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Lesson 1: Everyone Has a Story to Tell


Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Mysitemyway.com, CC BY 1.0


Reported Speech

Reading through this lesson you will study the rules for Reported Speech.

Direct speech and reported speech

  • Direct speech tells you directly what is being or what was said.
  • That is indicated by the use of quotation marks (“ “).
  • The main clause tells you who is or was speaking.
  • The main clause and direct speech are separated with a comma (, ).

The reporter said, "Finland wins!"

  • Reported speech tells you later what someone said.

I heard that the reporter said that Finland won.

  • When direct speech changes into reported speech, there will be some changes in the
    • tenses
    • pronouns
    • expressions of time and place
    • word order
  • The verb in the main clause is usually a “reporting verb” like say or tell.


If the main clause is in the present tense, the following changes occur:

  • Pronouns change depending on who tells what to whom.

"My sister called you to say goodbye."
She tells me that her sister called me to say goodbye.

  • Expressions of time and place change if the reporting does not occur at the same place or time as the direct speech – see the table below:
Direct speech Reported speech
last night the night before
last year the year before
now then
today the day
yesterday the day before

the next day
the following day

here there
this place that place
these woods those woods

For example,

”My sister saw you here yesterday.”
Donna tells me that her sister saw me there the day before.

If the main clause is in the past tense – which is more common – the pronouns and expressions of time and place change the same way as above. However, there are many changes in the tenses. Look at the table below:

Direct speech Reported speech
present tense past tense
past tense

past tense
perfect tense

perfect tense past perfect tense
future tense conditional

For example,

The teacher said, "These two exercises will be your homework for tomorrow."
The teacher said that those two exercises would be our homework for the next day.

When changing questions into reported speech,

  • The most common verb in the main clause is ask.
  • The changes in the tenses, pronouns and expressions of time and place are the same.
  • The word order changes into that of statements, i.e. direct word order.

The tourist asked, "Where is the post office?"
The tourist asked where the post office was.

  • The question word is included (what, why, when…).
  • If the direct question begins with be, have or do, there will be more changes: you need to add if or whether in reported speech.

My mother asked, "Did you make your bed?"
My mother asked if I had made my bed.

  • Remember to leave out the question mark unless the main clause is a question.

When the sentence is an order or a request,

  • The verb in the main clause is usually tell or ask.
  • The verb order is used when the person/s speaking is/are in a position to order someone to do something.
  • You need to use the structure object + infinitive in reported speech.

The police said, "Kindly move aside!"
The police asked us
(object) kindly to move (infinitive) aside.

  • In negative sentences the structure needs to be object + not + infinitive.

The teacher said, "Don’t shout, girls and boys!"
The teacher told the girls and boys not to shout.


A summary in Finnish:
Reported Speech (pdf)


Check out this website for more detailed information, examples and exercises on reported speech.
Reported Speech: http://www.perfect-english-grammar.com/reported-speech.html


Exercise 1.1 Reported speech – It's our anniversary!

Photo: Pixabay / PublicDomainPictures

Read the conversation and write in the fill-in exercise how you would give someone a detailed account of it later.

Susan: "Don't go anywhere!"
James: "Why not?"
Susan: "We are going out."
James: "Why is that?"
Susan: "As if you didn't know. It is our anniversary today. Don't tell me you forgot!"
James: "Well... of course not! Where are we going to eat?"
Susan: "At the local pub. After that we will go to the movies."
James: "I will have to call Jimmy and cancel my tennis lesson with him."
Susan: "You don't have to do that, I already did that yesterday. Would you like to go and play with him tomorrow?"
James: "Yes, I would. I will call him later."
Susan: "So, are you ready?"
James: "Yes, let's go."

"I heard Susan and James talk about their anniversary the other day. Susan told . James wondered and Susan told him that . James was still puzzled and wanted to know . It was then that Susan told James that . She couldn’t believe that . He didn’t admit that he had really forgotten it and asked . Susan told him that to the local pub and that after that . James said he Jimmy and cancel his tennis lessons with him but Susan said he  that because  that . She also asked James with Jimmy . He answered that . After that Susan asked  ready and he said that ."


Exercise 1.2 Direct speech – A robbery

Read the following story and rewrite it in direct speech as a dialogue,

My sister told me that she had witnessed a robbery the day before. I asked her where the robbery had taken place. She told me that it had been at the local grocery store. I wanted to know how she noticed the robbers and she said that they had acted in an extremely weird manner. I told her not to judge people by their appearances but she went on to say that this time she had been right. I asked her if the police had asked her any questions but she said they had been too busy to do it right then. I wanted to know when she would go to the police station for an interview and she said that she might not go at all. I wondered why and she explained that the police had so many eyewitnesses that they didn't need her. However, I told her to go to the police station at once. She said that she would go as soon as she called them first. She also said that she would go to that store again the next day to refresh her memory.

Please write your answers in the boxes below. Your teacher will assess this exercise as part of your portfolio.

My sister:
My sister:
My sister:
My sister:
My sister:
My sister:
My sister:
My sister:

Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Man vyi, Public Domain


Exercise 1.3 Reported speech – Review

Write the sentences in reported speech.

Tehtävä arvioidaan S/K.


1. James Bond is a man of the world.

Ms. Moneypenny said

2. Didn't you and your mother just visit the Canary Islands last month?

My friend wanted to know

3. Do you have anything to say for yourself?

The police officer wanted to know

4. Where are you going to live?

My employer asked

5. I will never surrender peacefully!

The kidnapper shouted that

6. The Finnish team came in first.

The announcer said that

7. Beware of the angry lion!

The sign said

8. Could you give me that newspaper, please?

The man sitting next to me asked

9. I had to give a speech on writing essays yesterday.

Sue told me that

10. I will call you tomorrow evening.

The sales associate on the phone said that

Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Thompson Greg, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Public Domain


Exercise 1.4 What Does Citizenship Mean to You?

Start by studying these words.


citizen duty discrimination
citizenship privilege ethnicity
individual mutual equality
subject service immigration
welfare diversity emigration
obligation prejudice empowerment

Next, go to this website to view some short video interviews on the topic of citizenship.

Los Angeles Times:
Video series: What does citizenship mean to you? 

Choose two interviews and describe their content using reported speech. You don’t need to explain everything, just pick five things from each interview.

For example,

Maria said that citizenship… She told us that…

Submit your texts below – remember to state whose interview you are reporting on.

Tehtävä arvioidaan arvosanalla 4-10.


Otavan Opisto / Heli Viitanen, Tarja Männikkö, Arto Silén


© 2015 Otavan Opisto