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Did She Really Say That?! 

Lesson Topic: Quoted Speech and Reported Speech

Let’s say you and your friend, Rebecca, are eating dinner at a restaurant on Saturday night.  Rebecca tells you all about her boyfriend Joshua.  She tells you what Joshua told her on Friday.  She can say it in two ways. 

The first way is called “quoted speech.”  Quoted speech is EXACTLY what the person said.  Here is an example:

Joshua said, “I need to take a taxi.”

According to the above sentence, Joshua said EXACTLY those words. 

The other way of repeating what a person says is called “reported speech.”  Reported speech is NOT EXACTLY what the person said.  It is like a summary or paraphrase of what the speaker said.  Take a look at the following example:

Joshua said that he needed to take a taxi.

This is NOT EXACTLY what Joshua said.

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Here is another example:

Quoted Speech (EXACT) Reported Speech (NOT EXACT)
Joshua said, "I love eating chocolate ice cream after dinner." Joshua said that he loved eating chocolate ice cream after dinner.

How are quoted speech and reported speech different?  There are 5 things that are different:

  1. Quoted speech has quotation marks; reported speech does not use quotation marks.

  2. In reported speech, the pronoun often changes.  For example, in the above sentence with quoted speech the pronoun I is used, whereas the sentence with reported speech uses the pronoun he.

  3. In reported speech, the word that is often used after said, but that is optional.

  4. Quoted speech is exactly what the person said. 

  5. The verb in reported speech is changed to the past; some modal verbs do not change.  There are rules to follow when changing the verb.  Please see the chart below.

Quoted Speech (EXACT) Reported Speech (NOT EXACT)  
Jordan said, "I cook rice every day." Jordan said that she cooked rice every day.
Jordan said, "I am cooking rice." Jordan said that she was cooking rice.
Jordan said, "I cooked rice." Jordan said that she had cooked rice.

Note: The past tenses all use had + past participle.  To see a list of irregular past participles, click here.

Jordan said, "I have cooked rice." Jordan said that she had cooked rice.
Jordan said, "I had cooked rice." Jordan said that she had cooked rice.
Jordan said, "I will cook rice." Jordan said that she would cook rice.  
Jordan said, "I am going to cook rice." Jordan said that she was going to cook rice.
Jordan said, "I can cook rice." Jordan said that she could cook rice.
Jordan said, "I may cook rice." Jordan said that she might cook rice.
Jordan said, "I must cook rice." Jordan said that she had to cook rice.
Jordan said, "I have to cook rice." Jordan said that she had to cook rice.
Jordan said, "I should cook rice." Jordan said that she should cook rice.

Note: These modals do not change when used in reported speech.

Jordan said, "I ought to cook rice." Jordan said that she ought to cook rice.
Jordan said, "I might cook rice." Jordan said that she might cook rice.
Jordan says, "I cook rice every day." Jordan says that she cooks rice every day."

Note: When you use the words say, has said, or will say (not said), the verb tense remains the same for both the quoted speech and reported speech.

Jordan has said, "I cook rice every day." Jordan has said that she cooks rice every day."
Jordan will say, "I cook rice every day." Jordan will say that she cooks rice every day."
Jordan said, "Cook rice." Jordan told me to cook rice.

Note: For commands, use the word told instead of said, and use an infinitive for the main verb.

 

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Quiz  

The following sentences use quoted speech.  Change the following sentences from quoted speech to reported speech.  Then see below to get the answers and the explanations.

1.) James said, “I am watching TV.”

___________________________________________________

2.) Professor Jones said, “I worked all day!”

___________________________________________________

3.) The president said, “I will be visiting Italy in December.”

___________________________________________________

4.) The weatherman announced, “It may rain today.”

___________________________________________________

5.) My father screamed, “I have to go to the airport, now!”

___________________________________________________

6.) Then my mother said, “I must take your father.”

___________________________________________________

7.) The psychologist said, “You should calm down.”

___________________________________________________

8.) I responded, “I ought to leave the office.”

___________________________________________________

9.) Mark said, “I love visiting China and Korea.”

___________________________________________________

10.) Martin said, “I can be a great president! Really!”

___________________________________________________

11.) Sung-Hee said, “Close the windows”

___________________________________________________

12.) Bobby will say, “I have already done my homework.”

___________________________________________________

 

 

1.) James said, “I am watching TV.”

Answer: James said that he was watching TV.

Explanation: The only verb that changes here is the verb am.  The past tense of am is was.  Notice also that I becomes he which is the appropriate pronoun referring to James.  Lastly, the that is always optional in reported speech.  You may use that that if you want to, but it is not necessary.

2.) Professor Jones said, “I worked all day!”

Answer: Professor Jones said he had worked all day.

Explanation: The word worked is already in the past.  Therefore, you must put the word in the past past which is called the past perfect (in English grammar, the word perfect means past).  The past past (or past perfect) of worked is had worked.

3.) The president said, “I will be visiting Italy in December.”

Answer: The president said that he would be visiting Italy in December.

Explanation: This sentence has a modal—the word will.  Will is the word that changes: the past tense of will is would.  Note: Some modals don’t change at all while other modals completely change.  See below.

4.) The weatherman announced, “It may rain today.”

Answer: The weatherman announced that it might rain. 

Explanation: Again, this sentence has a modal—may.  May is a modal that completely changes.  May becomes might.

5.) My father screamed, “I have to go to the airport, now!”

Answer: My father screamed that he had to go to the airport.

Explanation: The verb here is have which becomes had.  Notice that you can use words other than said, but NOT all words can be used with reported speech.  To learn other words for say, click here.

6.) Then my mother said, “I must take your father.”

Answer: Then my mother said she had to take my father.

Explanation: There is another modal in this sentence which is must.  Since must does NOT have a past tense, just change must to had to.  Notice how your appropriately changes to my to make the sentence logically correct.  Your changes to my because the son or daughter is obviously talking about his or her father.

7.) The psychologist said, “You should calm down.”                                                                 

Answer: The psychologist said that I should calm down.

Explanation:  Should has no past tense and does NOT change. 

8.) I responded, “I ought to leave the office.”

Answer: I responded that I ought to leave the office.

Explanation:  Ought to means should. Ought to does NOT change.

9.) Mark said, “I love visiting China and Korea.”

Answer: Mark said he loved visiting China and Korea.

Explanation: The verb love simply is put in the simple past tense which is loved.

10.) Martin said, “I can be a great president! Really!”

Answer: Martin said that he could be a great president.

Explanation: Can is a modal.  The past tense of can is could.  Use the word could.  Notice that the quoted speech has the word really at the end.  In the reported speech it is not there.  Reported speech is NOT exactly what the speaker says but rather a summary or paraphrase.

11.) Sung-Hee said, “Close the windows”  

Answer: Sung-Hee told me to close the windows

Explanation:  Because the above quote is a command, said is changed to told and the verb is put in the infinitive (close is changed to to close). 

12.) Bobby will say, “I have already done my homework.”

Answer: Bobby will say that he has already done his homework.”

Explanation: Because this sentence used will say (not just say or said), the verb tense in this quote, which is the present perfect, does not change.

Rules to Remember!

1

There are no quotation marks (“”) in reported speech.

2

In reported speech, you may use the word that after the word said, but it is optional.

3 The grammar learned here for reported speech is for statements but NOT FOR QUESTIONS.  The grammar for questions in reported speech is different and will be learned in a future MyEnglishTeacher.net English lesson.
4 Quoted speech is exactly what the person said, so be careful not to misquote the person.  Reported speech is NOT exactly what the person said, so you can change some words to make the sentence appropriate and logically correct.  Be careful NOT to change the meaning.
5 To see a list of irregular past tense verbs and past participles, click here.
6 To see more information about quotation marks, click here.

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