Direct & Indirect Speech Rules

Direct & Indirect Speech Rules


Here are the rules to change direct speech into indirect speech and vice-versa, especially prepared to help the students who are willing to crack CLAT UG.

“Recipes tell you nothing. Learning techniques is the key.”—Tom Colicchio

CLAT UG: Direct & Indirect Speech Rules

Direct Speech

Direct speech is a word-to-word repetition of what the speaker or writer has conveyed. In other words, it is a way in which you can report the exact words of the speaker. Direct speech can be used to convey something that is being said in the present or to tell someone about something that is to happen at a later point in time. This is called Direct Speech.

For example –

1. Rama said. “I am very busy now.”

Indirect Speech

Indirect speech is paraphrasing what someone said or wrote. In writing, it functions to move a piece along by boiling down points that an interview source made. Unlike direct speech, indirect speech is not usually placed inside quotation marks. However, both are attributed to the speaker because they come directly from a source.

For example

1. Rama said that he was very busy then.

Rules for changing Direct Speech into Indirect

When the reporting or principal verb is in the Past Tense, all Present tenses of the Direct are changed into the corresponding Past Tense. Thus:-

1. A simple present becomes a simple past.

(a) Direct. — He said, “I am unwell.”

(b) Indirect. — He said (that) he was unwell.

2. A present continuous becomes a past continuous.

(a) Direct. — He said, “My master is writing letters.”

(b) Indirect. — He said (that) his master was writing letters.

3. A present perfect becomes a past perfect.

(a) Direct. — He said, “I have passed the examination.”

(b) Indirect. — He said (that) he had passed the examination.

Note:- The shall of the Future Tense is changed into should. The will of the Future Tense is changed into would or should. As a rule, the simple past in the Direct becomes the past perfect in the Indirect.

(a) Direct. — He said, “The horse died in the night.”

(b) Indirect. — He said that the horse had died in the night.

4. The tenses may not change if the statement is still relevant or if it is a universal truth. We can often choose whether to keep the original tenses or change them.

(a) Direct. – “I know her address,” said Gopi.

(b) Indirect. — Gopi said he knows/knew her address.

(c) Direct. — The teacher said, “The earth goes round the sun.”

(d) Indirect. — The teacher said the earth goes/went round the sun.

(e) Direct. – “German is easy to learn”, she said.

(f) Indirect. — She said German is/was easy to learn.

The past tense is often used when it is uncertain if the statement is true or when we are reporting objectively.

5. If the reporting verb is in the Present Tense, the tenses of the Direct Speech do not change. For example, we may rewrite the above examples, putting the reporting verb in the Present Tense, thus:

He says he is unwell.

He has just said his master is writing letters.

He says he has passed the examination.

He says the horse died in the night.

6. The pronouns of the Direct Speech are changed, where necessary, so that their relations with the reporter and his hearer, rather than with the original speaker, are indicated. Observe the following examples:-

(a) Direct. — He said to me, “I don’t believe you.”

(b) Indirect. — He said he didn’t believe me.

(c) Direct. — She said to him, “I don’t believe you.”

(d) Indirect. — She said she didn’t believe him.

(e) Direct. — I said to him, “I don’t believe you.”

(f) Indirect. — I said I didn’t believe him.

(g) Direct. — I said to you, “I don’t believe you.”

(h) Indirect. — I said I didn’t believe you.

7. Words expressing nearness in time or place are generally changed into words expressing distance. Thus:-

now — becomes — then

here — becomes — there

ago — becomes — before

thus — becomes — so

today — becomes — that day

tomorrow — becomes — the next day

yesterday — becomes — the day before

last night — becomes — the night before

Direct. — He says, “I am glad to be here this evening.”

Indirect. — He says that he was glad to be there that evening.

The changes do not occur if the speech is reported during the same period or at the same place; e.g.,

(a) Direct. — He said, “I am glad to be here this evening.”

(b) Indirect. — He said that he was glad to be there that evening.

8. Similarly, this and these are changed to that and those unless the thing pointed out is near at hand at the time of reporting the speech.

Commands and Requests

In reporting commands and requests, Indirect Speech is introduced by some verb expressing command or request, and the imperative mood is changed into the Infinitive.

Direct. — Rama said to Arjun, “Go away.”

Indirect. — Rama ordered Arjun to go away.

Direct. — He said to him, “Please wait here till I return.”

Indirect. — He requested him to wait there till he returned.

Direct. — “Call the first witness,” said the judge.

Indirect. — The judge commanded them to call the first witness.

Direct. — He shouted, “Let me go.”

Indirect. — He shouted to them to let him go.

Direct. — He said, “Be quiet and listen to my words.”

Indirect. — He urged them to be quiet and listen to his words.

Exclamations and Wishes

In reporting exclamations and wishes the Indirect Speech is introduced by some verb expressing exclamation or wish.

Direct. — He said, “Alas! I am undone.”

Indirect. — He exclaimed sadly that he was undone.

Direct. — Alice said, “How clever I am!”

Indirect. — Alice exclaimed that she was very clever.

Direct. — He said, “Bravo! You have done well.”

Indirect. — He applauded him, saying that he had done well. Direct. — “So help me, Heaven!” he cried, “I will never steal again.”

Indirect. — He called upon Heaven to witness his resolve never to steal again.

Conversion of Indirect into Direct

The following rules should be followed while converting an indirect speech to direct speech:

  1. Use the reporting verb such as (say, said to) in its correct tense.
  2. Put a comma before the statement and the first letter of the statement should be in capital letters.
  3. Insert question marks, quotation marks, exclamation marks, and full stops, based on the mood of the sentence.
  4. Remove the conjunctions like (that, to, if or whether) wherever necessary.
  5. Where the reporting verb is in the past tense in indirect, change it to present tense in the direct speech.
  6. Change the past perfect tense either into present perfect tense or past tense, as necessary.

The Conversion of Indirect into Direct generally presents no special difficulties, as the following examples will show:-

Indirect — He inquired whether his name was not Ahmed.

Direct — He said to him, “Is not your name Ahmed ?”

Indirect — As the stranger entered the town, he was met by a policeman, who asked him if he was a traveller. He replied carelessly that it would appear so.

Direct — As the stranger entered the town, he was met by a policeman, who asked, “Are you a traveller?” “So it would appear,” he answered carelessly.

Indirect. — She asked how she, a girl, who could not ride or use a sword or lance, could be of any help. Rather would she stay at home and spin beside her dear mother?

Direct — She said, “How can I, a girl, who cannot ride or use a sword or lance, be of any help? Rather would I stay at home and spin beside my dear mother?”

Important Links

Law Library: Notes and Study Material for LLB, LLM, Judiciary, and Entrance Exams

Law Aspirants: Ultimate Test Prep Destination



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