How to confidently use reported speech in English

Learning Jan 08, 2023

Learning English can sometimes be a bit of a challenge. There are different rules that apply to different things such as grammar, spelling, tenses, etc. 

One of the most important things you learn when learning English is how to use reported speech. Let’s find out what reported speech is and how to properly use it.

What is reported speech?

Reported speech, more popularly known as indirect speech, is when you tell someone about something that someone else said. It is used to refer to something that was already said in the past.

How to use reported speech

Reported speech is used to report statements. However, there are some important rules you need to remember. 

Many English learners have a hard time learning English because they do not know what these rules regarding grammar are

One of these rules which is important to remember is that when reporting statements, we shift the tense in which it is being said, into the past. This is called backshifting

A good example sentence is:

I’m not interested,” said Hannah. If you want to use report this statement, then you need to shift what was said into the past. 

For example; Hannah said that she wasn’t interested.

Another important rule to remember is that the pronoun is repeated.

For example, “I’m not sick,” said Jacob. The pronoun I’m changes: Jacob said he isn’t sick.

When reporting statements, we use a verb in the past tense. This is called a reporting verb such as told or said

For example, Cory said he can’t come. Or Sarah told me what really happened.

Reported speech tense

It is important to note that sometimes the tense does not need to be changed because we are reporting something that is seen as true, meaning it is a known general fact. 

An example of this is, “The earth spins on its axis,” said the student. 

When reporting this statement, it will look like this: The student said the earth spins on its axis.

Did you know that you can use reported speech to report your own statements! For example, “I’m very nervous.” I said I was very nervous.

Punctuation rules for reported speech

When reporting something that was said you don’t use quotation marks (“”). We also don’t put a comma (,) after what was said.

For example: “I might go out tonight,” said Jenna. This sentence will be changed to: Jenna said she might go out tonight.

How to use this, that, these, and those in reported speech

We use this when talking about something you can see at the very moment. For example, “I like this hat”. If this sentence is written in reported speech, then we can still use this as long as you can currently see the object. John said he liked this hat.

However, if you cannot see the object someone is referring to or talking about, this will change to that. An example of this would be, John said he liked that hat.

The same rule can be applied to these and those. When we can see the object, the person is talking about then we use these. For example, “These shoes are mine”. If we can see the shoes, then we can use these in the reported form: Dennis said these shoes are his.

However, if we cannot see the object, the shoes for example, then we use those. For example, Dennis said those shoes are his.

This lesson is about reported speech in English - it will help you to tell, explain and say what someone else said & help you speak clearly and accurately in English 

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