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Session 2

He said he loved me… That's an example of reported speech. In this session we learn how to use it with the help of your traveller brother Jarek, and your excitable best friend Sam.

Sessions in this unit

Session 2 score

0 / 14

  • 0 / 8
    Activity 1
  • 0 / 6
    Activity 2
  • 0 / 0
    Activity 3

Activity 1

Direct speech and reported speech

Jarek's travels

Reported speech is a big topic. In Activities 1 and 2 we're going to concentrate on two aspects – how tenses change, and how we make questions.

But first, let's look at what we mean by reported speech.

Imagine you've just received an international call from your brother Jarek. He's travelling in South East Asia. Your mother wants to know what he said.

You could repeat what he said, using direct speech:

Jarek said: "I'm feeling a bit lonely."

Or you could use reported speech:

Jarek said he was feeling a bit lonely.

What changes?

Did you notice how the tense changed?

I'm feeling lonely became he was feeling lonely. The tense moved from present continuous to past continuous.

And the pronoun changed. I changed to he.

Normally, if the reporting verb is in the past tense, like said in this example, we also change the reported statement into the past tense.

But if you keep the reporting verb in the present tense, the reported statement stays the same. Imagine you are telling your mum what Jarek is saying, line by line:

Jarek says he's feeling a bit lonely… But he says he is enjoying himself… He says the weather is really lovely.

Read the text and complete the activity

Moving one tense back

In reported speech, we normally move the direct speech main verb one step back in the past. Look at these examples:

1)   Present simple -> past simple

"I know you." -> She said she knew him.

2)   Present continuous -> past continuous

"I am having coffee" -> He said he was having coffee.

3)   Present perfect -> past perfect

"I have finished my homework" -> He said he had finished his homework.

4)   Present perfect continuous -> past perfect continuous

"I have been studying Chinese" -> She said she had been studying Chinese.

5)   Is going to -> was going to

"I am going to go home" -> She said she was going to go home.

6)   Future simple - > would

"I will go to the bank later" -> He said he would go to the bank later.


1) A reported statement in the past simple often stays the same:

"I drove to work" -> She said she drove to work.

2) And you can't go further back in time than the past perfect, so it stays the same too:

"I had driven to work" -> She said she had driven to work.

3) Modal verbs: some change in reported speech:

“I can/can't speak Turkish” -> She said she could/couldn't speak Turkish.

“I must/mustn't wash my hair” -> She said she had to/didn't have to wash her hair.

4) Some modal verbs don't change:

“I could take the bus” -> He said he could take the bus.

“I should go to bed” -> She said she should go to bed.

“I might watch TV” -> He said he might watch TV.

5) We don’t change the verb in reported speech if the situation hasn’t changed, for example if it’s a fact or is generally true:

"I love you" -> She told me she loves me.

6) But we can use the past tense to show you're not certain the other person loves her/him – for example, the other person wasn’t telling the truth.

"I love you" -> She said she loved me.

To do

Here's the rest of Jarek's phone call. It's a bad phone line and you only hear a few sentences. Can you change it into reported speech to tell your mother afterwards?

Jarek's phone call

"I'm sitting in a beautiful train station… This is expensive so I don't have a lot of time… I lost my laptop so I can't check my email every day… But I'll call you when I find a guesthouse with Wifi…I'm going to travel to Ayutthaya tomorrow to see the temples… I've tried so many new kinds of food… I ate some really spicy soup today. I miss you!"


What Jarek said

8 Questions

Change what Jarek said into reported speech, following the tips we have given you on this page.

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Well done. Next we have a look at how to use reported speech in questions.

Session Grammar

  • Positive

    "I love you."
    He said he loved her.

    "I’ve been working hard."
    She told me that she’d been working hard.

    "I’ll see you later."
    He said he would see me later.


    "I didn’t have time to go shopping."
    He said he hadn’t had time to go shopping.

    "I can’t talk to you."
    She told me that she couldn’t talk to me.

    "I wouldn’t want to live in the country."
    He said he wouldn’t want to live in the country.


Session Vocabulary