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Reported Speech

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What is reported speech?
Reported speech, which is also known as indirect speech, conveys the meaning of what was said earlier without a word-for-word quote. For example:

    quoted speech: Frank said, "I want to take a vacation around the world."
    reported speech: Frank said that he wanted to take a vacation around the world.

The first sentence is quoted speech, and it shows exactly what Frank said. The second sentence reports the information of an earlier conversation in which Frank talked about his travel dreams, but the speaker's words may not be exactly the same. Here are two more examples:

    quoted speech: Michael said, "I have an important test coming up next week."
    reported speech: Michael said that he had an important test coming up next week.

    quoted speech: The scientist said, "I tested new cancer drugs five years ago."
    reported speech: The scientist said that he tested new cancer drugs five years ago.

What is the sentence structure?
Reported speech statements all follow the same structure:

    introductory statement  |  conjunction (that)  |  subject  |  verb  |  object/complement

    Frank said  |  (that)  |  he  |  wanted to take  |  a vacation around the world.
    Michael said | (that) | he | had | an important test coming up.
    The scientist said  |  (that)  |  he  |  tested  |  new cancer drugs five years ago.

Because the information may be reported in a different place, a different time, and by a different person, several parts of the sentence must also change. However, the changes are quite logical.

pronouns: A change of speaker requires a change of pronouns.

    Frank said, "I want to take a vacation around the world."
    Frank said that he wanted to take a vacation around the world.

verb tense: With the shift from quoted speech to reported speech, the present tense generally changes to the past tense. If the original sentence was in the past tense, then the reported speech may use either the past perfect or the simple past. Most verb tenses will experience this "backshift."

    The scientist said, "I tested new cancer drugs five years ago."
    The scientist said that he tested new cancer drugs five years ago.
    The scientist said that he had tested new cancer drugs five years ago.

Here are a few more examples:

    look  →  looked: He said that he looked everywhere for his keys.
    will  →  would: She said that he would us meet at the station at 5:00.
    can  →  could: Phil said that he could make a reservation this weekend.
    is studying  →  was studying: Yumiko said that she was studying every day for the final test.
    has seen  →  had seen: Aiden said that he had seen Star Wars fifty times!

place and time: Place and time may similarly result in a shift of point of view. Some common words are this → that and here → there.

    The candidate said, "I will come back here in the spring."
    The candidate said that he would go back there in the spring.

How is reported speech used?
Reported speech most often appears in conversation rather than in written English.

    Tom thinks that banking stocks will do well this year.
    The Australian Prime Minister said that he would improve relations with China.

Is there additional information on reported speech?
Yes, there are a few points. In reported speech, the conjunction that may be dropped. For example:

    The scientist said that he tested cancer drugs five years ago.
    The candidate said that he would go back there in the spring.
    Tom Thinks that banking stocks will do well this year.

Also, if a situation is current, in the future, or permanent, then the present tense may be used. In the below example, the situation is current.

    Frank said that he wants to take a vacation around the world.


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