Indirect Speech

watch the Reported Speech video

Notes on the Reported Speech video

  • This video covers the sentence structuring for declarative sentences.  Interrogative sentences and imperative sentences are structures a little differently in reported speech; we'll get to those in later videos.

  • Reported Speech almost always reports something that was said in the past.  However, one could also use it for future or hypothetical situations.

  • If you're starting with a sentence that identifies the speaker at the end of the sentence, simply move that part to the beginning of your sentence before you do the three steps.

  • The only reporting verb we use in this video is 'said', but there are plenty of others, include 'asked' and 'told', just to name a couple.  Many of those other reporting verbs have slightly different rules, so we'll go over them in a separate video.

  • 'That' is usually not necessary, but some sentences sound awkward without it.  It doesn't hurt to include 'that', so you should default to using it.

  • When you backshift the verb(s), that applies to the verbs that word originally spoken (the ones originally within the quotation marks); don't backshift the speaking verb (like 'said').

  • For point-of-view changes, even if you can be more concrete, it's usually best to continue using phrases relative to then (and not phrases relative to now).  For example, if you're reporting something from 1 day ago, you could change 'today' to 'yesterday', but often it's better to say 'that day'.

  • 'here' often changes to 'there', but you can also go in the opposite direction; if the direct speech said 'there', and that's where you are now, then you could change it to 'here'.  The same goes for 'this'/'that' and 'these'/'those'.

watch the Backshifting video

Notes on the Backshifting video

  • Since past simple gets backshifted to past perfect, did gets backshifted to had (and the main verb changes to the past participle form).  [see the backshifting printout]

  • Multi-word modals get backshifted according to the first word of the modal:

    • is able to was able to

    • have to > had to

    • are supposed to > were supposed to

    • [for more, see the backshifting printout]

  • There are only two reasons that you would change the main verb when backshifting:

    • There is no modal verb, as with a positive sentence backshifted from present simple to past simple.

    • You add have, in which case you need to change the main verb to past participle.

  • Shall backshifts to should.  It's good to know, but since shall isn't terribly common anymore, we didn't include it in the video (although it is in our printout).

  • There are two ways to backshift must.

    • When must is used for deduction (present), it backshifts to must've (past).

    • When must is used for obligation (future), there is no direct backshift.  However, since it means the same as have to or need to, it can backshift to had to or needed to (past).

  • Backshifting past to past perfect is sometimes ignored in casual English; you can keep it past simple or past continuous so long as it doesn't cause confusion.

  • For negative verb phrases, not always comes after the first auxiliary verb.

    • couldn't > couldn't have

    • wasn't > hadn't been

    • etc.

  • When you have verb patterns, ([verb] to [verb] - or - [verb] [verb]ing), the first verb is typically what backshifts, while the second verb (the verbal) remains the same.

Related Printouts

Next in the Series

Reporting Verbs

Said isn't the only verb we use for reported speech; it's just the most common one.  However, using other reporting verbs sometimes requires new rules, so we'll go over those.

Indirect Questions

For reported questions and polite questions, we order things a little differently.