Direct and indirect speech exercises | Rules for Direct and Indirect Speech

Direct and indirect speech exercises | Rules for Direct and Indirect Speech

In this article, we the team Live learns team cover important rules of direct and indirect speech, relevant for the English Language section of various types of competitive exams. 

Read on this to find out more about these forms and improve your English storytelling skills.

There are many occasions in which we need to describe an event or action that happened, and very often that includes repeating what someone said. Such occasions can include a social situation as well as in a work email telecom or presentation. In order to describe what people said there are two different types of speech – direct speech and indirect speech (or reported speech).

First study the following sentences:

  1. Mohan said,”I am working hard for the examination.”
  2. Mohan said that he was working hard for the examination.
    In the first sentence, the actual words of the speaker are quoted. This is called Direct speech.
    In the second sentence, we give the substance of what the speaker said without quoting the exact words. This is called indirect (reported) speech.

direct and indirect speech rules

Rule 1

If the reporting verb is a past tense, the tense of the verb in the reported speech must be changed into past tense.
Ex_ Direct: He said,”Ram shall come.”
Indirect: He said that Ram should come.

  • The simple past tense is often but, but not always, changed to the past perfect.
    Direct: Ali said,”I drank water after the meal”.
    Indirect: Ali said that he drank water after the meal.
    Direct: He said,”rain fell last night.”
    Indirect: He said that rain had fallen last night.
  • The past continuous tense must be changed into past perfect continuous tense.
    Direct: He said,”Sita was dancing.”
    Indirect: He said that sita has been dancing.

Rule 2

If the reporting verb is a present or future tense, the tense of the verb in the reported speech is not changed at all.
Ex_Direct:The servent says,”the tea is ready.”
Indirect: The servent says that tea is ready.
Direct: The teacher will say,”the boy was dull.”
Indirect: The teacher will say that the boy was dull.

Rule 3

Pronouns and possessive adjectives, of the first and second person in direct speech, are changed into third in indirect speech.
Ex_ Direct: Ram said,”I am ill.”
Indirect: Ram said that he was ill.
Direct: Ali said to the beggar,”I know you.”
Indirect: Ali told to the beggar that he knew him.

Rule 4

In the reported speech the word expressing ‘nearness’ are changed into words expressing ‘distance’.
Direct: The teacher said,”I am busy now.”
Indirect: The teacher said that he was busy then.
Direct: He said,” it may rain tomorrow.”
Indirect: He said that it might rain the next day.

Rule 5

Statements in the indirect speech are generally introduced by the conjunction that.
Direct: You said to me,” I don’t think I can oblige you again in this way.”
Indirect: You told me that you didn’t think you could oblige me again in that way.
Direct: The teacher said to us,”you are dull and lazy.”
Indirect: The teacher told us that we are dull and lazy.

Rule 6

In reporting a question in the indirect speech_

  • The introductory verb is changed to asked, inquired, demanded, etc.
  • Whether or if is used after such introductory verb whenever the direct question admits of one of two answers (yes or no).
  • The note of interrogation which is placed after questions in the direct form is not placed after questions in the indirect form.
    Direct: He said to me,”do you know the way?”
    Indirect: He inquired of me if I knew the way.
    Direct: He said to me,”Do you play football.”
    Indirect: He asked me whether I played football.

Rule 7

In reporting a command or request in the indirect speech:

  • The introductory verb is changed into request, beg, implore, entreat, order, command, advise, etc.
    *The verb in the reported speech is put in the infinitive.
    Direct: He said to me,”Give me your pencil.”
    Indirect: He asked me to give him my pencil.
    Direct: He said to the servent,”Leave my house at once.”
    Indirect: He ordered his servant to leave his house at once.

Rule 8

When ‘let’ in the direct speech expresses a proposal or suggestion, we may use should and change the reporting verb into propose or suggest.
Direct: She said to us,”Let us have some music.”
Indirect: She proposed to us that we should have some music.

Rule 9

In reporting a wish or exclamation in the indirect speech:

  • The introductory verb is changed into wish, bless, pray, cry, exclaim, declare etc.
  • The interjection and exclamation such as oh, well, hurrah, alas, are omitted and their sense is expressed by means of phrases.
    Direct: “What a terrible storm it is”, he said.
    Indirect: He exclaimed that it was a terrible storm.

Direct: She said, “Alas! how foolish I have been.”
Indirect: She confessed with regret that she had been very foolish.

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