Change of Tenses in Indirect Speech

A change of time may mean a change of tense. So after past reporting verbs, the verbs of original speech are usually made more past.

simple present tense in the direct speech becomes simple past in the reported speech.

  • Direct speech: James said, ‘I am ready.’
  • Indirect speech: James said that he was ready.

present continuous tense in the direct speech becomes past continuous in the indirect speech.

  • Direct speech: James said, ‘I am going.’
  • Indirect speech: James said that he was going.

present perfect tense in the direct speech becomes past perfect in the indirect speech.

  • Direct speech: James said, ‘I have finished.’
  • Indirect speech: James said that he had finished.

simple past tense in the direct speech sometimes becomes past perfect in the indirect speech.

  • Direct speech: James said, ‘John phoned.’
  • Indirect speech: James said that John had phoned.

Will in the direct speech becomes would in the indirect speech; can becomes couldshall becomes shouldmay becomes might; must and ought remain the same.

  • Direct speech: John asked Mary, ‘Will you marry me?’
  • Indirect speech: John asked Mary if she would marry him.
  • Direct speech: James said, ‘I can’t swim.’
  • Indirect speech: James said that he couldn’t swim.
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