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Unit 21 reported speech 1


 Reported speech A


 We often tell people what other people have said. This is called reported or indirect speech. We very rarely try to report the exact words that someone says. Usually we give the general meaning with a summary.

Look, Ive been phoning all day and hes always in a meeting. Can you tell him that Ill give him a call sometime next week, please? (actual words)

Sandra phoned. She said shed called you next week. (report)

From what I can see, the advertising campaign is a great success. (actual words)

He said the campaign was a success. (report)


 Note the change of tense in the above examples: will to would and is to was.

It is not always necessary to change tenses. If the statement is still true we can keep the same tense as the original.

He said the campaign was a great success. (the campaign is finished) He said the campaign is/was a great success. (the campaign is still happening)


 In writing we can repeat the exact words using speech marks (... ).

I have no further comment to make at this stage, said the company press officer when he spoke to our reporter yesterday.


 Tense changes B


 When the verb tense changes it moves back in time.

Actual words Report (Indirect speech)

I work for IBM. She said she worked for IBM.

Im working for IBM. She said she was working for IBM.

Ive worked for IBM. She said she had worked for IBM.

Ive been working for IBM. She said she had been working for IBM.

I worked for IBM. She said she had worked for IBM.

OR She said she worked for IBM.

I had worked for IBM. She said she had worked for IBM.

Im going to work for IBM. She said she was going to work for IBM.

I can/will/may work for IBM. She said she could/would/might work for




He had to put out the fire.

(= make it stop burning)

Kiwwi, a Vienna-based telecoms company, said on Friday it was entering

the Czech market by offering cheaper voice services through the Internet.


 There is no change for must, might, could, should, would.


 Note that if the actual words were in the past simple (worked), the report can change or stay the same.


 Note that there is no change for the past perfect (had worked).


 No tense change C


 We do not need to change tense if the information is still true.

The sales team are doing very well at the moment.

He says/said the team are doing very well.


 We do not need to change tense if we report something which is always true.

There is always a period of uncertainty after a merger.

He says/said there is always a period of uncertainty after a merger.


 People, places, times and things D


 In reported speech references to people, places, times and things often change, because the point of view changes.


Ill see you here tomorrow, said Sue.


Sue said shed see me there the next day.


Ive read your report about this project, he said. He said hed read my report about the project.

 The examples in the previous paragraph show some of these typical changes:





















there, at the office






then, at that time





that day, on Monday





the day before, the previous day



the next day, the following day, on


this afternoon

that afternoon

last week

the week before, the previous week


next week


the week after, the following week


a few days ago


a few days before, a few days earlier




this project


the project




Could you turn on the radio?

(= make it work)



Exercise 1 (B)


Write the actual words that each person says. Use contractions where possible.


1 Anna said that she had already finished. (Annas actual words) ..

2 She said he would be back after lunch.

(Her actual words) ..

3 He said she was going to contact the printers. (His actual words) ..

4 Paul said that he wanted to make a phone call. (Pauls actual words) ..

5 She said she was meeting the bank manager at eleven.

(Her actual words) ..

6 Pierre said he had found out about the problem a long time ago. (Pierres actual words) ..

7 David said he had to be back in the office by three thirty. (Davids actual words) ..

8 Jan said she would let me know. (Jans actual words) ..


Exercise 2 (B, D)

Rewrite the sentences in reported speech. Use contractions where possible.

1 I wont put it in the sales because its selling very well, she said.

She said ..

2 Ive read the report and I dont understand section 4, he said.

He said ..

3 When I finish my presentation, Im going to have a drink, he said.

He said that when ..

4 Im preparing the figures but I wont be long, she said.

She said ..

5 I like playing tennis, but I dont do it very often, she said.

She said ..

6 Im going to visit our Polish subsidiary, but Im not sure when, she said.

She said ..



I had to lie down for a few minutes.

(= move into a horizontal position in order to rest)

Exercise 3 (B, C)

Read the words spoken in a conference presentation about the role of the Chief

Executive Officer.


Jack Welch, one of the most famous CEOs of all time, was head of General Electric for twenty years. But he was an exception. In fact, two-thirds of all major companies worldwide have replaced their CEO over the last five years. Whats the reason? The reason is that expectations of CEO performance are far too high. Boards of companies look at their CEO as a kind of superhero who can solve all the companys problems. This process started in the 1980s,

and the prototype was Lee Iaccoca, "the man who saved Chrysler Corp". Then in the 1990s, we had CEOs from the technology sector, like Microsofts Bill Gates, or Ciscos John Chambers, who managed to produce constantly rising

share prices. But the situation is very different now and economic growth is

slowing down.


Now look at ways to report the words to a colleague. By each sentence write P/ Possible because of Tense Change rules), P/ST (if the sentence is Possible sentence is incorrect).

The speaker said that...

1 Jack Welch was CEO of General Electric for twenty years. ..

2 Jack Welch had been CEO of General Electric for twenty yea? ..

3 Boards of companies look at their CEOs as superheroes. ..

4 Boards of companies looked at their CEOs as superheroes. ..

5 Boards of companies had looked at their CEOs superheroes. ..

6 Lee Iaccoca started it all in the 1980s. ..

7 Lee Iaccoca had started it all in the 1980s. ..

8 Lee Iaccoca had been started it all in the 1980s. ..

9 The situation is different now. ..

10 The situation was different now. ..



Could you go to the shop for me? We've just run out of coffee.

(= have no more of it left)

Exercise 4 (B, D)

On Friday morning you had a meeting with someone from your advertising agency at his offices. The words he spoke are on the left. The next week you tell a

colleague about the discussion. Underline the correct words on the right.


The advertising persons words:


Did you get my email I sent yesterday about this campaign weve been working on? I hope so. Im sorry to ask you to come here at such short notice, but its quite urgent. The situation is this: we use an outside printing company, and a few days ago the workers there went on strike. Im having a meeting with a union representative this afternoon, I bought I should talk to you first.


What you say to your


He said he (1) hopes/hoped Id got (2) his/my email that (3) hed send/hed sent (4) yesterday/the day before about (5) the/this advertising campaign (6) theyve/weve been working on. And he apologised for asking (7) me/you to go (8) here/there at such short notice he said it (9) is/was urgent. Well, apparently a few days (10) ago/before the printers they use (11) have gone/had gone on strike, and he (12) is/was meeting them (13) this/that afternoon. He said he thought he should talk to (14) me/you about it first.




I think she made up that story.

(= invent)

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