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What is this Reported Speech?

[vc_separator border_width=”2″][dt_teaser]The English Indirect Speech is used to quote something. For example, you repeat what your teacher said because your friend did not understand it. There are clear rules in English and exactly two factors which play a role in the formation of such sentence. On the one hand the tense which is in the introductory sentence (The teacher says, …) and on the other hand the tense of direct speech.[/dt_teaser]
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The formation of the English Indirect Speech

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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 ambecomeshe is“).


An example:


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.

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A change in the necessary tense

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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 RedeIndirekte Rede
Present TensePast Tense
Past TensePast Perfect
Present PerfectPast Perfect
Futur 1Conditional 1
Futur 2Conditional 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 ambecomeshe is“).

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Other things you need to keep in mind

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Exceptions where you do not have to change any tense:

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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.
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How tenses change with auxiliary verbs

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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.

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Change of tense and location

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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 RedeIndirekte Rede
todaythat day
yesterdaythe day before
last week / month / ...the week / month / ... before
tomorrowthe next day
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The English Indirect Speech in various types of sentences

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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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About me

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Hey, I used to think that language learning was innate. Either you can speak English or not and it doesn’t matter how much you learn -“Anyway I don’t record good grades in English.” And that’s where English is so important.


After a while, I gave myself one last chance to learn English. Only this time I limited myself to the essential points.

For me, that meant verbs: formation – examples – signal words & usage

This method enabled me to learn English faster than ever before.


Since then I know that learning languages is not innate. And through that realization, my vision has become to offer other students the opportunity to learn English, just like I did back then. Now I ask you to help me by sharing this article with your friends!

Thank you very much!


You read: Reported Speech

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