Chapter 9-5: Direct and Reported Speech
Direct speech is a representation of the exact words that have been said by someone.
Quotation marks are used to separate the direct speech from its surrounding context.
Reported speech is an indirect representation of what has been said by someone.
Reporting speech requires systematic changes to give the same meaning or reflect many of the same words that were spoken, but with changed forms.
Reported speech is grammatically connected to the context of the whole sentence and it appears without quotation marks.
The Optional "That"
Connecting reported speech without quotation marks means joining clauses that used to be clearly separate. "That" may be used to connect the reported speech as an object clause.
"That" has become unnecessary in this position, meaning that it can be used for clarity and formality, but is often left out of informal situations.
Direct speech is based on the perspective of the person who is speaking. If Harry is going to bed, he uses the first person pronoun "I" in subject position.
In reported speech, references may need to be shifted to the new context of the sentence, not the person who is speaking. In reported speech, the third person pronoun "he" is used in subject position to talk about Harry.
Changing the pronouns can be a complex task, and may need to be carefully processed to ensure that it is logical, unambiguous and necessary. Remember that it is not necessary to change the pronouns if they have the same meaning in their indirect context.
Reported speech occurs after the original direct speech has been produced. For this reason, the reported clauses need to reflect their connection to the past. The verbs in reported speech normally undergo systematic changes from the direct speech forms.
When Harry announced his action, he used the present continuous tense.
When we integrate the announcement, we conform it to the surrounding context. Just as Harry said is a past description, we need to move his words into the past. Harry's words are reported in the past continous.
Examples of common changes are shown below.
Backshifting is usually correct and necessary in reported speech and is an important skill to master.
However, based on the context of the reported speech, it is sometimes possible not to backshift the verbs.
Backshifting is not necessary when the reported speech is relevant at the same time, or very soon after, the direct speech was spoken.
Lisa reported what her father had said immediately before.
Backshifting is also not necessary if the information is likely or certain to be still true at the time of the reported speech.
To be formal and correct, it is recommended to backshift verbs at all times. However, in spoken and informal situations, it is common to replicate the direct verb form in such cases.
Phrases Needing Context
Some words and phrases may not be appropriate in reported speech because they are related to their specific context and often lose meaning when reported in a different context. They need to be changed or deleted if they do not function well in the reported speech.
Below are some examples of context-reliant words and phrases and possible reported speech forms. There may be a variety of different ways to adapt similar phrases.
TIME, PLACE AND RELATIVE DETERMINERS
today -> the same day
yesterday -> the day before
tomorrow -> the following day
last week -> the previous week
this month -> that month
next year -> the next year
now -> at that time
5 minutes ago -> 5 minutes earlier
soon -> not long after
here/there -> in the same place/(describe or name the place)
nearby/far away -> near (describe or name)/far away from (describe or name)
Determiners ad Pronouns
this/that/these/those -> it/them/(specify the person, place or object)
INTERJECTIONS AND EXPRESSIVE WORDS
These are certain expressive words and phrases that are very meaningful when used in direct speech, but that lose their function in reported speech. Instead, their meaning should be described. If they add no helpful meaning, they can be fully removed.
The previous examples are formed with the basic speech-introduction verb "said".
There are many other introductory verbs to choose from. These can add variety and expression.
Questions also need to be adapted according to specific rules when reported.
Just like reported statements, reported questions also need changed pronouns, backshifted verbs and adaptation of phrases that need context.
Questions starting with a "wh" question word (such as who, what, when, etc.) keep this component in reported speech. This functions as a connecting word between the introductory clause and the reported clauses.
Questions that give limited options, or can be answered with "yes" or "no" require a connecting word. Either of the conjunctions "if" and "whether" needs to be added.
The two options have exactly the same meaning when used for reporting, except that "whether" is preferred for formal situations.
Notice that the auxiliary "did" disappears from the reported question in the example above. This will be explained in the next section.
Transforming the Structure
Direct speech questions follow a question structure to exactly replicate the original question. Reported questions are not questions, they are sentences about questions, used for description.
For this reason, the inverted question structure that often places an auxiliary before the subject, needs to be reordered as a standard subject + verb sentence.
Note that direct speech questions are punctuated with question marks, but reported questions are punctuated with periods.
The previous examples of questions are formed with the basic speech-introduction verb "asked".
There are several other introductory verbs to choose from. These can add variety and expression.
REPORTED Instructions and requests
Instructions and requests are also reported with a changed structure.
Direct requests or instructions are most commonly given using the imperative form of the verb. To report an imperative, the verb must become a "to infinitive", which looks very similar except for the added "to".
These requests are normally friendly and informal. The directly spoken instruction may be formed with an imperative (also known as a direct request) or question form (also known as an indirect request).
Use an introductory verb such as "ask" and a "to infinitive" verb to directly report a polite request.
The original quote is structured as a question, including verb/subject ordering and a final question mark.
The reported version undergoes the same changes as any reported question, such as the addition of "if" or "whether." Use modal verbs such as "could", "would" and "might" in the object clause.
Some polite question form requests contain politeness phrases such as "Could I ask", "May I inquire" and similar phrasing. These phrases will create repetition in the reported request, so they are often left out.
These formal requests are found in official instructions, orders and requirements.
They may be formed in different ways:
1. With a to infinitive form
2. With a subjunctive verb in an independent clause
3. There is sometimes also a possible third form. This is using an independent clause with a modal verb.
A modal form is only possible after certain introductory verbs, including told, instructed and said.
Modal forms cannot be used after certain other introductory verbs such as demanded, ordered and requested.
The previous examples of instructions are formed with "ask" and "say."
There are other introductory verbs to choose from. They can add variety and expression. They can also affect the politeness and authoritativeness of instructions and requests.
Notice that there is often a difference in the correct structure depending on the reference to the person as a direct object in the introduction, or as the subject of the reported verb.