Grammar & Compositions >> Message Writing


Read the following sentences:

  1. Rama said, "Harry is an idle boy."
  2. Rama said that Harry was an idle boy.
These two sentences illustrate the two ways in which we may report the words of a speaker.

In the first sentence, we give the exact words used by the speaker. This is called Direct Speech or Narration.

NOTE: In the first sentence, said is called the Reporting Verb, and Harry is an idle boy is called the Reported Speech.

In the second sentence, we do not give the exact words of the speaker but give only the substance of what he said. This is called Indirect Speech or Narration.

From sentence 1, we also learn that in Direct Speech-

  1. The exact words of the speaker are put within inverted commas (" ").
  2. The first word of the Reported Speech begins with a Capital letter.
  3. A comma is placed after the Reporting Verb to separate it from the second part of the sentence.

From sentence 2, we learn that in Indirect Speech-

  1. The reported words are not placed within inverted commas.
  2. No comma is placed after said.
  3. The Reported Speech is introduced by the Conjunction that.
  4. The Verb is is changed into was. (The Tense of the Verb in the Reported Speech is changed from the Present to the Past.)


Rule 1: Rule 1. If the Reporting Verb is in the Present or Future Tense, the Verb in the Reported Speech is not changed at all.
Direct: Tom says, "There is no ink in the ink-pot."
Indirect: Tom says that there is no ink in the ink-pot.
Direct: Raman will say, "Nobody was in the room."
Indirect: Raman will say that nobody was in the room.

Rule 2: If the Reporting Verb is in the Past Tense the Verb in the Reported Speech is also changed to the Past Tense.
To work out this rule smoothly, note the following special rules:-
a) Simple Present becomes Simple Past.
Direct: Anil said, "Satish swims daily."
Indirect: Anil said that Satish swam daily.
b) Present Continuous becomes Past Continuous.
Direct: He said, "The boys are playing."
Indirect: He said that the boys were playing.
c) Present Perfect becomes Past Perfect.
Direct: Peter said, "John has done his work."
Indirect: Peter said that John had done his work.
d) May is changed to might; can is changed into could.
Direct: He said, "The boy may pass."
Indirect: He said that the boy might pass.
e) Simple Past becomes Past Perfect.
Direct: She said, "Margaret came at night."
Indirect: She said that Margaret had come at night.
f) Past Continuous becomes Past Perfect Continuous.
Direct: He said, "All were laughing at the beggar."
Indirect: He said that all had been laughing at the beggar.
g) Shall is changed into should; will is changed into would.
Direct: I said, "I shall try to help her."
Indirect: I said that I should try to help her.

Rule 3: (Exception to Rule 2) If the Reported Speech contains some universal or habitual fact, then the Simple Present in the Reported speech is not changed into the corresponding Simple Past, but remains unchanged.
Direct: He said, "The Earth moves round the sun."
Indirect: He said that the Earth moves round the sun.


Rule 4: Pronouns of the First Person in Direct Speech are changed in Indirect Speech to the same Person as the Subject of the introductory verb.
Direct: Tim said, "I am busy."
Indirect: Tim said that he was busy.
Direct: I said, "I will not go there."
Indirect: I said that I would not go there.

Rule 5: Pronouns of the Second Person in Direct Speech are changed in Indirect Speech to the same person as the Noun or Pronoun which comes after the introductory verb.
Direct: Harish said to me, "You are wrong."
Indirect: Harish told me that I was wrong.
Direct: James said to her, "You have done your duty."
Indirect: James told her that she had done her duty.

Rule 6: Pronouns of the Third Person in Direct Speech remain the same in Indirect Speech.
Direct: Harish said to me, "He is ill."
Indirect: Harish told me that he was ill.
But no change of person is made when the speech is reported to the person to whom it was first addressed.
Direct: Neeta said to you, "You are wrong."
Indirect: Neeta told you that you were wrong.

NOTE: In all the above examples, the Verb said in Direct Speech becomes told in Indirect and the Preposition to is omitted.

Rule 7: When turning a sentence from Direct into Indirect Speech, words showing nearness are changed into words showing distance. Thus-
Now becomes Then.
This becomes That.
These becomes Those.
Here becomes There.
Ago becomes Before.
Today becomes That day.
Tomorrow becomes The next day.
Yesterday becomes The day before (or the previous day).
Last night becomes The night before (or the previous night).

Direct: John said, "I am busy now."
Indirect: John said that he was busy then.
Direct: George said, "Today is a fine day."
Indirect: George said that that day was a fine day.


In reporting a Question in the Indirect Speech:-

  1. The Introductory Verb is changed to ask, inquire, demand, or some other word having a similar meaning.
  2. Whether or If is used after such an Introductory Verb when the direct question has yes or no for an answer.
  3. The Interrogative form is changed into the Declarative form.
  4. The same word is used to introduce the Reported Speech if the Question begins with an interrogative Pronoun or Adverb, such as what, which, whom, when, where, how and why.
Direct: The teacher said to me, "What is your name?"
Indirect: The teacher asked me what my name was.
Direct: The tourist said, "Where is the Taj Mahal?"
Indirect: The tourist inquired where the Taj Mahal was.


In reporting a Command or a Request in the Indirect Speech:-

  1. The Introductory Verb is changed to request, order, command, ,beseech, advise, or some other word suiting the sense.
  2. The Verb in the Reported Speech is put in the Infinitive.
Direct: I said to Janet, "Please give me your book."
Indirect: I requested Janet to give me her book.
Direct: He said to the magistrate, "Pardon me."
Indirect: He begged the magistrate to pardon him.


In reporting an Exclamation or a Wish in the Indirect Speech:-

  1. The Introductory Verb is changed into wish, exclaim, pray, cry, bless, or some other similar Verb.
  2. The words showing exclamation such as alas, hurrah, etc., are omitted.
  3. The sign of exclamation (!) is omitted.
    Direct: He said, "May you live long!"
    Indirect: He wished that he might live long.
    Direct: He said, "Alas! I am undone."
    Indirect: He exclaimed that he was undone.



  1. Use the reporting verb, "say" or "said to" in its correct tense.
  2. Remove the conjunctions that, to, if or whether etc.
  3. Insert quotation marks, exclamation mark and fullstop, wherever necessary.
  4. Put a comma before the statement.
  5. Write the first word of the statement with capital letter.
  6. Change the past tense into present tense wherever the reporting verb is in the past tense.
  7. Convert the past perfect either into past tense or present perfect, as found necessary.
  8. Be careful about the order of words in the question.

The following table will enable to find the kind of sentence:

Indirect (Conjunction) 

Direct (Kind of sentence)

That Statement (or) Exclamatory sentence
To, not to  Imperative
requested Begin the imperative sentence with "please"
If or whether Interrogative sentence (Helping verb+ Subject+ Main verb+ …?)
What, When, How, etc. What, When, How, etc. + Helping verb+ Subject+ Main verb+ …?


Indirect: He asked me if the train was late.
Direct: He said to me, "Is the train late?"
Indirect: He requested him to lend his book.
Direct: He said to him, "Please, lend me your book."
Indirect: I told her that she had done well.
Direct: I said to her, "You have done well."



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