How to Become a Master of Indirect Speech

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Why to Learn about the Indirect Speech?

While learning any language, we always strive to know more about it – in order to understand and be understood. On that purpose we study different types of sentences and utterances, various speech styles and techniques, learn the words and idioms. We aspire to absorb the language and speak it the way we speak our mother tongue – fluently and easily, without even thinking of the way we’re doing it. There are certain techniques that may be called “milestones” in the language studies. They differ from one language to another and on reaching and mastering them one can feel his language develops greatly. Such are correct word endings and cases in Russian, the tone key in Chinese, the agglutination type of word composition in German. One of such techniques for English is the correct use of Indirect Speech.

While in some languages the transition of the utterance from direct to indirect is performed “automatically”, by just taking away the inverted commas, in English to make a sentence with the Indirect Speech you will have to consider several factors such as type of utterance, pronouns, adverbs, tense and even the situation in which the actual sentence is created. So this technique has its peculiarities and pitfalls, that is why it requires a thorough studying. In case you face problems with your essay in English you can always use our professional editing services.

What’s the difference?

To use the techniques of direct / indirect speech properly we must be able to differ them and realize the way they are used. Let’s have a look at their definitions:

  1. The Direct Speech – the exact words spoken by some person and relayed as if said by the person him/herself;
  2. The Indirect Speech – the information about the content of somebody’s speech. We want to underline the fact that someone has said something but do not quote him/her exactly.

Now let’s analyze their special features and what these two techniques have in common:

  • The importance of the Indirect Speech may be proved by the fact of its frequent deployment in the oral conversation. Now, let’s do an experiment. Recall the recent dialog that you heard or participated in, in any language. Analyze how many times the Indirect Speech was used. What about the Direct One? That’s it, the proportion is much on the side of the former. The reality of language is such that it is mostly in the writing that we use the Direct Speech, though we still provide it some space in our oral conversation, for example, while quoting someone. It also must be noted, that the Direct Speech is used mostly at times when we are going to relay some emotion or particular circumstances of the conversation. She said I was a liar  doesn’t show that much of anger or irony as She said, “You’re a liar!” supported by the proper raise of the voice and face expression. In our blog you can find useful articles on  learning formal and colloquial English .
  • The precedent factor also implies another border line between the mentioned techniques: the style of speech.  While Direct Speech is mostly used in the writing, its “comfort zone” are formal styles, also the narratives. The Indirect Speech, thus, embraces all the less formal and informal styles including that of everyday talk.
  • The text design. The Direct Speech is marked with inverted commas, the preceding or following words are to be detached with the comma. The first word of the Direct Speech is to be capitalized, the punctuation mark is put inside the commas:  The Spring exclaimed, “What a lovely flower!”.  Transition to Indirect Speech will face the following punctuation changes: removing the commas (both inverted and the one preceding the Direct Speech), and adding the conjunction that (not mandatory):  The Spring exclaimed that it was a lovely flower.  We gathered on our site some tips for you to improve your punctuation skills, if needed.

Thus we can see that the mentioned techniques serve to the same purpose – to relay the other person’s words, – however perform it by different means. These means are defined by the type of conversation, its style, the punctuation changes. If you feel you need assistance on those rules you can always consult our competent paper editor online. However the most difficult part of the transition is implied in another difference between the direct and Indirect Speech:

The syntax and grammar.

Let’s examine it more closely.

The change of grammar and syntax while converting to the Indirect Speech

1. Scroll up a bit and look at the last utterance example. What else has changed in the second sentence that we hadn’t mentioned? That’s right, the exclamation mark. The imperative utterance became the narrative one. Let’s see what happen if we have an interrogative sentence: Rosie smiled and asked, “Whom are you looking for?”. Let’s make it an indirect speech: Rosie smiled and asked whom were they looking for. Here we have a distinctive feature: whatever type the sentence is in the Direct Speech (and those are narrative, imperative and interrogative), it will be turned into narrative in the Indirect Speech, all the punctuation marks to be changed likewise. There are also some peculiarities depending on the actual type of the sentence:

  1. Imperative sentence. It’s quite simple here: the imperative verb is changed into the infinitive. My mom told me: “Bring me the keys and don’t meddle with the birds!” . Indirect Speech: My mom told me to bring her the keys and not to meddle with the birds.
  2. Interrogative sentence. The general questions are transferred into the Indirect Speech by means of conjunctions if, whether: I asked: “Will you go to college tomorrow?”. – I asked whether (if) she would go to college the next day.  The specific questions are relayed with the same interrogation words: “What is this essay about” , Lily inquired. Lily inquired what that essay was about.

Be alert on the popular grammar mistakes and get to know how to avoid them with the help of our professionals.

2. When you change the utterance from Direct to Indirect Speech, all the characteristics of the person and situation (i.e. pronouns and adverbs) must be changed accordingly in order for the sentence not to lose sense: Nigel said, “I’m going home”. Charlotte cried,”I don’t want to stay here alone until tomorrow!” – If we leave the pronouns and adverbs as they are, the sentences will acquire a new sense or won’t make it at all: Nigel said that I’m going home. Charlotte cried that I don’t want to stay here alone until tomorrow.  See? As if Nigel and Charlotte are talking of another person and not about themselves. The correct version is: Nigel said he was going home. Charlotte cried that she did not want to stay there alone until the next day.  We see that the pronouns and adverbs are changed in respect to the person or subject that they related to in the Direct Speech sentence.

3. The rule of sequence of Tenses is applied when you change the Direct Speech into the Indirect one. Present Tense becomes Past Tense, Past goes to Perfect, Future to Future in the Past. The teacher is asking: “Will you attend tomorrow math class?” – The teacher was asking if we would attend tomorrow math class.

Modal verbs (can, may, must, ought) are also used in the Past tense: I confessed, “I can’t buy this book”. – I confessed I couldn’t buy this book.

However if the sentence tells about the present, just happened events, or of some wide-known facts, the Present Tense may be used: “The Earth has the form of an ellipse,” Isaac mused. – Isaac mused that the Earth has the form of an ellipse.   I’m repeating, “I’ll be just passing by and not entering the building”. – He’s just repeated that he’ll be just passing by and  not entering the building. Learn more about the correct use of the Tenses in the article in our blog .

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Now that you know…

Now you learned the main rules of creating the Indirect Speech utterances, got to know about its pitfalls and peculiarities. But how to implement it into your language practice? Just the same way that all the other rules:

  • Active listening. Listen to the way the native speakers talk (if not in the reality, the movies and TV-programs will do), pay close attention to the way they report someone’s words. Repeat them for yourself.
  • Reading. Read fiction, newspapers, magazines. Check some useful tips on the books to read to learn English quickly for enhancing your English. There are plenty examples of the Indirect Speech. Remember to write them down and sometimes browse through them to refresh your memory.
  • Practicing. Heard a dialogue or a monologue somewhere? Relay it to your friend using the Indirect Speech. Reading fiction? Write down the dialogues and make them the Indirect Speech sentences.
  • Enhance your English. Doing all this you will inevitably get your English improved and reach the higher level.

Check for other useful tips at our recent post “How to Learn English For Free And by Yourself?”

Now that you know everything about the indirect Speech, you can tell yourself, “I am a Master of Indirect Speech! I hit another landmark on my way to the fluent English!”. And now converse the sentence to the Indirect Speech. Got it right? We knew you could do it!

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