Direct And Indirect Speech: Grammar Lesson

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Lesson Overview

Lesson Overview

  1. Learning Objectives
  2. Introduction to Direct and Indirect Speech
  3. What is Speech?
  4. How to Convert Direct Speech to Indirect Speech 
  5. How to Convert Indirect Speech to Direct Speech
  6. Exercise 1: Conversion of Direct Speech To Indirect Speech
  7. Exercise 2: Conversion of Indirect Speech To Direct Speech

Introduction to Speech: Direct and Indirect

Step into the world of storytelling with direct and indirect speech! Speech is a powerful tool that allows us to share our thoughts, ideas, and emotions with others. In this lesson, we will explore how people use speech to communicate exactly what someone else has said or to put it into their own words. We will learn how to switch between quoting someone directly and summarizing what they've said. Through practical exercises, we will practice these skills by converting sentences from one form to another, enhancing our ability to communicate effectively in both writing and speaking. Let's dive in and learn how to use speech to make our conversations, communication skills and stories more engaging!

What is Speech?

Speech refers to the act of talking or verbal communication. It involves expressing thoughts, feelings, or information through spoken words. Speech can occur between two people, within a group, or even to an audience. It is the primary method humans use to communicate with one another, enabling the exchange of ideas and the building of relationships. Speech varies in formality, tone, and purpose, ranging from casual conversations to formal presentations.

There are two main types of speech: direct and indirect.

Direct Speech: Direct speech involves quoting the exact words spoken by someone, indicated by quotation marks. This form preserves the original phrasing and tone as it was uttered.

For example:

  • She said, "I am going to the market."
  • The teacher asked, "Did you complete your homework?"
  • "It's raining outside," he observed.
  • "We won the game!" exclaimed the team captain.
  • The doctor advised, "Take these pills twice a day."

Indirect Speech: Indirect speech is a way of reporting what someone said without quoting their exact words. It involves paraphrasing the original speech and often requires changes in tense, pronouns, and time expressions.

For example:

  • She said that she was going to the market.
  • The teacher asked if they had completed their homework.
  • He observed that it was raining outside.
  • The team captain announced that they had won the game.
  • The doctor advised taking the pills twice a day.

Take this quiz on Direct and Indirect Speech

How to Convert Direct Speech to Indirect Speech?

Converting direct speech to indirect speech involves changing the exact words of the speaker into a report of what they said. Here are key rules and examples to understand this process:

Rule 1: Omission of Quotation Marks

Quotation marks are used in direct speech to denote the exact words spoken. In indirect speech, these are removed, and the sentence is typically introduced by a conjunction like 'that', although it can be omitted if the sentence remains clear without it.

Direct: Jane said, "It is hot today."
Indirect: Jane said that it was hot that day.

Rule 2: Change in Pronouns

Pronouns in direct speech are expressed from the speaker's viewpoint, but when converting to indirect speech, they should be adjusted to align with the perspective of the person reporting the speech.

Direct: He said, "I am busy now.
Indirect: He said that he was busy then.

Rule 3: Change in Tense

When shifting from direct to indirect speech, the verb tense usually moves one step back in time. This means present tenses change to their past forms to reflect that the action was ongoing or completed in the past.

Present Simple to Past Simple
Expresses a shift from a general truth or current action to a statement in the past.

Direct: He says, "I eat breakfast."
Indirect: He said that he ate breakfast.

Present Continuous to Past Continuous
Indicates that an ongoing action in the present was happening in the past.

Direct: She says, "I am reading a book."
Indirect: She said that she was reading a book.

Present Perfect to Past Perfect
Shows that an action completed at some point in the past was completed before another time in the past.

Direct: They say, "We have finished our homework."
Indirect: They said that they had finished their homework.

Simple Past to Past Perfect
Used to backshift actions that were completed before another past action.

Direct: He said, "I bought a car."
Indirect: He said that he had bought a car.

Will to Would

Future statements or predictions are often shifted to their past form.

Direct: She says, "I will visit Paris."
Indirect: She said that she would visit Paris.

Can to Could

Ability or possibility is expressed as being relevant to a past time.

Direct: They say, "We can speak Spanish."
Indirect: They said that they could speak Spanish.

Must to Had to (for necessity)

When indicating obligation in indirect speech, "had to" or "must" can be used to convey the necessity.

Direct: "I must review these documents before the meeting," she said.
Indirect: She said that she had to review the documents before the meeting.
Indirect: She said that she must review the documents before the meeting.

Rule 4: Change in Time and Place Words

Temporal and locative expressions are adjusted to suit the time and place from the perspective of the reporter, not the original speaker, to ensure the context remains clear and logical.

Direct: "I will go tomorrow," he said.
Indirect: He said that he would go the next day.

Rule 5: Questions, Commands, and Exclamations

When you turn questions into reported speech, you change the question format into a normal statement and usually add helping verbs. Commands in reported speech need to begin with "to" followed by the main verb. For expressing strong feelings or exclamations, use "that" to start the reported speech. This way, the original meaning is kept while the structure is adjusted for reporting.

Direct (Question): He asked, "Where are you?"
Indirect (Question): He asked where she was.
Direct (Command): The officer said, "Leave the room!"
Indirect (Command): The officer ordered them to leave the room.
Direct (Exclamation): She said, "What a beautiful flower!"
Indirect (Exclamation): She exclaimed that it was a beautiful flower.

How to Convert Indirect Speech to Direct Speech?

Converting indirect speech to direct speech involves rephrasing reported speech back into the speaker�s original words. Here are key rules and examples to facilitate this process:

Rule 1: Insertion of Quotation Marks

Remove conjunctions like 'that' and reintroduce quotation marks to denote the speaker�s exact words.

Indirect: John noted that it was extremely hot outside.
Direct: John said, "It is extremely hot outside."

Rule 2: Revert Pronouns

In indirect speech, pronouns are used based on the viewpoint of the person reporting the speech. When changing indirect speech back to direct speech, these pronouns need to be adjusted to match the perspective of the original speaker.

Indirect: She mentioned that she could attend the meeting.
Direct: She said, "I can attend the meeting."

Rule 3: Revert Tense Changes

Verb tenses in indirect speech are usually shifted forward to their original form as used by the speaker in direct speech.

Past Simple to Present Simple

Reverts a past statement to a general truth or current action.

Indirect: He mentioned that he played soccer.
Direct: He said, "I play soccer."

Past Continuous to Present Continuous

Indicates reverting a past ongoing action to a current ongoing action.

Indirect: They were saying that they were studying for exams.
Direct: They said, "We are studying for exams."

Past Perfect to Present Perfect

Changes a completed action referenced in the past back to its present perfect form.

Indirect: He said that he had completed the report.
Direct: He said, "I have completed the report."

Past Perfect to Simple Past

Used to indicate a past action that was completed.

Indirect: She explained that she had visited London the previous year.
Direct: She said, "I visited London last year."

Would to Will, Could to Can, Had to to Must

Future predictions or abilities shift back to their original modal forms.

Indirect: She said that she would visit Paris.
Direct: She says, "I will visit Paris."
Indirect: She said that she could help with the project.
Direct: She said, "I can help with the project."
Indirect: She said that she had to finish the report by Friday.
Direct: "I have to finish the report by Friday," she said.
Indirect: She said that she must finish the report by Friday.
Direct: "I must finish the report by Friday," she said.

Rule 4: Revert Changes in Time and Place Words

Expressions of time and place are modified back to their original terms as stated by the speaker.

Indirect: The teacher mentioned that the exam would be the following week.
Direct: The teacher said, "The exam is next week."

Rule 5: Reformat Questions, Commands, and Exclamations

Convert the reported forms of questions, commands, and exclamations back into their original direct speech structures.

Indirect (Question): She asked if I had been to the new cafe.
Direct (Question): She asked, "Have you been to the new cafe?"
Indirect (Command): The coach demanded that the players start practicing at 6 AM.
Direct (Command): The coach said, "Start practicing at 6 AM."
Indirect (Exclamation): They exclaimed that it was an amazing performance.
Direct (Exclamation): They said, "That was an amazing performance!"

Exercise 1: Rewrite the following sentences from direct to indirect speech

Direct: "I can solve this math problem," said John.
John said that he could solve that math problem.

Direct: "We are going to the beach this weekend," they announced.
They announced that they were going to the beach that weekend.

Direct: "She must apply before Friday," the counselor advised.
The counselor advised that she had to apply before Friday.

Direct: "I am meeting my friends tonight," he told her.
He told her that he was meeting his friends that night.

Direct: "You should start preparing for your exams now," the teacher said.
The teacher said that they should start preparing for their exams then.

Exercise 2: Rewrite the following sentences from indirect to direct speech

Indirect: Maria said that she would be visiting her parents the following week.
Maria said, "I will be visiting my parents next week."

Indirect: The manager explained that the meeting had been rescheduled to Monday.
The manager said, "The meeting has been rescheduled to Monday."

Indirect: He thought that he might go to the cinema later that evening.
He thought, "I might go to the cinema later this evening."

Indirect: She mentioned that she had seen that movie the previous day.
She mentioned, "I saw that movie yesterday."

Indirect: They were informed that the concert would start at nine o'clock.
They were informed, "The concert will start at nine o'clock."


Congratulations on completing the journey through direct and indirect speech! In this lesson, we have explored the fascinating aspects of direct and indirect speech. We learned how to accurately quote someone using direct speech and how to rephrase their words in indirect speech while maintaining the original meaning. Through various exercises, we practiced converting statements from direct to indirect speech and vice versa, sharpening our understanding of how to handle pronouns, verb tenses, and expressions of time and place.

These skills are vital for effective communication, allowing us to share stories and information more clearly and engagingly. We encourage everyone to continue practicing these techniques to become more proficient and confident in using direct and indirect speech in daily conversations and writing.

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