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Direct speech is that form of narration in which the actual words of a speaker are reported. It may be divided into two parts: the reported speech, i.e. the actual words of the speaker; and the reporting speech, i.e., the introductory words added to the reported speech. The reported speech comes before or after commas.
Indirect speech is that form of speech in which what one speaker says is reported by another with utmost accuracy but without using his actual words.
For correct transcription from direct speech to indirect speech, the following rules should be carefully studied.
1. Elimination of Inverted Commas
i. In the indirect speech the commas are omitted
ii. The conjunction that, except in certain cases which will be discussed later, is used to join the reporting speech and the reported speech.
iii. The capital letter of the first word of the reported speech is replaced by a small letter.
Najma says, “The fat dog is barking.” Where (Najma says) is a reporting speech and (The fat dog is barking) is a reported speech.
In the indirect speech this sentence will read as:
Najma says that the fat dog is barking.
2. Change of Pronouns
The pronouns in the reported speech are to be changed when necessary.
i. Pronouns of the first person are changed to the person of the subject of the reporting speech. For example: He(subject of reporting speech) says, “I have(pronoun of first person) no money with me(pronoun of first person).”
As the subject of the reporting speech is in the third person, the pronouns of the first person will change accordingly. The sentence will read:
He says that he has no money with him.
ii. Pronouns of the second person are changed to the person of the noun/pronoun to whom the reported speech is addressed. For example:
You said to Zain, “I would be happy to welcome you in my house.”
The pronoun of the second person in the reported speech is you. It is to be changed to the object of the reported speech, which is Zain, i.e. third person. The sentence will read as:
You told Zain that you would be happy to welcome him in you house.
3. Change of Tense
i. If the verb of the reporting speech is in the present or future tense, the tense of the verbs of the reported speech does not change.
Direct: He says, “I am a poor but honest man, and will not pick anybody’s pocket.”
Indirect: He says that he is a poor but honest man, and will not pick anybody’s pocket.
ii. If the verb of the reporting speech is in the past tense the verbs of the reported speech are changed to past tense:
Present Indefinite to Past Indefinite
Present Continuous to Past Continuous
Present Perfect to Past Perfect
Present Perfect Continuous to Past Perfect Continuous
Past Indifinite to Past Perfect/Past Indefinite
Will/shall to would/should
Can/may to could/might
Note: If the reported speech expresses a universal truth, its tense will not change.
i. When a question with why, what, how etc., is to be changed into indirect speech, the verb of the reporting speech is replaced by inquired, demanded or asked and the conjunction that is not used. The question changes into a statement.
Direct: I said to him, “What is you next plan?”
Indirect: I asked him what his next plan was.
Direct: He said to the little boy, “Why are you weeping?”
Indirect: He inquired of the little boy why he was weeping.
ii. When questions beginning with an auxiliary verb are to be changed into indirect speech, if or whether is used to join the reporting speech and the reported speech, and the question is converted into a statement.
Direct: He said to the teacher. “Do you think my essay is good?”
Indirect: He asked the teacher if the though his essay was good.
5. Commands and Requests
In direct speech, commands and requests are introduced with an infinitive and the reporting verb is replaced by told, ordered commanded, requested, etc., according to the sense of the sentence.
Direct: He said to his servant, “Fetch me a glass of water.”
Indirect: He ordered his servant to fetch him a glass of water.”
Direct: I said to him, “Please sit down.”
Indirect: I requested him to sit down.
6. Desires and Exclamations
When desires and exclamations are changed into indirect speech, the reporting verb is replaced by wished, desired, exclaimed, cried, etc., and that is used as conjunction to join the reporting speech and the reported speech.
Direct: He said, “Alas! I have done what cannot be undone.”
Indirect: He exclaimed with sorrow that he had done what could not be undone.
7. Change o Demonstrative Pronounds and Adjectives
The words showing nearness in time and space are changed to words showing distance unless the sense requires otherwise.
Direct: He said, “I wandered here and there.”
Indirect: We cannot replace here by there.
Direct Speech Indirect Speech Direct Speech Indirect Speech
It That Now Then
Ago Before This That
Here There Thus So
These Those Hence Thence
Today That day Tonight That night
Last night The previous night Tomorrow The next day
Yesterday The previous day The next day The following day
1. “It is certainly a great privilege to hear you talk,” answered little Hans sitting down and wiping his forehead, “A very great privilege. But I am afraid I shall never have such beautiful ideas as you have.”
2. “What a silly boy you are!” cried the miller. “I really don’t know what is the use of sending you to school. You seem not to learn anything. If little Hans come here and saw our warm fire and our good super, and our great cask of wine, he might get envious, and envy is the most terrible thing and would spoil anybody’s nature.
3. “Sir, you hand better let me take you hose to the blacksmith to have a shoe put on.” “No,” said the farmer, “It does not matter much. I am already late and if I wait I will get still more lately. I have only a few miles to go and my horse can take me so far without a shoe.”
4. The teacher became angry with the student and said, “Why have you disturbed the class in this way? I have told you before that when I am speaking you should be silent. Leave the room and do not return today."
5. She said to the king, “Has your Majesty any doubt of this man’s guilt? There is the very sword with which he meant to kill you. How sharp and bright and terrible it is! Quick, let him taste the milk; or he may perhaps do the deed even yet.”
6. “Sir, I want work. May I earn a penny?” said the lad, “Well,” said the man, after a pause, “you shall take my son home, and I will give you a penny. Shall I give you your penny now?”
7. “What do you want to know?” the Owl asked. “I am seeking the wild goose.” Replied the little Boy. The Owl blinked, coughed a little and said, “The wild goose is an inhabitant of many parts of the globe. It fled westward half an hour before sunset.”
8. “Do you come to make inquiries?” he said. “I do,” the young stranger replied. “A friend of mine is missing and I think he is staying with you.” “Yes, I have a man staying with me, but I do not know whether he is your missing friend,” he said.
9. “You are very ill-mannered Giant,” answered the stranger quietly, “and I shall probably have to teach you a little civility before we part. As for my name, it is Hercules. I have come hither because this is my most convenient road to the garden of Hesperides whither I am going to get three of the golden apples for the King Eurystheus.”
10. “I have begun my picture of yours among the Scotch firs, Maggie,” said Philip, “so you must let me study your face. Please turn you head this way.” “I shall be sitting for my second portrait then,” she said smiling. “Will it be larger than the other?” “Oh yes, much larger. It is an oil painting, “replied Philip.
11. “What in the world, my little fellow,” said Hercules, “may you be?” “I am your enemy,” answered the valiant pygmy, “You have slain the enormous Antaeus, our brother, and for ages the faithful ally of our nation. We are determined to put you to death. I challenge you to instant battle on equal ground.”
12. “I seem to myself like a child,” said Newton, “playing on the sea shore and picking up here and there a curious shell or a pretty pebble, while the boundless ocean of Truth lies undiscovered before me.”
13. “Mother,” he said, “Whatever you do, you will always be dear to me. But one thing I have a right to say, which is, that at my age I am old enough to know what is best for me.”
14. Peterkin said gravely, “Do you believe in ghosts, Ralph?” “No,” Ralph answered, “I do not. Nevertheless, I must confess that strange unaccountable sounds, such as we have just heard, make me feel a little uneasy.”
15. “They got the money, you say? Hawkins, what were they after? More money. I suppose?” he said, “No sir, not money I think,” replied Hawkins, “In fact, sir, I believe I have the thing in my breast-pocket. To tell you the truth, I should like to get it put in safety.”