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5.6: Quoted Speech versus Reported Speech

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    Quoted Speech versus Reported Speech

           Quoted speech is repeating the exact words that someone spoke or wrote.  When using quoted speech, a writer must use quotation marks to show that he/she is quoting exactly what another person said.  Quoted speech is rarely used by native speakers.  Reported speech is saying the same information as in quoted speech, but the speaker or writer uses his or her own words.  Reported speech is almost always used by native speakers of English.  Reported speech is VERY difficult for non-native speakers.  (Many native speakers also mix up reported speech with quoted speech.)  When using reported speech, the subjects of sentences, the verbs, the possessive adjectives, and locations change from those used in quoted speech.  I repeat: Reported speech can be VERY confusing for non-native speakers.


    Quoted speech:  The man said, “I can’t come to your party.”
    Reported speech:  The man said that he couldn’t come to my party.

    Quoted speech:  My mother always said to me, “I want you home at dinner time.”
    Reported speech:  My mother always said to me that she wanted me home at dinner time.

    Quoted speech:  I asked the old woman, “Can I help you to carry your bags”?
    Reported speech:  I asked the old woman if I could help her with her bags.

    Quoted Speech:  I told my two sons, “I have traveled around the world two times.”
    Reported speech:  I told my two sons that I had traveled around the world two times.

    Quoted speech:  My wife said to my son, “You should have fixed the broken light on your car before you got the ticket.”
    Reported speech:  My wife said to my son that he should have changed the broken light on his car before he got a ticket.

    Quoted speech:  I asked my sons, “Can you help me in my garden on Saturday”?
    Reported speech:  I asked my sons if they could help me in my garden on Saturday.

    Quoted speech:  My sister says, “I want to win the lottery.”
    Reported speech:  My sister says that she wants to win the lottery.

    Quoted speech:  My wife told the delivery person, “Put the boxes here.”
    Reported speech:  My wife told the delivery person to put the boxes there.

    From the examples above, you should note that the verb tense of reported speech depends upon the verb that comes before it.  If the first verb is in the present tense, then the reported speech is also in the present tense.  However, if the first verb is in the past tense, then the reported speech is also in the past tense.  If the quoted speech is a present or future tense modal verb, then the reported speech is a past modal.  If the quoted speech is in the present perfect tense, then the reported speech is in the past perfect tense.  This is difficult to understand and use, both for native and non-native speakers and especially writers.

    Also, note how pronouns and possessive adjectives change form.  I becomes he/she
    You becomes I/weMy becomes his/herOur becomes their.  Your becomes our.

    Here becomes thereNow becomes thenThis and these become that and those
    Today becomes that day and tomorrow becomes the next day.

    Simple yes/no questions change from the helping verbs to if.

    With imperative sentences, use infinitives in reported speech.
    Example:  “Come to class on time.”  He told them to come to class on time.

    Verb Forms Used in Reported Speech

    Quoted Speech                                       Reported Speech

    The student said, “I study hard.”               He said *that he studied hard.
    The student says, “I study hard.”               He says *that he studies hard.
    He said, “I am studying hard.”                   He said *that he was studying hard.
    He said, “I will study hard.”                       He said *that he would study hard.
    He said, “I am going to study hard.”           He said *that he was going to study hard.
    He says, “I am going to study hard.”          He says *that he is going to study hard.
    He said, “I can study hard.”                       He said *that he could study hard.
    He said, “I have studied hard.”                  He said *that he had studied hard.
    He says, “I have studied hard.”                  He says *that he has studied hard.
    He said, “I had studied hard.”                    He said *that he had studied hard.
    He told them, “Do your homework.”           He told them to do their homework.

           *The word “that” is optional in the reported speech sentences.  In fact, native speakers usually do not say the “that.”  It is understood to be there by native speakers, however.  Common verbs used for reporting words are as follows:  say, tell, ask, inquire, respond, answer, reply, state, comment, report, complain, announce, explain, remark, note.  There are doubtlessly other reported-speech words.  In reported speech, these verbs are almost always used in the past tense.

    Exercise 26:  Change quoted speech to reported speech in the following sentences, please. 


    “I need to buy a new computer.”  He said he needed to buy a new computer.
    “We have been working for two days on the project.” 
    He noted that they had been working for two days on the project.

    1.  Alex said, “I will be home in August.”


    2.  My sister asked, “Will your son be home in August”?


    3.  I said to my neighbor, “I love to work in my garden.”


    4.  The housewife said to her husband, “We have to fix the broken window.”


    5.  “Boys make a lot of noise,” said the tired mother.


    6.  The boy said to his grandmother, “I love you.”


    7.  The policeman asked the driver, “Do you have a driver’s license”?


    8.  The teacher told the students, “Bring your books to class tomorrow.”


    9.  The man said, “The boys are playing soccer.”


    10.  The woman said to her husband, “A plane just flew by at a very low altitude.”


    11.  “The teacher said, “You will eventually learn English.”


    Exercise 27:  Same as above, please.

    1.  The man responded to me, “I’ll see you later on tonight.”


    2.  I advised the children “Don’t play near the street.”


    3.  The man complained to the restaurant manager, “Please make sure the plates are clean the next time I come here.”


    4.  The boys asked me, “Do you like classical music”?


    5.  When the woman saw the price on the coat, she remarked to her friend, “I think you are crazy if you buy that coat at that price.”


    6.  I inquired of the mechanic, “How much will it cost to repair my car”?


    7.  The murderer stated to the judge, “I committed the murder because the man owed me some money for a gambling debt and he wouldn’t pay up.”


    8.  The mailman said, “I haven’t delivered any mail to that house in over a week.”


    9.  The teacher responded to the student’s question by saying, “I’m sorry, but I don’t know the answer.”


    10.  The worker told his boss, “I can’t come to work tomorrow because I have a doctor’s appointment.”


    11.  The president commented to his staff, “Sometimes this job is like living in hell.”


    Exercise 28:  Use the following words to make reported-speech sentences, please.

    1.  reported


    2.  said


    3.  inquired


    4.  asked


    5.  responded


    6.  announced


    7.  noted


    8.  explained


    9.  stated


    10.  told


    11. replied


    12.  complained


    13.  said

    5.6: Quoted Speech versus Reported Speech is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Don Bissonnette.

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