “She said she was hungry.”
When reporting someone’s words as part of a conversation:

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You can use either direct or indirect speech, depending on how formal or informal you want the conversation to sound.  For example, if two friends are talking about where they’re going for lunch, one friend might say directly to the other, “Let’s go to Joe’s Diner.” Or, she could report her words indirectly by saying, “She suggested that we go to Joe’s Diner.”


We hope you now have a better understanding of how to use reported speech in English. Remember, the main things to keep in mind are to change the tense of the verb and to shift the pronouns and time frame accordingly. If you can do those two things, then you’re well on your way to using reported speech correctly. Practice makes perfect, so try incorporating reported speech into your conversations today and see how it goes.

Thank you for reading!

This was written by me. Bryce Purnell, founder of Learn Laugh Speak.

Check out more on my Medium or send me an email if you’re ever curious about anything at all 



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