Reported questions in English

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Reported Questions

If you use a question in Reported Speech, follow the steps described on our page Reported Speech – Summary (changing of the person, backshift of tenses, shifting of expressions of time/place).

In Reported speech the question becomes a statement. Mind the word order: subjectverb

1. The introductory sentence in Reported Questions

1.1. The introductory sentence is in the Simple Present

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

  • Direct Speech → Susan: “Does Mary work in an office?”
  • Reported Speech → Susan asks if/whether Mary works in an office.

The introductory sentence: Susan asks ... → is in the Simple Present. There is no backshift of tenses. The auxiliary do is dropped in the Reported speech.

1.2. The introductory sentence in the Simple Past

If the introductory sentence is in the Simple Past, there is usually backshift of tenses.

  • Direct Speech → Susan: “Does Mary work in an office?”
  • Reported Speech → Susan asked if/whether Mary worked in an office.

The introductory sentence: Susan asked... → is in the Simple Past. There is backshift of tenses.

1.3. Types of introductory sentences

The word ask in introductory sentences in Reported Questions can be substituted with other words, e.g.

  • want to know
  • wonder

2. Questions with and without question words

Questions can be formed with or without question words.

If there is a question without a question word in Direct Speech, use whether or if in Reported Speech.

  • Peter: “Do you play football?” → Peter asked me whether (if) I played football.

If there is a question with a question word in Direct Speech, use this question word in Reported Speech.

  • Peter: “When do you play football?” → Peter asked me when I played football.

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