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03 / 03 / 2006

REPORTED SPEECH: meaning and examples

Good morning, Dolores J. wrote to us with this request: I am not able to understand that if somebody tells me something in present, when I explain what the person told me, I have to explain it in the past. Dolores is talking about the grammar that we use for REPORTED SPEECH. REPORTED SPEECH is a way of telling someone what someone else has said. To do this, we usually use the verbs say and tell and we change the verb forms in the reported speech sentences. Compare these sentences: (Direct) Donald: I am in the photocopy room. (Direct) Donald said, "I am in the photocopy room." (Reported) Donald said that he was in the photocopy room. In REPORTED SPEECH, the main verb of the sentence is usually in the past (say --> said, tell --> told) and the other verbs in the sentence usually change to a past form too (am --> was). (DIRECT) Present Simple Verbs --> (REPORTED) Past Simple Verbs: am/is --> was are --> were have/has --> had can --> could/was able to do/does --> did go/see/want etc. -->went/saw/wanted etc. Example 1: (Direct) Ellen said, "I haven't got time." (Reported) Ellen said that she didn't have* time. * The past simple form of haven't got is didn't have. Example 2: (Direct) Frank said to Mary, "You aren't listening to me." (Reported) Frank told Mary that she wasn't listening to him. Example 3: (Direct) Greta said to me, "They can come to the office at 4 pm." (Reported) Greta told me that they could come to the office at 4 pm. These are the basic verb-tense changes in REPORTED SPEECH. We will look at other aspects of REPORTED SPEECH in future Daily Vitamins. Thank you very much for your suggestion, Dolores. If any of our readers have any questions about today's Daily Vitamin, please post them in the Daily Vitamin Plus! forum section on our website. If you have any questions about how to use the Daily Vitamin Plus! section or would like to receive a Daily Vitamin Plus! manual, please don't hesitate to contact us. Have a fun weekend!