IELTS Basic Grammar - Direct and Indirect Speech

Direct Speech
The exact words that someone says are called direct speech. Quotation marks“ ” are used to set off direct speech.

» Mum said, “Where are my keys?”
» “This ice cream is delicious,” said Tom.
» “Have you boys washed your hands?” asked Dad.

Indirect Speech
You can report what someone says without using their exact words. To do this, use a verb like say, ask or tell, followed by that. This is called indirect speech. There are several differences between a sentence with direct speech and a sentence with indirect speech.
    •You don’t use quotation marks with indirect speech.
    •You change the tense of the verb.
    •You change the pronouns and determiners.

Here are some examples. The verb tenses that change are printed in bold and the pronouns and determiners that change are printed in colour. Remember that the past tense of 'can' is could and the past tense of will is would.

         Direct speech

           Indirect speech

Maggie said, “I feel ill.”

Maggie said that she felt ill.

“I can’t find my book,” said Alice.

Alice said that she couldn’t find her book.

“My car won’t start,” said Mom.

Mom said that her car wouldn’t start.

In indirect speech, people often leave out the conjunction "that".

• Maggie said that she felt ill.
• Sumiko said that it was time to leave.
• Alice said that she couldn’t find her book.
• Peter said that John was hitting him.
• Dad said that he hadn’t had his breakfast yet.

When you are using indirect speech to report a statement that is still true now, you don’t change the tense of the verb.

John said, “My mum doesn’t like fish.” ------  John said that his mum doesn’t like fish.

Indirect Commands
Use verbs like order, tell and warn to report orders and instructions. The construction to + verb or not to + verb may also be used.

Direct: The teacher said, “Stop running in the corridor!”
Indirect: The teacher ordered us to stop running in the corridor.

Indirect Questions
The verb ask is usually used to report questions.

Direct: Sally said, “Where is my backpack?”
Indirect: Sally asked where her backpack was.

To report a question, put the subject before the verb or helping verb. Remember that the subject comes after the helping verb when you ask a question. Here are some examples. The subjects are printed in bold and the verbs are printed in colour.

Direct: “Where are they going?”
Indirect: I asked where they were going.

To report a question-word question, use the same question word in direct speech.

Direct: Mom said, “Where are your shoes?”
Indirect:  Mom asked where my shoes were.

When you are reporting yes or no questions, use if or whether after the verb.

Direct: “Is it raining?” asked Tom.
Indirect: Tom asked if it was raining.

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