Direct and indirect speech exercises There are many occasions in which we need to describe an event or action that happened, and very often that includes repeating what someone said. Such occasions can include a social situation as well as in a work email or presentation. In order to describe what people said there are two different types of speech – direct speech and indirect speech (or reported speech). Read on to find out more about these forms and improve your English storytelling skills. Direct Speech When we want to describe what someone said, one option is to use direct speech. We use direct speech when we simply repeat what someone says, putting the phrase between speech marks:
Paul came in and said, “I’m really hungry.”
It is very common to see direct speech used in books or in a newspaper article. For example:
The local MP said, “We plan to make this city a safer place for everyone.”
As you can see, with direct speech it is common to use the verb ‘to say’ (‘said’ in the past). But you can also find other verbs used to indicate direct speech such as ‘ask’, ‘reply’, and ‘shout’. For example:
She replied, “No, I haven’t seen him since lunchtime.”
The boss was angry and shouted, “Why isn’t he here? He hasn’t finished that report yet!”
Indirect Speech When we want to report what someone said without speech marks and without necessarily using exactly the same words, we can use indirect speech (also called reported speech). For example:
Direct speech: “We’re quite cold in here.”
Indirect speech: They say (that) they’re cold.
When we report what someone says in the present simple, as in the above sentence, we normally don’t change the tense, we simply change the subject. However, when we report things in the past, we usually change the tense by moving it one step back. For example, in the following sentence the present simple becomes the past simple in indirect speech:
Direct speech: “I have a new car.”
Indirect speech: He said he had a new car.
All the other tenses follow a similar change in indirect speech. Here is an example for all the main tenses:
The same rule of moving the tenses one step back also applies to modal verbs. For example: