When we learn a new language, we discover little by little all of the grammar rules, the nuances, and the meanings that correspond with our mother tongue. In English, the indirect style is known as reported speech and is just one of the nuances of the language you should know.
In this article, we will give you a brief explanation of the indirect style as well as some practice exercises. Remember, practice makes perfect! So be prepared to learn the rules and to also do the exercises.
What Is Reported Speech?
Reported speech is a way of speaking in which you say what other people have said earlier. For example, if your boss gives you instructions and asks you to communicate them to your co-workers, you would say something like, “Mario said that the semi-annual reports should be completed by Thursday.”
In English, reported speech has specific rules according to the verb tense in the original message. Next, we will explain the grammatical structure of the indirect style of English.
The Structure of Reported Speech
To repeat what others have told us, we need a pretty basic structure:
- When the base sentence is in the present, we change the verbs to the past:
Sandra said, “Mike has to work all week.”
Sandra said that Mike had to work all week.
- When the base sentence is in the past, we change the verbs to the present:
Sandra said, “Water boils at 100 degrees.”
Sandra says water boils at 100 degrees.
And that is how simple putting together the indirect or reported speech is. Of course, it is necessary to know how the verb tense in the original message corresponds to the verb tense in the indirect style. Here is a list of the changes in verb tenses to help you out:
The present simple changes to the past simple.
The present continuous changes to the past continuous.
The past simple changes to the past perfect.
The past continuous changes to the past perfect continuous.
The present perfect changes to the past perfect.
The future (will) changes to the conditional (would).
With the modal verbs, you must make the following changes:
Can changes to could.
Must changes to had to.
May changes to might.
Reported Speech Exercises
Now that you have a clearer idea about reported speech in English, put your skills to the test with these exercises. Convert each of the following sentences to the indirect style in English!
- “Our teacher will go to London tomorrow,” said Jenny.
- “Where are you playing soccer today?” asked Tom.
- “My aunt will celebrate her birthday next week,” Paul said to me.
- “Can you write that email for me?” asked Jessica.
- He asked, “Have you ever been to South Africa before?”
Reported Speech Exercise Solutions
That was easy, right? Now you can see the solutions to the reported speech exercise.
- Jenny said that our teacher would go to London tomorrow.
- Tom asked where we were playing soccer today.
- Paul told me that my aunt will celebrate her birthday next week.
- Jessica asked if I could write that email for her.
- He asked if we had ever been to South Africa.
To improve your English daily, it is important to pay close attention to the verb tenses and their rules. Try to apply them in context, both when you are doing grammar exercises and when you are speaking in English. At first, it may seem a bit complicated, but with enough practice, you will see yourself beginning to integrate what you are learning into your use of English. If you are interested in improving your English level, try our online English course. The ABA English course offers you 144 free video lessons and the same number of short films that will allow you to learn how to use the language in context without neglecting the grammar and communication skills you need so badly.