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Direct – Indirect Speech Or Narration


Posted Date: 17-Mar-2011  Last Updated:   Category: Education    
Author: Member Level: Diamond    Points: 30


This article deals with Direct and Indirect Speech, an important topic of English grammar. It gives a brief description of direct-indirect narration. The graphics are used in the article to explain the changing of sentences from Direct to Indirect speech. Each type of sentence, viz. statements, questions, exclamations and imperatives are dealt with in detail. The changes which have to take effect in the Indirect speech are clearly explained.



What is direct or indirect speech.


Direct speech is referred to a speech when a person directly speaks to a person in front of him / her. Such a speech is enclosed within quotation marks ("…") and is termed as reported speech. The verb used to report the speech is called the reporting verb and is usually followed by a comma ( , ). On the other side, an Indirect speech refers to the speech when the reported speech in the quotation marks is told to some other person indirectly. This situation will be clear when we practice the sentences of different types in the following paragraphs.

Importance of direct or indirect speech in English grammar.
Direct and Indirect speech or narration is one of the most important part of the English grammar, the questions about which we find in question papers of almost all school examinations and various competitive and examinations. So, it is very important to learn how to change the sentences from direct to indirect speech and vice versa.

Changes from Direct to Indirect speech:


Direct to indirect speech is based on four types of sentences. These are:

1. Statements which may be assertive (positive) or negative.
2. Questions or Interrogatory sentences : We can divide questions into two types- (a) Queries or 'Yes" "No" questions and (b) Wh questions which usually start with the letters 'w' or 'h', and cannot be answered in 'Yes' or 'No.
3. Imperative sentences which are usually in the form of a command, an order, and advice, a suggestion or a request.
4. Exclamatory sentences which show the speaker's joy, sorrow, surprise, excitement or horror etc.

Changes needed while changing sentences from direct to indirect speech:


1. While changing a sentence from direct to indirect, the tense is changed from present tense to the past and from past tense to past perfect unless the reported speech is a universal truth like 'the earth moves round the sun'.

2. The following other changes need to be made while changing from Direct to Indirect Speech:

Now into then; this into that; these into those; here into there; ago into before; yesterday into the previous day; today into that day; tomorrow into the next day.

3. In addition to the above changes, there will be changes in pronouns depending upon their position in the sentences.

4. In statements (both assertive and negative), the conjunction 'that' is introduced after the reporting verb, and conjunction 'if' or 'whether' is introduced in case of queries (Yes or No questions). Remember not to introduce any conjunction if the reported speech starts with the 'Wh' questions.

5. Use the infinitive 'to' in imperative sentences.

6. Caution: Never use the word 'to' after 'said' or 'asked'.

7. There will be no quotation marks in the Indirect Speech.

Examples of direct to indirect speech with graphics:


Look at the image below for direct and indirect speech of statements:

Direct-indirect speech of statments

There are three students in the picture. Their names are Jacob, Vijay and Vishal. Vishal is reading a . Jacob is pointing to Vishal and telling Vijay that Vishal is reading a book. So Jacob is making a statement.
In the direct speech we shall write the sentence as follows:
Jacob to Vijay: "Vishal is reading a book now". Or Jacob said to Vijay, "Vishal is reading a book now."
In the above sentence, 'said' is a reporting verb in the past tense. 'Vishal is reading a book now' is the reported speech in the Present continuous tense.
Following the rules above, we shall write the sentence in the Indirect speech as follow:
Jacob told Vijay that Vishal was reading a book then.

Let us make some more sentences of the statements type, in some more forms of the present tense, which may be assertive (positive) or negative statements:

1. Jacob said to Vijay, "Vishal reads his English book daily". (Assertive statement in simple present tense)
2. Jacob said to Vijay, "Vishal never reads his Hindi textbook". (Negative statement in simple present tense)
3. Vishal said, "I have completed reading the tenth lesson today". (Assertive statement in present perfect tense)
4. Vishal said, "I haven't read all the lessons of my science text book yet." (Negative statement in present perfect tense)
5. Jacob said to Vishal, "I am going to my uncle's house tomorrow." (Negative statement in present continuous tense)

Sentences as they will appear in Indirect speech:


1. Jacob told Vijay that Vishal read his English book daily.
2. Jacob told Vijay that Vishal never read his Hindi textbook.
3. Vishal said that he had completed reading the tenth lesson that day.
4. Vishal said that he hadn't read all the lessons of his science textbook yet.
5. Jacob told Vishal that he was going to his uncle's house the next day.
Note:- Use conjunction 'that' in indirect speech. Never use the 'to' after told.

Direct speech statements in Simple future tense and modal verbs:


1. Vishal said, "I will read the eleventh lesson tomorrow". (Assertive statement in simple future tense)
2. Vishal said to Jacob, "I will not be able to read all the lessons by the end of the academic year." (Negative statement in simple future tense).
3. Vishal said to Jacob, "I can read all lessons of my English reader." (Modal verb "can")

Sentences as they will appear in Indirect speech:


1. Vishal said that he would read the eleventh lesson the next day.
2. Vishal told Jacob that he would not be able to read all the lessons by the end of the academic year.
3. Vishal told Jacob that he could read all lessons of his English reader.

Direct speech statements in the past tense:


1. Vijay said to Jacob, "I saw an educational movie yesterday." (Assertive statement in simple past tense)
2. Jacob said, "I didn't see any educational movie so far." (Negative statement in simple past tense).
3. Vishal said to his friends, "I had already seen the Taj twice." (Assertive statement in past perfect tense)
4. Vijay said, "I hadn't visited Agra at all". (Negative statement in past perfect tense)
5. Jacob said to Vijay, "When I went to Vijay's house, he was watching TV". (Assertive statement in simple past and past continuous tense).

Sentences as they will appear in Indirect speech:
1. Vijay told Jacob that he had seen an educational movie the previous day.
2. Jacob said that he had not seen any educational movie so far.
3. Vishal told his friends that he had already seen the Taj twice.
4. Vijay said that He hadn't visited Agra at all.
5. Jacob told Vijay that when he had gone to Vijay's house, he had been watching TV.

Direct and indirect speech of interrogatory sentences:


Direct-indirect speech of questions

Questions are of two types. Queries or Yes-No questions and 'Wh' questions. Queries are the questions which require their answers in either 'Yes' or 'No'. The other type of questions start with the letters W or H and cannot be answered in 'Yes' or 'No'.

In the picture above, there are three students. The two boys are directly engaged in conversation and the girl is watching them talking. The boy names Jacob is asking a question from the boy named Vijay. The girl Priyanka is watching them. Their talk in Direct speech can be as follows:

1. Jacob said to Vijay, "Where are you going tomorrow? ('Wh' question in Present continuous tense). Or it can be as under in the form of a query:

2. Jacob said to Vijay, "Are you going to the zoo tomorrow?"
Later, Priyanka will report the conversation among the two boys in Indirect Speech to someone as follows:

1. Jacob asked Vijay where he was going the next day. (The tense is changed to past tense. No conjunction is introduced, and the pronoun 'you' is changed to 'he'. The reporting verb 'said' is changed to 'asked')

2. Jacob asked Vijay if (or whether) he was going to the zoo next day. (There is a change from the present tense to the past tense. The conjunction 'if' or 'whether' is introduced. The pronoun 'you' is changed to 'he')

Some more interrogatory sentences in various tenses in Direct Speech:
1. Jacob said to Vijay, "How do you prepare for the examination?" (Simple present tense – Wh question).
2. "Do you go to the church on Sundays?" Jacob asked Vijay. (Simple present tense – Query)
3. Jacob asked Vijay, "Why did the English teacher punish you yesterday?" (Simple past tense – Wh question)
4. Jacob asked Vijay, "Was the English teacher very angry?" (Simple past tense – Query).
5. Vijay asked Jacob, "Will you come to my house this evening?" (Simple future tense – Query)
6. Jacob asked Vijay, "What will you mother cook for you tonight?" (Simple future tense – Wh question).
7. Jacob asked Vijay, "Which places have you visited during this summer vacation?" (Present perfect tense – Wh question)
8. Jacob said to Vijay, "Where had your father gone last week?" (Past perfect tense – Wh question)

The above sentences can be written in the Indirect speech as follows:


1. Jacob asked Vijay how he prepared for the examination.
2. Jacob asked Vijay if he went to the church on Sundays.
3. Jacob asked Vijay why the English teacher had punished him the previous day.
4. Jacob asked Vijay if the English teacher has been very angry.
5. Vijay asked Jacob if he would come to his house that evening.
6. Jacob asked Vijay what his mother would cook for him that night.
7. Jacob asked Vijay which places he had visited during that summer vacation.
8. Jacob asked Vijay where his father had gone last week.
Note:- Conjunction 'if' can be replaced by the conjunction 'whether'.

Direct and indirect speech of exclamatory sentences:


Direct-indirect speech of exclamations

In the picture above, there are three students Priyanka, Jacob and Vijay standing from left to right. Jacob is telling Vijay about the weather outside. Priyanka is listening to their conversation. The talk between Jacob and Vijay will be written in the Direct Speech as follows:

Jacob said to Vijay, "What a pleasant weather today!"

Later, when Priyanka tells someone about the conversation between Jacob and Vijay, she would speak the same in Indirect Speech as follows:

Jacob told Vijay what a pleasant weather it was that day. (Note the change in the tense and the position of the verb 'be' in the past tense).

Let us practice some more exclamatory sentences:
1. Jacob said to Vijay, "How sunny it is outside!" (The position of the verb 'be' after the subject 'it' makes it an exclamatory sentence. Interchanging their position will turn the sentence into an interrogatory sentence.)
2. Jacob said to Vijay, "Hurrah, we have won the match!"
3. Jacob said to Vijay, "Alas! Many people died in Japan due to the Tsunamis!"
4. Jacob said to Vijay, "Oh! What a shocking experience the Japanese may have felt after the earthquake!"

The same sentences can be written in Indirect speech as follows:


1. Jacob told Vijay how sunny it was outside.
2. Jacob exclaimed to Vijay with joy that they had won the match.
3. Jacob exclaimed to Vijay with sorrow that many people had died in Japan due to the Tsunamis.
4. Jacob exclaimed to Vijay with surprise what a shocking experience the Japanese might have felt after the earthquake.

Look at the image below for direct and indirect speech of imperative sentences:


Direct-indirect speech of imperatives

As explained in the earlier pictures, in this picture too, you find the same three students, Priyanka, Jacob and Vijay. Jacob is making a request to Vijay to give him th lying on the desk. We can put their conversation in the Direct Speech as under, which will later be told to someone else by Priyanka in Indirect Speech.

Jacob said to Vijay, "Please give me the book lying on the desk." (Imperative sentence involving a 'request')

Priyanka will report the conversation of Jacob and Vijay to a third person. She has to use the Indirect speech as given below:

Jacob requested Vijay to give him the book lying on the table. ( Introduction of 'to' with the verb 'give' makes it an infinitive. Pronoun 'me' refers Jacob and is changed to third person pronoun 'him'. The verb 'please' in the reported speech, indicates a 'request', hence the reporting verb 'said' is changed to 'requested'.)

Let us think of some more imperative sentences:


1. The commander said to a soldier, "Dig a trench of four feet depth." (Imperative sentence involving a 'command' or an 'order'.
2. The teacher said to the students, "Prepare for your examinations in order to secure good marks." (Imperative sentence involving an 'advice')
3. The manager said to the , "Let's have a get together this Sunday." (Imperative involving a 'suggestion')
4. The policeman said to the motorcycle rider, "Don't commit the traffic violation again to avoid fine." (Imperative sentence involving a 'warning').

The above sentences can be written in the Indirect speech as follows:


1. The commander ordered a soldier to dig a trench of four feet depth.
2. The teacher advised the students to prepare for their examinations in order to secure good marks.
3. The manager suggested to the employees to have a get together that Sunday.
4. The policeman warned the motorcycle rider not to commit the traffic violation again to avoid fine.

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