Direct and indirect speech can be a source of confusion for English learners. Let’s first define the terms, then look at how to talk about what someone said, and how to convert speech from direct to indirect or vice-versa.
The exact words that someone says are called direct speech. Quotation marks “ ” are used to set off direct speech.
Mom said, “Where are my keys?”
“This ice cream is delicious,” said Tom.
“Have you boys washed your hands?” asked Dad.
“Please get out of the car,” the police officer ordered.
“What a beautiful dress!” said Sally.
You can report what someone says without using their exact words. To do this, use a verb like say, ask or tell, followed by that. This is called indirect speech.
There are several differences between a sentence with direct speech and a sentence with indirect speech.
You don’t use quotation marks with indirect speech.
You change the tense of the verb.
You change the pronouns and determiners.
Here are some examples. The verb tenses that change are printed in bold and the pronouns and determiners that change are printed in color. Remember that the past tense of can is could and the past tense of will is would.
Maggie said, “I feel ill.”
Sumiko said, “It’s time to leave.”
“I can’t find my book,” said Alice.
“John is hitting me,” said Peter.
Dad said, “I haven’t had my breakfast yet.”
“My car won’t start,” said Mom.
Maggie said that she felt ill.
Sumiko said that it was time to leave.
Alice said that she couldn’t find her book.
Peter said that John was hitting him.
Dad said that he hadn’t had his breakfast yet.
Mom said that her car wouldn’t start.