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3. Changing Direct Speech to Indirect Speech

When we change direct to indirect speech, we usually change the tense of the verbs from the present forms to the past forms. The pronouns are affected too.

Tense of the verbs from the present forms to the past forms.

Simple present  Simple past
"I am homesick." She told me that she was homesick.
   
Present continuous Past continuous
"I am enjoying myself." He told us he was enjoying himself.
   
Present perfect Past perfect
"I have taken many photos." She said that she had taken many photos.
   
Present perfect continuous. Past perfect continuous
"I have been having a wonderful time." He said that he had been having a wonderful time.

 

 

Simple past Past perfect
"I ate the whole piece." He said that he had eaten the whole piece.
   
Past continuous Past perfect continuous
"I was dreaming about you." She told him she had been dreaming about him.
   
Simple future Future in the past
"I shall never forget you." He told me that he would never forget me.

 

Pronouns from first and second persons to third person. 

Direct speech - first/second person Indirect speech - third person
"I have cut my finger." He said that he had cut his finger.
"You have to get ready to leave." He told them that they had to get ready to leave.

 

Sometimes, the direct speech that we want to report comes in more than one sentence. 
  • Direct: “Don’t fight with your sister,” my mother said. “Get on with your school homework.”
    Indirect: My mother told me not to fight with my sister and to get on with my school homework.
  • Direct: “Be quiet. I’m watching television.”
    Indirect: She told us to be quiet while she was watching television.

 

In most cases, when the reporting verb is in the present or future tense, we do not change the tenses of the verbs in the indirect speech. 
  • Direct: “I’m tired,” she says almost every evening. (simple present)
    Indirect: Almost every evening, she says (that) she is tired.
  • Direct: “They are late again,” she has already told us. (present perfect)
    Indirect: She has already told us (that) they are late again.
  • Direct:will tell him, “The shop closes at 5.30. (simple future)
    Indirect:will tell him (that) the shop closes at 5.30.

 

If in direct speech, a statement is always true or an action is still continuing, we do not change the tense when converting it into indirect speech as a change of tense might give the wrong meaning.
  • Direct: He told us, “The Earth is round.”
    Indirect: He told us that the Earth is round.
  • Direct: She said, “My brother is living in Australia.”
    Indirect: She said that her brother is living in Australia. (She said that her brother was living in Australia would indicate that her brother is no longer living in Australia which is not true.)