What is this Reported Speech?
The formation of the English Indirect Speech
No change to the tense needed:
Once the introductory sentence is written in one of the following tenses (Present Tense, Present Perfect, Future 1), you do not have to change the tense in making the Indirect Speech. However, you have to adjust pronouns and persons (“I am” becomes “he is“).
She says, „I was in America.“
She says that she was in America.
As a result of the fact that it would make little sense to have the introductory sentence in Present Tense (logically), the sentence stands in Past Tense.
A change in the necessary tense
For this, you have to look again at the tense of direct speech. If the tense is one of these (Past Tense, Past Perfect, Future 2, Conditional), in the English indirect speech you have to choose another tense, usually a time “further in the past“. This is illustrated in the following table:
|Direkte Rede||Indirekte Rede|
|Present Tense||Past Tense|
|Past Tense||Past Perfect|
|Present Perfect||Past Perfect|
|Futur 1||Conditional 1|
|Futur 2||Conditional 2|
Furthermore, the same applies to the progressive forms of the respective tenses, if they belong to the said tenses. However, you also have to adjust the pronouns and persons (“I am” becomes “he is“).
Other things you need to keep in mind
Exceptions where you do not have to change any tense:
Although sometimes the tense of direct speech would suggest that you need to change a tense, you don’t have to do it in two cases:
- On the one hand, if the statement is generally valid, or if the statement still applies at the time of rendition.
- On the other hand, sentences written in Past Perfect, Conditional 1 or 2 are not changed. Furthermore, should, ought, might, used or had better, do not involve alteration.
How tenses change with auxiliary verbs
Of course, the following refers only to sentences where the introductory sentence stands in one of the above tenses.
To determine whether “could” is changed in English Indirect Speech, you need to consider whether the use is in a past.
Since can cannot form all tenses, you have to use “to be able to” in this case.
Must is to be changed only when there is a need for expressing past which no longer exists when reading/listening to the English Indirect Speech.
Since must cannot form all tenses, you have to use “to have to” in this case.
Mustn’t is only changed when it expresses a past interdiction that no longer exists when reading / listening to English Indirect Speech.
Since must cannot form all tenses, in this case, you must use “ wasn’t allowed / shouldn’t “.
Needn’t only changes when it expresses a past commitment that no longer exists when reading / listening to Indirect Speech.
Since must cannot form all tenses, you have to use “not to have to” in this case.
Change of tense and location
As soon as the introductory sentence is in the past, or if otherwise the tense and location are no longer as they were in the case of the direct speech, this must be adjusted. Especially at the tense it often happens that “yesterday” (yesterday) has to be made in the Indirect Speech “the day before” (the day before yesterday). The following table shows the most important verbs and what you need to translate into indirect speech.
|Direkte Rede||Indirekte Rede|
|yesterday||the day before|
|last week / month / ...||the week / month / ... before|
|tomorrow||the next day|
The English Indirect Speech in various types of sentences
In a declarative sentence:
The declarative sentence is introduced in the indirect speech with “that“, but this can also be omitted:
She says (that) she was in America.
An interrogative sentence in the English Indirect Speech:
The interrogative sentence is introduced with the interrogative word of the question in the direct speech. If there is no interrogative word, you have to use “if” or “whether“:
I asked, „Where do you live?“
He asked where I lived.
„Do“ always disappears in Indirect Speech, except in the case of negation.
Exclamations / Commands:
to/ not to + Infinitiv
In contrast to all rules, commands do not fall under the “tense shift“, no matter what tense is present in the introductory sentence.
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