Indirect or Reported Speech

Reported or indirect speech is usually used to talk about the past, so we normally change the tense of the words spoken. We use reporting verbs like ‘say’, ‘tell’, ‘ask’, and we may use the word ‘that’ to introduce the reported words. Inverted commas are not used.


Reena said, “I saw him.” (direct speech) = Reena said that she had seen him. (indirect speech)

  • ‘That’ may be omitted:
    Riya told him that she was sad. = Riya told him she was sad.
  • Use ‘say’ when there is no indirect object:
    Raju said that he was tired.

  • Always use ‘tell’ when you say who was being spoken to (i.e. with an indirect object):
    Ram told me that he was tired.
  • Use ‘talk’and ‘speak’ to describe the action of communicating:
    He talked to us.
    She was speaking on the telephone.

  • Use ‘talk’and ‘speak’ with ‘about’ to refer to what was said:
    He talked (to us) about his parents.
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