Direct Indirect speech.

Average: 3.2 (40 votes)

This blog looks at direct and indirect speech.

                                                  DIRECT- INDIRECT SPEECH

Look at the following two sentences:

John said, “I am unwell now”. -   Sentence [1].

John said that he was unwell then. - Sentence [2].

Sentence [1] is said to be in Direct speech and sentence [2] in Indirect speech.

We can see that there is no change in meaning, but there is a change in form.

First, the inverted commas have been removed.

Second, the pronoun `I` in sentence [1] has been changed from I st person to 3 rd person.

Third, the auxiliary verb `am` which is in the simple present tense, in sentence [1] has been changed to

`was` which is in the simple past tense.

Fourth, the adverb `now` has been changed to `then`, i.e.; a word showing closeness in time is changed to a word showing distance.

The word `that` has been added after the reporting verb `said`.


So, we change the person of the pronoun and the tense of the verb and the adverb when we change from Direct to Indirect.


What do we mean by “Person” of a pronoun?

We know that there are three person[s] where a pronoun is concerned. They are the 1st person, the 2nd person and the 3rd person.

The definition of the 1st person is `Person speaking`.

The definition of 2nd person is `Person spoken to`.

The definition of 3rd person is `Person spoken of/ about`.

Why can’t we have a 4th Person?

It is because in a conversation there can only be a `person speaking`, `a person spoken to` or a `person spoken of``.  There cannot be a fourth `person`.

Let us suppose that there are two people `A` and `B`. If A says to B “I want to go there”, he is the `person speaking` and he refers to himself as `I`, so `I` is the first person.

Suppose he asks B “Do you want to come?”, B is the `person spoken to` and he is being addressed as `you`, so `you` is the second person.

Suppose `A` leaves and `C` comes along and B tells C what A told him, saying, `He wanted to go there`. `A` is the `person spoken of` and so `He` is the third person.  

Person             Singular          Plural

 1st                          I                 We

 2nd                     You                You

 3rd                  He, She, It          They.

We will list the remaining pronouns according to their person:

Person         Singular               Plural               Accusative case

 1st                     me                    us

2nd                     you                   you

3rd                     him, her,           them


Person          Singular                     Plural               Possessive case [nominative and accusative]

1st                    my, mine             our, ours


2nd                   your, yours           your, yours   their, theirs

3rd                     his, his, her, hers

                         Its, its                           

Person                 Singular                                     Plural                Emphatic and Reflexive

1st                       myself                                       ourselves

2nd                       yourself                                     yourselves

3rd                        himself, herself                         themselves


So in sentence [1] above we change the pronoun from 1st person `I` to 3rd person `He`.


Auxiliary Verbs:

There are two forms of the auxiliary verb: the primary auxiliaries and the modal auxiliaries.

The primary auxiliaries are: `to be`- is, am, are, was and were.

`to do`- do, does and did.

`to have`- have, has and had.

The modal auxiliaries are: can   could, will  would, shall  should, may   might, must,  need and dare.

A regular verb like `sit` has the present tense form `sit` and the past tense form `sat`.

Just as a regular verb has these two forms, the auxiliaries also have two forms.

The present tense forms of `to be` are: is, am and are.

The past tense forms are: was, were.


We can compare two sentences to find out the `tense` of an auxiliary verb

Form simple sentences using the auxiliaries:

{1}I am here, and

{2}I was here.

We see that the second sentence is in the past tense and the first sentence is in the present tense.

Similarly, by forming simple sentences, we can find out the tense of any of the auxiliaries.


So, we change from the present tense to the past tense when changing to Indirect speech in sentence [2] above.




Adverbs are words showing `where` and `when` something happened. Some adverbs are `here` which is changes to `there`, `today` which becomes `that day`, `tomorrow` which becomes `the next day` and so on.


In short, we change the pronouns, the verbs and the adverbs when we change from Direct to Indirect speech.

 Interrogative sentences:

Look at the following question:


He said,” Are you here?”


In this sentence, the auxiliary verb `are` comes first and then the subject `you`.

When we change the sentence into Indirect speech the positions of subject and verb are interchanged, as in:

He asked whether he was there.


Once again the pronoun is changed to third person and the verb is changed to the past tense.

The reporting verb can be asked or inquired to name but two.

The word `whether` is placed after the reporting verb. It can also be replaced with its equivalent `if`.


Exclamatory and Imperative sentences:


An exclamatory sentence shows strong emotion. A reporting verb for an exclamatory sentence can be `exclaimed`. For an Imperative sentence which shows a command or a request, the reporting verbs can be `ordered`, `requested` etc. Often the subject is implied in Imperative sentences:

“Sit!” said the teacher to the students. Here the subject is: [You] Sit. So the sentences in Indirect becomes, The teacher told them to sit.


So, let us look at some sentences which are changed into Indirect speech

using the above rules:


You’re going to write, aren’t you? ` asked Sophia.

`Is that nothing? I’ve promised myself that you’re going to write your stories and become famous. And while you’re writing, I’ll stand behind you and read over your shoulder.” he said to her.


Sophia asked whether he was going to write. He asked her if that was nothing? He had promised himself that she was going to write her stories and become famous. And while she was writing, he would stand behind her and read over her shoulder








Add new comment

Log in or register to post comments