How to use reported speech in English

How do you repeat what someone has said in English? With reported speech of course! Watch this video lesson to find out more...


In this video we're going to look at what we call reported speech in English. Now reported speech is very useful in English because if we want to repeat what somebody has said we could use their exact words. This is what we call direct speech. But it might sound a bit strange if you just repeat everybody's words all the time. You might sound a bit like a parrot! So we use reported speech to repeat what somebody has said but without repeating their exact words. This is very common in English, we use it when we're speaking and when we're writing, but obviously when we use reported speech the grammar of the sentence does change a little bit. So we'll look at some examples together, so we can see how to do it and then we'll do a quiz after to get you to practise and to see how much you have learnt.

OK, here's our first example: "I'm going to the beach today", John said. Now if this is still true today, if John has just said this and we're reporting what John said, then we can say: John said he is going to the beach today. It's still the same day, it's still true, so we don't need to make any real changes to the grammar.

However, let's say that this statement from John is now in the past. Let's say he said this yesterday. So we need to change the sentence a little bit, we need to change the grammar. We would say: John said he was going to the beach yesterday.

OK, so let's look at those two sentences together. The direct speech and the reported speech. What has changed? OK, the first thing we can see that's different is that there are no speech marks. In reported speech we don't use speech marks because we're not reporting exactly what that person said. So no speech marks. Secondly, the verb tense has changed, right? So in the original sentence, in the direct speech, the verb was in the present. However, when we report what someone has said, we need to backshift the tense. This means that the tense of the verb goes back one. So 'present' becomes 'past', 'past' becomes 'past perfect', 'present perfect' becomes 'past perfect', 'past perfect' doesn't change, 'past perfect' just stays 'past perfect', because there's nothing after 'past perfect'. So 'am going' becomes 'was going'.

The next part of the sentence which changes is in this case the pronoun. So in the direct speech sentence, John used 'I' - 'I am going', but obviously we're not 'John' so we are reporting what he said, so 'I' becomes 'he'. 'I am going' becomes 'he was going' - 'he' meaning 'John'.

The final thing to change is the time. It's no longer 'today' - 'today' is now 'yesterday' so we say 'yesterday' instead of 'today'. Now when you report the direct speech depends on the time word that you use - 'today' might change to 'last week', 'last month', 'last year', depending on when we're reporting this information.

OK, let's just look at that again. Let's compare the direct speech and the reported speech sentences to see what has changed.

OK, let's do some practice. So I'm going to give you some direct speech sentences and I want you to change them into reported speech. If you need more time to write down your answers or just to think of them, then pause the video. It might be a good idea to get some paper as well so you can write this down. Writing it down is a good idea because it just helps you to learn the grammar even more.

OK, that's it. So go back and watch the video again if you're not sure and don't forget to like the video, share it with your friends and subscribe to my YouTube channel and go to to find courses where you can practise and improve your English online. Keep practising every day, good luck and I'll see you soon!