Grammar Quiz

Grammar Quiz

How Modal Verbs Change in Indirect Speech

Changes of Modal Verb in Indirect Speech

When there is a modal verb in a statement, we want to report. This model verb sometimes changes and sometimes remains unchanged.
The modal verbs could, would, should, might, used to, and ought to usually don’t change in the reported speech.

Change of Modal Verb Could

The modal verb could remain unchanged in reported speech.
  • Direct: Brother said, “I could teach you for two hours.”
  • Indirect: Brother said that he could teach us for two hours.
But, could may be changed to had been able to when expressing some abilities in the past and may remain unchanged when expressing future ability or may be changed to would be able. For example
  • Direct: “I could cook much better.”
  • Indirect: She said that she had been able to cook much better.
  • Direct: David said, ‘I could visit there next week.”
  • Indirect: David said he could do it/would be able to do it the next day.

Change of Modal Verb Might 

Might remain might in reported speech.
  • Direct: I said, “I might participate in the party if I have time.”
  • Indirect: I said that I might participate in the party if I had time.
  • Direct: Geeta said, “We might come tomorrow.”
  • Indirect: Geeta said that they might come the following day. 

Change of Modal Verb Ought to

ought to remain ought to in indirect speech
  • Direct: “They ought to widen this road,’ said the villagers
  • Indirect: The villagers said that they ought to widen the road.
  • Direct: The pupil said, “We ought to attend our classes.”
  • Indirect: The pupil said that they ought to attend their classes. 

Change of Used to

Used to stay the same in indirect speech.
  • Direct: I used to be Ali’s friend.
  • Indirect: He said he used to be Ali’s friend.

Change of Modal Verb Should

Should remain should in indirect speech.
  • Direct: Salman said, “You should apologize to him.”
  • Direct: Salman said to me that I should apologize to him.
  • Direct: He said to us, “You should not close this window.”
  • Indirect: He told us that we should not close that window.
If the expression  I should/would be expressing a request, then it is usually reported by
ask + object + infinitive, for example
  • Direct: “I would be very grateful if you’d informed me tomorrow,” Ahmad said
  • Indirect: Ahmad asked me to keep him informed. (would be changed to asked)

Changes in Modal Verbs will, shall, can, may in Reported Speech

The present modals will, shall, can and may changes in reported in the following way.

Will/shall become would/should in Future simple Tense

Direct Speech Indirect Speech
My friend said, “I will not work here.” My friend said that he would not work there.
Hassan said. “I shall study hard today. Hassan said that he should study hard that day.
Iqra said, “I will call them tomorrow.” Iqra said that she would call them the following day.
She said, “Shall I help you?” He offered to help me.
“I will meet you in the school,” said his sister. His sister said that she would meet me in the school.

Future perfect, will/shall have changes to would/should have

Direct Speech Indirect Speech
He said, “I will have seen them.” He said that he would have seen them.
Saleem said, “I will have completed the homework.” Saleem said that he would have completed the homework.
Ali said, “They will have gone.” Ali said that they would have gone.

But will change to should when we are making a piece of advice or request and shall change to offer in reported speech when we express an offer.

  • Direct: The teacher said, “What will I do with your paper, My son!”
  • Indirect: The teacher asked his student what he should do with his paper.
  • Direct: “Shall we help you?”
  • Indirect: They offered to help him.

Will/shall be changed to would be in Future Continuous Tense

Direct Speech Indirect Speech
I said to him, “I will be studying with you.” I said to him that I would be studying with him.
Usman said, “I will be studying hard.” Usman said that he would be studying hard.
‘Altaf will be start working tomorrow.’ Altaf said that he would be start working the following day.
We will be starting a new shop next week,” she said She said that they would be starting a new shop the following week.
“I shall be going to the theater this evening,” Asma said. Asma said that she would be going to the theater that evening.

Modal Verb May Changes to Might in Reported Speech

Direct Speech Indirect Speech
He said, “You may meet him here.” He said that I might meet him there.
Ali said, “It may rain tomorrow.” Ali said that it might rain the following day.
‘They may be famous.’ They thought that they might be famous.

Modal Verb Can changes to Could in Reported Speech

Direct Speech Indirect Speech
They said, “We can go now.” They said that they could go then.
She said, “I can speak English.” She said that she could speak English.
Eric said, “I can’t afford university fees.” Eric said that he couldn’t afford university fees.
He asked her, “Can you swim?” He asked if she could swim.

Modal Verb Must change to had to or would have to or probably or stay the same

Direct Speech Indirect Speech
He said, “The students must enter at once.” He said that the students had to enter at once.
He said, “We must join them.” He said that they must/had to join them.
The doctor said, “You must relax.” The doctor said that you must relax.
The manager said, “I must leave for the office early tomorrow morning.” The manager said that I had to leave for the office early the following morning.
“I must go next Friday,” He said. She said she would have to go the following Friday.
The tourist said, “This building must have been built long ago. The tourist believed that that building was probably long ago.

Needn’t changes to needn’t or didn’t need to or didn’t have to

Direct Speech Indirect Speech
He said to her, “You needn’t come until later.” He told her that she needn’t/didn’t need to/didn’t have come until later.
He said,” I needn’t go.” He said he didn’t have to go.
Aslam said, “I needn’t study anymore.” He said he wouldn’t have to study anymore.
She said, “Need I wear this suit?” She asked if she had to wear that suit.

Sometimes the original statement doesn’t have a modal verb, but we use a modal verb when we are reporting that statement.

  • Direct: He said, “You are not allowed to enter this room.”
  • Indirect: He said that I must not enter that room.
  • Direct:  She said, “I wrote home every month.”
  • Indirect: She said that she would write home every month.

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