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Transformation of Sentence: Direct & Indirect Speech

A direct speech can be transformed into an indirect speech and vice versa using a suitable reporting verb and a linker depending on the sentence. Let’s have an example first.

  • Tina said to me, “Are you busy now?” [direct speech]
  • Tina asked me whether I was busy then. [indirect speech]

Direct Speech

Speaker Reporting verb Direct speech
Tina said “Are you busy now?”

Indirect Speech

Speaker Reporting verb Linker Reported Speech
Tina asked whether I was busy then.
  • Look, if the reporting verb in direct speech (said) is in past tense, the reporting verb in indirect speech (asked) would also be in past tense. ‘Whether’ is the linker added here as it is a ‘yes-no’ type question (Refer to list 1 below).
  • ‘Are’ changes to ‘was’. As the reporting verb was in past tense, the verb in the reported speech will also be in past. (Refer to list 2 below)
  • ‘Now’ has become ‘then’. Time and place expressions change if the reporting verb is in past tense. (Refer to list 3 below)
  • The question mark (?) has changed to a full stop(.).
  • Another important thing, the format of question (v + s + o) has changed to the format of a statement (s + v + o). In indirect speech the pattern always comes to subject + verb + object.

List of Reporting verbs and linkers (list 1)

Sentence Reporting verb (past) Linker
Assertive Said, told That
Interrogative
1. Yes-no question
2. Wh-question
Asked, wanted to know, enquired If / whether
Asked, wanted to know, enquired wh-word
Imperative
1. Without ‘Let’
2. With ‘Let’
Told, ordered, advised, requested, asked to / not to
Suggested, proposed that
Optative Wished, prayed that
Exclamatory Exclaimed in joy / sorrow / wonder / fear / disgust etc. that

Verbs of Reported speech (if the reporting verb is in past tense) (list 2)
Direct speech → Indirect speech
Am / is / are  was / were
Was / were had been
Has / have had
Had had had
Shall / will would
Can could
May might
Must, should must, should
Verb1 verb2
Verb2 had + verb3

Change of time and place expressions in past tense (list 3)
now then
ago before
today that day
yesterday the previous day
tomorrow the next day
last night the previous night
here there
this that
these those

Narration change of Assertive sentence

  • Robin said, “I went to Delhi yesterday.” – Robin said that he had gone to Delhi the previous day.
  • She said to her husband, “I want to go with you.” – She told her husband that she wanted to go with him.

Narration change of Interrogative sentence

  • He said to me, “Do you know English?” – He asked me whether I knew English.
  • She said to me, “Did you go there?” – She wanted to know whether I had gone there.
  • I said to him, “What are you doing?” – I asked him what he was doing.
  • Rahul said to his mother, “How do you do all these things together?” – Rahul asked his mother how she did all those things together.

Narration change of Imperative sentence

  • He said to me, “Go there right now.” – He ordered me to go there right then.
  • My teacher said to me, “Obey your parents.” – My teacher asked me to obey my parents.
  • She said to me, “Please don’t go there.” – She requested me not to go there.
  • He said to her, “Let’s go home.” – He suggested her that they should go home.
  • His mother said, “Let him eat whatever he likes.” – His mother suggested that he might be allowed to eat whatever he liked.

Narration change of Optative sentence

  • He said to the boy, “May god bless you.” – He prayed that God might bless the boy.
  • The girl said, “Had I the wings of a dove.” – The girl wished that she had the wings of a dove.

Narration change of Exclamatory sentence

  • “How happy we are here!” said the children. – The children exclaimed in joy that they were very happy there.
  • The children said, “How happy we were there!” – The children exclaimed in sorrow that they had been very happy there.
  • He said to me, “Good bye!” – He bade me good bye.
  • She said to me, “Good evening!”—She wished me good evening.

Narration change of Vocatives

  • Teacher said, “Robin, stand up.” – Teacher asked Robin to stand up.
  • The Bishop said to the convict, “Always remember, my son, that the poor body is the temple of the living God.” – The Bishop addressed the convict as his son and advised him to always remember that the poor body is the temple of the living God.

Narration change of question tag

  • He said to me, “You went to Kolkata, didn’t you?” – He asked me whether I had gone to Kolkata and assumed that I had.
  • I said to him, “Tina didn’t tell a lie, did she?” – I asked him if Tina had told a lie and assumed that she had not.
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