How to use reported speech for questions in English

How should we use reported speech for questions in English? Watch this video lesson to find out more...


In the last two videos, we looked at reported speech. We looked at how to change direct speech into reported speech and we also discussed why that was so useful, why it's important and why it's so common in English. We focused in particular on the changes that are made, particularly the changes to the verb when we're reporting something. In this video lesson, we're going to look at reporting questions. Now a question obviously is a little bit different to a statement, the structure of the sentence is normally a bit different. So we'll look at three different examples of questions and we'll look at how we report questions. We'll look at examples to help us understand it, we'll look at the structure of reported questions and then at the end we'll do a quick quiz to help you practise.

So, as I said, the first thing to remember is the structure of a question in English is a bit different to the structure of a statement. So let's look at an example to see what I mean. "Where do you live?" The question word is 'where', the auxiliary verb is 'do', but when you report a question, it changes like this: He asked me where I lived. So, we still use the question word, in this case 'where', but when we're reporting the question, we drop the auxiliary verb, we don't need the auxiliary verb anymore. And then we have to backshift the verb. So, 'Where do you live?' becomes 'He asked me where I lived'.

Here's another example: "Where are you going?" In this case the question is formed by inverting the auxiliary verb 'be' and the pronoun - 'are you' - "Where are you going?" But when we report this question, it's no longer a question. It now becomes a statement. So we need to change the word order back to a statement. He asked me where I was going. So, we keep the question word, we change the pronoun, we backshift the verb and we change the order of the verb and the pronoun -'are you' becomes 'I was'.

So these are both examples of what we call 'open questions'. That means that the answer could be anything! But what about if we ask or if we report what we call a 'closed question'? A 'closed question' is where the answer is either 'yes' or 'no'. So, here's an example: "Do you love me?" So, this is a yes/no question. Maybe is not really a very good answer to this question! But how do we report it? OK, we report it like this: She asked me if I loved her. So, what's changed here? Well obviously the pronoun has changed - 'you' becomes 'me', and the object becomes the subject 'she'. The verb 'love' backshifts to 'loved' and finally, when we report a yes/no question, we use 'if' or we could also use 'whether'. And remember, when we report a question, it is no longer a question. So you don't need to don't need to use a question mark and also you don't need speech marks either.

OK, practice time! So I'll give you a few example questions and I want you to change those questions from direct speech into reported speech. You might need some more time for this to think about your answer or to write your answer down. Go and get some paper and pause the video after each example.

OK, so that's how we report questions in English. It might seem a little bit complicated, so it would be a good idea to go back and watch the video again, just so you're clearer the second time. If you like this video and you found it useful, give it a like, share it with your friends and subscribe to my YouTube channel and go to where you can find lots of courses to help you improve every aspect of your English. Good luck, keep practising and I'll see you in the next lesson.