Have you ever been retelling a story and gotten a little tongue-tied? This happens to native English speakers too! When we are retelling information this is called indirect speech or reported speech. The tricky thing with this is that often in reported speech, the tenses change. To make your speech flawless, you need to know which tenses you need to change when you are retelling information. LingoLoop has the rules for perfect reported speech.
Speak better English (and tell better stories) with these rules for reported speech:
- Introduce the initial speaker: “She/He/They said/told me…”
- Insert ‘that’. This part is optional. When it is used, it is put in right before the information you are retelling. In the examples below, we have put the ‘that’ in brackets- it is correct to both use it and to leave it out.
- Change of tense. The tense which the initial speaker used may change when you are repeating what they said.
- Change of pronouns.
Past simple: No change or change to past perfect
“I liked the dishes you brought – even if I seemed unable to handle the spiciness”.
>He told me (that) he liked the dishes I brought- even if he seemed unable to handle the spiciness”.
> “He said (that) he had liked the dishes I brought, even if he had seemed unable to handle the spiciness”.
Past continuous: Change to past perfect + continuous
“I had been wearing a costume all day, there was no way I was going to another party dressed like that.”
>She said (that) she had been wearing a costume all day, and there was no way she was going to another party dressed like that.
Past perfect: No change
“I hadn’t used my mom’s discount card before, so I needed the assistant’s help”.
>Mark said (that) he hadn’t used his mom’s discount card before, so he needed the assistant’s help.
Present simple: No change or change to past simple
“I love your sweater, I love how you even wear it in summer”.
>She told me (that) she loves my sweater, she loves how I even wear it in summer. I think she was being sarcastic.
>She told me (that) she loved my sweater, she loved how I even wear it in summer. I think she was being sarcastic.
Present continuous: Change to past simple
“I am freezing! Who throws a barbeque in February!”
>She said (that) she was freezing. She wondered who throws a barbecue in February.
Present perfect: Change to past perfect
“I have parked by your apartment, so I hope I don’t get a ticket!”
>He said (that) he had parked by my apartment. I should have told him he would get a ticket.
Future with ‘will’: Change to ‘would’
“I’m so excited for Saturday- I will bring my best hummus.”
>She said (that) she was so excited for Saturday, and (that) she would bring her best hummus.
Future with ‘going to’: Change to ‘was going’ or ‘would’
“I am going to kill him. That bird of his was squawking all night”
Mom said (that) she was going to kill him because his bird had been squawking all night.
Mom said (that) she would kill him because his bird had been squawking all night.
Would: No change
“I would go to your yard sale but I think I am busy that night”.
>Jamie said she would go to our yard sale, but she thinks she is busy that night.
When Asking a Question
When repeating a question that someone asked, we follow the same rules for the changes in tenses. The only changes are:
- Change ‘He/she said…’ to ‘He/she asked…’
- Replace ‘that’ with ‘if’- for repeating a question in reported speech, we must include the ‘if’:
“Did she eat my cheese fries when I went to the bathroom?”
He asked if you ate his fries when he went to the bathroom- it’s a good thing you left when you did, it was about to get ugly.
Changing tenses in reported speech can be a bit hard to keep track of. If you learn off some of these basic rules off for past, present and future instances of speech, and you will have a flawless grammatical repertoire for the next time you need to retell details! Try a lesson with one of Lingoloop’s expert tutors to practice using these rules to produce perfect reported speech!