Direct and indirect speech

There are two main ways of reporting people’s thoughts, words, beliefs etc.

Direct speech

We can repeat or quote the exact words spoken. This kind of reporting is called direct speech.

  • She said, „I am going.”
  • „The soup is too hot!” cried little Einstein.
  • He said, „I want to go home.”
Indirect (reported) speech

We can make a speaker’s words or thoughts part of our sentence, using conjunctions (e.g. that) and changing pronouns, tenses and other words when necessary. This kind of reporting is called indirect speech or reported speech.

Compare:

  • She said, „I might bring a friend to the party.” (Direct speech)
  • She said that she might bring a friend to the party. (Indirect speech)
  • Bill said, „I don’t like this party.” (Direct speech)
  • Bill said that he didn’t like the party. (Indirect speech)
Rules for indirect speech

There are some grammatical differences between direct and indirect speech. These changes are mostly natural and logical, and it is not necessary to learn complicated rules about indirect speech in English.

Compare:

  • John (on Saturday evening): I don’t like this party. I want to go home now.
  • Peter (on Sunday morning): John said that he didn’t like the party, and he wanted to go home right away.
Dropping that

The conjunction that is often dropped, especially after common reporting verbs (e.g. say, think) in informal speech.

  • She said (that) she has had enough.
  • I think (that) you are probably right.

That cannot be dropped after certain verbs (e.g. reply, telegraph, shout).

  • She shouted that she was busy. (NOT She shouted she was busy.)
  • I replied that I was not coming. (NOT I replied I was not coming.)

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