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Using Reported Speech


Reported speech is also known as indirect speech and is commonly used in spoken conversations to report what others have said. A keen grasp of correct tense usage, as well as the ability to correctly shift pronouns and time expressions is essential to proper usage of the reported speech.

The use of reported speech is especially important at higher English levels. Students, at this point, are fine tuning their communication skills to include expressing the ideas of others, as well as their own opinions. Students usually need to focus not only on the grammar involved, but also on production skills. Reported speech includes some rather tricky transformations that need to be practiced a number of times before students feel comfortable using them in every day conversations.

Aim: Developing reported speech grammar and productions skills

Activity: Introduction and written reporting activity, followed by spoken practice in the form of a questionnaire

Level: Upper-intermediate


  • Introduce/review reported speech by making simple statements and asking students to report what you have said. Make sure to emphasize reporting in the past (i.e., "the teacher said", NOT "the teacher says")
  • Provide review sheet of principle reported speech transitions (included in lesson printout pages)
  • Have students get into pairs and convert the reported speech paragraph into the direct speech form.
  • Correct worksheet as a class.
  • Ask students to divide up into new pairs and ask each other questions from the questionnaire. Remind them to take notes on what their partners say.
  • Have students divide into new pairs and ask them to report what they have learned about the other students to their new partner (i.e., John said he had lived in Breubach for two years).
  • Follow-up with class conversation focusing on problematic tense transformations.
Reported Speech

Study the following chart carefully. Notice how reported speech is one step back into the past from direct speech.

Exercise 1: Put the following paragraph in the reported speech into conversational form using direct speech.

Peter introduced me to Jack who said he was pleased to meet me. I replied that it was my pleasure, and that I hoped Jack was enjoying his stay in Seattle. He said he thought Seattle was a beautiful city, but that it rained too much. He said that he had been staying at the Bayview Hotel for three weeks, and that it hadn't stopped raining since he had arrived. Of course, he said, this wouldn't have surprised him if it hadn't been July! Peter replied that he should have brought warmer clothes. He then continued by saying that he was going to fly to Hawaii the following week, and he that he couldn't wait to enjoy some sunny weather. Both Jack and I commented that Peter was a lucky person indeed.

Exercise 2: Ask you partner the following questions making sure to take good notes. After you have finished the questions, find a new partner and report what you have learnt about your first partner using reported speech.

  • What is your favorite sport and how long have you been playing/doing it?
  • What are your plans for your next vacation?
  • How long have you known your best friend? Can you give me a description of him/her?
  • What kind of music do you like? Have you always listened to that kind of music?
  • What did you use to do when you were younger that you don't do anymore?
  • Do you have any predictions about the future?
  • Can you tell me what you do on a typical Saturday afternoon?
  • What were you doing yesterday at this time?
  • Which two promises will you make concerning learning English?

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