Reported Speech (Indirect Speech) in English – Summary

How to use Reported Speech

If you have a sentence in Direct Speech, try to follow our 5 steps to put the sentence into Reported Speech..

  1. Define the type of the sentence (statement, questions, command)
  2. What tense is used in the introductory sentence?
  3. Do you have to change the person (pronoun)?
  4. Do you have to backshift the tenses?
  5. Do you have to change expressions of time and place?

1. Statements, Questions, Commands

Mind the type of sentences when you use Reported Speech. There is more detailed information on the following pages.

2. The introductory sentence

If you use Reported Speech there are mostly two main differences.

The introductory sentence in Reported Speech can be in the Present or in the Past.

If the introductory sentences is in the Simple Present, there is no backshift of tenses.

Direct Speech:

  • Susan: “Mary works in an office.”

Reported Speech:

  • Introductory sentence in the Simple Present → Susan says (that)* Mary works in an office.
  • Introductory sentence in the Simple Past → Susan said (that)* Mary worked in an office.

3. Change of persons/pronouns

If there is a pronoun in Direct Speech, it has possibly to be changed in Reported Speech, depending on the siutation.

  • Direct Speech → Susan: “I work in an office.”
  • Reported Speech → Susan said (that)* she worked in an office.

Here I is changed to she.

4. Backshift of tenses

If there is backshift of tenses in Reported Speech, the tenses are shifted the following way.

  • Direct Speech → Peter: “I work in the garden.”
  • Reported Speech → Peter said (that)* he worked in the garden.
Direct Speech Reported Speech
Simple forms
Simple Present Simple Past
Simple Past Past Perfect
Present Perfect
Past Perfect
will would
Progressive forms
am/are/is was/were
was/were had been
has been
had been

5. Conversion of expressions of time and place

If there is an expression of time/place in the sentence, it may be changed, depending on the situation.

  • Direct Speech → Peter: “I worked in the garden yesterday.”
  • Reported Speech → Peter said (that) he had worked in the garden the day before.
Direct Speech Reported Speech
this evening that evening
today/this day that day
these days those days
now then
a week ago a week before
last weekend the weekend before / the previous weekend
next week the following week
tomorrow the next/following day
here there

6. Additional information

In some cases backshift of tenses is not necessary, e.g. when statements are still true. Backshift of tenses is never wrong.

  • John: “My brother is at Leipzig university.”
  • John said (that) his brother was at Leipzig university. or
  • John said (that) his brother is at Leipzig university.


when you use general statements.

  • Mandy: “The sun rises in the east.”
  • Mandy said (that) the sun rose in the east. or
  • Mandy said (that) the sun rises in the east.

* The word that is optional, that is the reason why we put it in brackets.