Speech & Voice

Direct/lndirect Speech

There are a set of simple rules to abide by when solving this type of question. If you are aware of them,solving them will be a cakewalk. Typically, a sentence is given either in direct speech,or in indirect speech,and the student is given four or five options and asked to choose the one that best converts it into the form other than the one in which it is given.

A sentence in the direct speech is easy to recognise by its use of quotation marks. The standard format is: She said to the manager, “Did you receive the file Isent across to you?”

Reporting Speech / Reported Speech

The part of the sentence outside the quotation marks is called the reporting speech, while the text inside the quotation marks is called the reported speech.

A sentence in the indirect speech does not use quotation marks. The standard format is:

She asked the manager if he had received the file that she had sent across to him.

Rules for Solving

1. Punctuation: Note that the first word of the quoted speech always begins with a capital letter,almost as if it were a separate sentence. The same sentence once converted to indirect speech, does not use capitalization in the middle. If asked to convert a sentence in indirect speech to direct speech, remember to capitalize the first word of the reported speech. A question mark or full stop (whatever the case may be) must be put inside the quotation marks,and not outside.

2. Conjunctions: When converting a sentence from direct to indirect speech,the reported speech is joined with the reporting speech by means of conjunct ions such as ‘if’, ‘that’ etc. When converting from indirect to direct speech,a comma must be put before the quoted text begins.

3. Pronouns: The pronouns must change when changing the speech of a sentence.

3a: Consider the following sentence:She said, “I did not wake up on time.”

She said that she did not wake up on time.

The first person pronoun (I) in the reported speech changes to that of the subject of the reporting speech (she).

3b: Consider the following sentence:She said to him, “I do not trust you.” a She told him that she did not trust him.

The second person pronoun (you) in the reported speech changes according to the object of the reporting speech (him).

3c: Consider the following sentence: She said, “He cannot be trusted.”

She said that he could not be trusted.

The third person pronoun (he) in the reported speech remains unchanged.

4. Words expressing time and place are changed when changing from one speech to the other.

5. Modals: Modals such as ‘can’, ‘may’ and ‘must’ change into ‘could’, ‘might’ and ‘had to’, when converting direct to indirect speech.The following modals do not change: ‘should’, ‘would’, ‘could’, ‘might’ and ‘ought to’.

6. Tenses: This is the part where the students are most likely to make errors in conversion.Other than the past perfect tense, and the past perfect continuous tenses,all tenses change upon conversion.

6a: The rules for the same are illustrated in the table below.

6b: In some special cases, the tense of the sentence does not change when converting from one speech to the other.

This happens when the speaker is talking about a phenomenon that remains constant across time and place.

For instance: She said, “The sun rises in the east and sets in the west.”

She said that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.

7. Imperative Sentences: Typically such sentences contain a command, request, advice or a suggestion.

When the sentence given in direct speech contain any of the aforementioned,or carry a tone which suggests that they do, the student has to use the respective reporting verb in the indirect speech.

For instance, She said to her,”Please lend me some money.”

She requested her to lend her some money.

Note that the use of the word ‘please’ in this sentence shows that the subject is requesting the object.

The word ‘please’ will not be used when converting the sentence into indirect speech.

Another example can be: “Bring the box to me!” the officer said to him. a The officer ordered him to bring the box to him.
8. Verbs: When changing the sentence from direct to indirect speech, the reporting verb (said to +object) changes to told + object or asked + object, depending on whether the sentence is assertive or interrogative in nature.