Direct and indirect speech

Direct speech describes when something is being repeated exactly as it was – usually in between a pair of inverted commas. For example:

He told me,“I’ll call you at 8pm.”

Indirect speech will still share the same information – but instead of expressing someone’s comments or speech by directly repeating them, it involves reporting or describing what was said. An obvious difference is that with indirect speech, you won’t use inverted commas. For example:

He said to me that he would call me at 8pm.

Reported speech is usually used to talk about the past, so we normally change the tense of the words spoken. We use reporting verbs likesay’,tell’, ‘ask’, and we may use the word ‘that’ to introduce the reported words. Inverted commas are not used. For example:

He said, “I told him.” – He said that she had told him.

Say’ and ‘tell’:

Use ‘say’ when there is no indirect object. For example:

She said that she was sad.

Always use ‘tell’ when you say who was being spoken to. For example:

She told me that she was sad.

Talk’ and ‘speak’ are used to describe the action of communicating. For example:

He was speaking on the phone.

With ‘about’ to refer to what was said. For example:

She talked (to us) about her holiday.

Learning is easy and fun!

2 Comments

  1. I always find indirect speech confusing and tend to make a lot of mistakes. This clears some of my doubts. The difference between said and told would be helpful for me.

  2. Thanks for explaining the difference between direct and indirect speech in an easy to understand way. I just have one doubt, if there is another sentence after the below example, would the full stop be within the quotes or outside the quotes?

    He told me,“I’ll call you at 8pm.”

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