Direct and Indirect Speech | Fully Explained

Learn all the rules of ‘Direct and Indirect Speech’

In this write-up, we will learn direct and indirect speech/narration from scratch.

In our daily life, we often quote other people. We usually quote someone in two ways. The first way is to quote someone exactly in his own words. The second way is to quote in our own words. Here lies a difference. Let’s understand it in detail.

What is Direct Speech?

When we quote someone in exactly his own words, it is called ‘direct speech’. For example, I say; Ali says to me, “I do not drink cold water.”

Now ‘I do not drink cold water’ are the exact words that Ali has spoken to me and I quoted those words exactly as they were spoken by Ali. Such sort of speech is direct speech or direct narration.

I hope it made some sense.

What is Indirect Speech?

When I will quote what Ali says to me in my own words, it is indirect speech or indirect narration.

For example, Ali says to me that he does not drink cold water. Now, the idea is the same. I quoted Ali but in my own words. This is indirect speech.

Some more examples:

Ahmed said to me, “I have passed my exam.”    (Direct Speech)

Ahmed told me that he had passed his exam.    (Indirect Speech)

Before we discuss the rules to change direct speech into indirect speech, let’s understand the parts and structure of direct speech.

Parts or Written Structure of Direct Speech | Reporting Speech and Reported Speech in Direct Narration

There are two parts of direct speech, i.e. Reporting Speech and Reported Speech.

Let’s understand with an example. Here is a direct speech; Ahmed said to me, “I have passed the exam.”

The first part of this direct speech Ahmed said to me is called ‘Reporting Speech’.

The second part of the speech “I have passed the exam” is called ‘Reported Speech’.

Moreover, we use a comma to separate reporting speech from reported speech. Secondly, we always enclose the reported speech in inverted commas in direct speech.

I am sure you got an idea of how to write a direct speech. Let’s move forward…

Basic Rules to Change Direct Narration into an Indirect Narration

Following are some basic rules one must follow while changing direct speech into indirect speech:

  • Always remove the comma and inverted commas.
  • Use that to connect reporting speech with reported speech.
  • Always change the pronouns in reported speech according to reporting speech based on the SON rule (as discussed later)
  • If reporting speech is in the present or future tense, the tense of the reported speech will not change while making indirect.
  • But, if reporting speech is in the past tense, we will change the tense of reported speech according to the rules (discussed later).

Let’s discuss these points in some detail…

In the case of simple sentences in reported speech, we always remove the comma and inverted commas and use that as a conjunction to connect reporting with reported speech.

(Note: The conjunction that is used in some cases, not always. We will learn about it later.)

For example, Farhan said to Kashif, “I am going to school.”         (Direct Speech)

Here, Farhan said to Kashif is a reporting speech, and I am going to school is a reported speech. Also, ‘I am going to school’ is a simple sentence.

While changing into indirect speech, we will remove the comma and inverted commas, and use that in indirect speech.

Moreover, the reporting speech is past tense, so while changing we will change the tense of reported speech as well.

Hence, its indirect will be Farhan told Kashif that he was going to school.

How to change narration when reporting speech is in Present?

Here, take an example:

Ali says to me, “My mother is ill.”

In this speech, the reporting speech is in the present tense, so while changing we won’t change the tense of the reported speech.

Thus, it will be,

Ali says to me that his mother is ill.

But, if the reporting speech is in past in the above case, like

Ali said to me, “My mother is ill.”

Then, the indirect will be…

Ali told me that his mother was ill. (change of tense because the reporting speech was in the past tense)

How to change Pronouns when making indirect?

A basic formula to change pronouns is SON.

1 =1st Person            S=Subject

2=2nd Person           O=Object

3=3rd Person            N=No Change

According to this formula, the 1st person pronoun (i.e. I, we)of reported speech will change according to the subject of reporting speech.

The 2nd person pronoun (i.e. you) of reported speech will change according to the object of reporting speech.

And the 3rd person pronoun (i.e. he, she, it, etc.) of reported speech will remain as it is (No Change).

Few Examples:

Ahmed says to me, “I like playing football.”

According to the SON rule, in reported speech, ‘I’ is the 1st person pronoun and it will be changed with the subject of reporting speech.

The subject of reporting speech is Ahmed, and for Ahmed, we will use ‘he’ while changing narration.

Thus, the indirect of the above speech will be:

Ahmed says to me that he likes playing football.  

Another Example,

The teacher says to me, “You do not work hard.”

In this case, ‘you’ in reported speech is a 2nd person pronoun. According to the SON rule, we will change it with the object of reporting speech.

And, the object in the reporting speech is ‘me’. ‘Me’ is an objective case whose subject case is ‘I’. So we will change the above example as,

The teacher tells me that I do not work hard.

A few changes that are mandatory while changing from direct to indirect speech if the reporting speech is in the past tense, like ‘he said’, etc.

We change;

Tense of Reported Speech

From Tense To Tense
Present Indefinite Tense Past Indefinite Tense
Present Continuous Tense Past Continuous Tense
Present Perfect Tense Past Perfect Tense
Present Perfect Continuous Tense Past Perfect Continuous Tense
Past Indefinite Tense Past Perfect Tense
Past Continuous Tense Past Perfect Continuous Tense


Few More Changes while changing the narration (if reporting speech is in the past tense)

It/This That
Here There
Hither Thither
Now Then
Tomorrow The Next Day
Yesterday The Previous Day
Will/Shall Would
May Might

Rules to Change different kinds of Sentence differently while making indirect

There are mainly FIVE types of Sentences:

  1. Assertive Sentence (Affirmative or simple, negative)
  2. Interrogative Sentence (question)
  3. Imperative Sentences (order, request, advice)
  4. Optative Sentence (praying – May you live long)
  5. Exclamatory Sentence (expression of feelings)

Going into details of these types is another area of discussion. Here we will learn how to change direct narration when reported speech has any of these types.

In the case of Assertive Sentence

We have already discussed how to change a simple sentence.

Let’s take another example of a simple sentence:

Rabia said to her mother, “I am going to make tea.”         (direct)

Rabia told her mother that she was going to make tea.  (Indirect)

Another example with a negative sentence

Ahmed says, “I don’t get up early.”         (Direct speech)

Ahmed says that he does not get up early.          (Indirect speech)

Again repeating, as reporting speech was in present, we didn’t change the tense while changing narration.

In the case of Interrogative Sentence

There are two types of interrogative sentences.

The first type of interrogative sentence starts with a helping or auxiliary verb, like – Are you reading a book? – Has he done his work? – Shall we go to England?

For such an interrogative sentence, we use ‘if’ or ‘whether’ instead of ‘that’ as conjunction while changing narration.

Secondly, in the reporting speech, we replace ‘said to’ or ‘says to’ with ‘asked’ or ‘asks’.

Thirdly, in indirect narration, reported speech no more remains a question but becomes a simple sentence.

For Example:

Hamza said to me, “Have you done your work?”                               (Direct Speech)

Two ways to make indirect of it…

Hamza asked me whether I had done my work.

Hamza asked me if I had done my work.

The other type of interrogative sentence starts with Questioning Pronoun i.e. who, how, where, when, what, which, etc.

While changing such questioning sentences into indirect, we use the questioning pronoun as the conjunction but the remaining statement no more remains a question. Generally, we place helping verb after subject in indirect speech. We also remove the question mark.

For Example:

John said to me, “When will the bus arrive?”       (Direct Speech)

John asked me when the bus would arrive.         (Indirect Speech)

What we did is, we changed ‘will’ to ‘would’ as per rules and placed the auxiliary verb after the subject. Secondly, we didn’t use any other conjunction like if, whether, that, etc. but used the questioning pronoun as it is.

Another Example,

Nimra said to Hira, “Where are you going?”         (Direct Speech)

Nimra asked Hira where she was going.                 (Indirect Speech)

Here, tense changed, sequence changed, pronoun changed according to the rules we have already discussed. Also, no question mark used at the end.

I hope it made some sense. Let’s move to the other type of sentences i.e. Imperative Sentence.

In Case of Imperative Sentences

The imperative sentence includes order, request, advice, etc.

We will take examples one by one.


The teacher said to me, “Close the door.”    (Direct Speech)

The teacher ordered me to close the door.  (Indirect Speech)

Father said to his son, “Do not make noise.”        (Direct Speech)

Father ordered his son not to make noise.


Father forbade his son to make a noise.                   (Indirect Speech)

Uncle said to his nephew, “Come here.”                               (Direct Speech)

Uncle ordered his nephew to come there.           (Indirect Speech)


The sentence in reported speech usually starts with ‘Please’. While making indirect, we use ‘request/requested’ instead of said.

The old man said to the boy, “Please bring me a glass of water.”                (Direct Speech)

The old man requested the boy to bring him a glass of water.     (Indirect Speech)

The passenger said to the driver, “Please stop the car.” (Direct Speech)

The passenger requested the driver to stop the car.       (Indirect Speech)


Father said, “Son, work hard if you want to succeed.”     (Direct Speech)

Father advised his son to work hard if he wanted to succeed.

The mother said to her child, “Respect your elders.”

The mother advised her child to respect his/her elders.

In the case of Optative Sentences

Optative sentence indicates a desire, wish, or prayer.


A sentence that indicates prayer usually starts with ‘May’.  We have already studied above that May changes into might.


Mother said, “May my son achieve success.”      (Direct Speech)

Mother prayed that her son might achieve success.

People said, “May the police arrest the criminals.”           (Direct Speech)

People prayed that the police might arrest the criminals.


If the reporting speech begins with the word ‘Would that’, it indicates a wish. In such a case, we use ‘wish’ instead of said while making indirect.


The student said, “Would that it were a holiday today.” (Direct Speech)

The student wished that it had been a holiday that day.

Faiza said, “Would that I were rich.”        (Direct Speech)

Faiza wished that she had been rich.

In Case of Exclamatory Sentences

Exclamatory sentences show intense feelings of happiness, sadness, surprise, etc. Usually, such sentences begin with exclamatory words like ‘Hurrah, Alas’, etc. Moreover, exclamatory sentences have a sign of exclamation used in them.

To change such narrations, we write ‘exclaimed with sorrow, exclaimed with happiness/joy, exclaimed with surprise/wonder’, etc. instead of said.

Few examples,

Ali said, “Alas! My father has died.”         (Direct Speech)

Ali exclaimed with sorrow that his father had died.          (Indirect Speech)

They said, “Hurrah! We have won the match.”

They exclaimed with joy that they had won the match.

She said, “What a beautiful place it is!”

She exclaimed with surprise that that was a very beautiful place.

I hope somehow we have successfully understood the basics of Direct and Indirect speech.

A quick revision of ‘Direct and Indirect Speech’ with Examples:

He says, “I am ill.”

He says that he is ill.

Ali said, “I am ill.”

Ali told that he was ill.

Ahmed said to me, “I am not ill.”

Ahmed told me that he was not ill.

He said, “Am I ill?”

He asked if/whether he was ill.

Hamza said, “Where is my hat?”

Hamza asked where his hat was.

The teacher said to me, “Close the door.”

The teacher ordered me to close the door.

He said, “Do not close the door.”

He forbade to close the door. (OR) He ordered not to close the door.

He said, “Please bring me a glass of water.”

He requested to bring him a glass of water.

The teacher said to his student, “Always respect your elders.”

The teacher advised his students to always respect their elders.

He said, “Would that I were a doctor.”

He wished that he had been a doctor.

Sarah said, “Hurrah, I have done my job.”

Sarah exclaimed with joy that she had done her job.

If you still face any confusion regarding ‘direct and indirect speech’, leave a comment below the post. 

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