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Direct and Indirect Indirect Speech Rules for All Tenses


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Change in Tense In Reported Speech

The tense of the reported speech changed at the time when we are reporting what someone said or thought in the past. This change in tense of the reported speech because of the reporting verb that we usually put in the past tense (They asked, he said, he told me, they enquired, etc.), so the speech being reported must be changed as well. We use an appropriate tense that may be different from the one used in the original statement. The change in tense in the reported speech is called back shifting. For example 

Direct: Ahmad said, “I don’t know the way.”
Indirect: Ahmad said that he didn’t know the way.

In this example, the original statement “I don’t know the way” is in the Present Tense. In the reported speech, the tense of the original statement changed into the past tense.

Present Simple Becomes Past Simple

The reported speech is left in the present simple tense if the situation is still valid or it is back shifted to the simple past tense. Both are correct.

  • Direct: Our teacher said, “India is more extensive than Pakistan.”
  • Indirect: Our teacher said that India is more extensive than Pakistan. (This situation is still valid, so we don’t change the tense to the past simple)
  • Direct: Asama said to me, “I come to this park daily.”
  • Indirect: Asma told me that she came to that park daily.
  • Direct: Ali said, “I do not like potatoes.”
  • Indirect: Ali said that he didn’t like potatoes
  • Direct: My friend said, “I don’t like my new house.”
  • Indirect: My friend said that he didn’t like his new house.
  • Direct: His sister says, “I don’t waste my time.”
  • Indirect: His sister says that she doesn’t waste her time.

Present Continuous Becomes Past Continuous

The present continuous tense will be shifted back to the past continuous when the action happened sometime before it was reported.

  • Direct: Ahmad said, “I am watching TV now.”
  • Indirect: Ahmad said that he was watching TV then.
  • Direct: He said, “I am not working.”
  • Indirect: He said that he is not working.
  • Direct: ‘Ahmad and Saleem are looking at you.’
  • Indirect: He told me that Ahmad and Saleem were looking at me.
  • Direct: Abdul said, “I am bringing the book now.”
  • Indirect: Abdul said that he was bringing the book then. 

Present Perfect Becomes Past Perfect 

The present perfect can be either retained or back shift to the past perfect in the reported speech. It must be changed to past perfect when it is used in relation to another action in the past.

  • Direct: The children said, “I have seen him here.”
  • Indirect: The children said that they had seen him there.
  • Direct: I said, “He has not finished his work.”
  • Indirect: I said (that) he had not finished his work.
  • Direct: The girl said. “The police have caught the thief.”
  • Indirect: The girl said that the police had caught the thief.

Present Perfect Continuous Becomes Past Perfect Continuous 

  • Direct: Usman said, “I have been studying since morning.”
  • Indirect: Usman said that he had been studying since morning.
  • Direct: The students said, “We have been studying for three hours.”
  • Indirect: The students said that they had been studying for three hours.
  • Direct: Karim said, “I have been visiting this museum for three years.”
  • Indirect: Karim said that he had been visiting that museum for three years.

Past Simple Becomes Past Perfect

The past simple remains unchanged in reported speech or changes to the past perfect.


Direct Speech Indirect Speech
He said, “I saw him yesterday.” He said that he had seen him yesterday.
Ahmad said, “My sister arrived on Friday.” Ahmad said his sister arrived/had arrived on Friday.
Ahmad said, “I didn’t complete my homework.” Ahmad said that he had not completed his homework.
She said, “It is the best food I have ever tested.” She said that it was the best food she had ever tested.
He said, “I felt ill yesterday, so I didn’t go to school.” He said he felt ill the day before, so he didn’t go to school.
She said to him, “I didn’t send her any letters.” She told him that she hadn’t sent her any letter.
“The examination finished last week. “, explained. John explained that the examination had finished the preceding week.

Past Continuous Becomes Past Perfect Continuous

We backshift past continuous tense to past perfect continuous when it expresses a completed action; otherwise, it is unchanged.

Direct Speech Indirect Speech
Judy said, “When I saw her, she was playing tennis.” Judy said that when he saw her, she was playing tennis.
The Gatekeeper said to me, “I was working here.” The Gatekeeper told me that he had been working here.
She said. “I was not studying.” She said that she had not been studying.
The mechanic said, “It wasn’t repairing.” The mechanic said that it had not been repairing.
He said to us, "We lost because we were tired." He told us that we had lost because we had been tired.


Past Perfect and Past Perfect Continuous remain unchanged in Indirect Speech 

Reported speech in the past perfect and past perfect Continuous tenses remain the same, as there is no other tense beyond these tenses.

  • Direct: Kamran said, “I had not seen him yet.”
  • Indirect: Kamran said that I had not seen him yet.
  • Direct: Asma said. “She had cooked the dinner.”
  • Indirect: Asma said she had cooked the dinner.

Unreal Past Tenses in Indirect Speech

Unreal past tenses after sooner or would rather, wish, and it is time do not change.

  • Direct: “I wish I didn’t have to take the paper.” said the student
  • Indirect: The student said he wished he didn’t have to take the paper.
  • Direct: “It’s time you began planning your holidays.” Akram said to me
  • Indirect: Akram told me that it was time I began planning my holidays.

Reporting Without Change of Tense

In the reported speech, we do not change the tense when we describe an ongoing situation.

Examples
  • Direct: She said, “I like eating mangoes.”
  • Indirect: She said that she likes eating mangoes.
  • Direct: Ann said to him, “Your dress looks beautiful.”
  • Indirect: Ann told him that his dress looks beautiful.

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