Unit 46. Reported speech (2)

It is not always necessary to change the verb when you use reported speech. If you are reporting something and you feel that it is still true, you do not need to change the tense of the verb:

direct Tom said, “New York is bigger than London.”
reported Tom said (that) New York is (or was) bigger than London.

direct Ann said, “I want to go to Turkey next year.”
reported Ann said (that) she wants (or wanted) to go to Turkey next year.

Notice that it is also correct to change the verb into the past.

But you must use a past tense when there is a difference between what was said and what is
really true.
Study this example situation:

You met Ann. She said, “Jim is sick.” (direct speech)

Later that day you see Jim playing tennis and looking fine. You say:

“I’m surprised to see you playing tennis, Jim. Ann said that you were sick.”

(not that you are sick, because he isn’t sick)

Must, might, could, would, should, and ought stay the same in reported speech. May in direct speech normally changes to might in reported speech.

Say and tell

If you say who you are talking to, use tell:

  • Tom told me (that) he didn’t like Brian, (no? Tom said me…) Otherwise use say:

  • Tom said (that) he didn’t like Brian, (not Tom told (that) he…) Also: you can’t say “Tom told about his trip to Mexico.” You have to say:

  • Tom told us (or me/them/Ann, etc.) about his trip to Mexico. If you don’t say who he told, you have to say:

  • Tom talked (or spoke) about his trip to Mexico, (but not said about)

    We also use the infinitive (to do/to stay, etc.) in reported speech, especially with tell and ask (for orders and requests):

    direct “Stay in bed for a few days,” the doctor said to me.
    reported The doctor told me to stay in bed for a few days.

    direct “Don’t shout,” I said to Jim.
    reported I told Jim not to shout.

    direct “Please don’t tell anyone what happened,” Ann said to me.
    reported Ann asked me not to tell anyone what (had) happened.

    direct “Can you open the door for me, Tom?” Ann asked.
    reported Ann asked Tom to open the door for her.

    Said is also possible with the infinitive:

  • The doctor said to stay in bed for a few days, (but not said me)

      |     |  на главную