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REPORTED SPEECH

Quotation marks show that somebody else's voice is entering your writing. However, when you want to use your own writing voice to report what somebody said, you don't need the quotation marks. Instead, you need to set the other person's words at a distance. This means pushing them away in both time and space.
  • "I don't understand this punctuation," Gerardo moaned. Gerardo moaned that he didn't understand that punctuation.
  • The teacher responded, "Don't worry. It will get easier as you practice." The teacher told him not to worry and that it would get easier as he practiced.
As the sentences move from direct quotation to indirect reported speech, notice the changes marked in italics. The following rules govern the punctuation and structure changes of reported speech.

Reporting statements

  • Remove quotation marks and internal capital letters. Add the word that.
  • Shift verbs one step back in time (some exceptions in the ongoing present).
  • Adjust pronouns and other relationship words.
The young fisherman whispered, "I think old Santiago is crazy." The young fisherman whispered that he thought old Santiago was crazy.
Reporting commands, invitations, requests
  • Remove quotation marks and internal capital letters.
  • Shift verbs to infinitives, adjusting reporting words and structure to fit.
  • Adjust pronouns and other relationship words.
Another man said, "Be quiet, Manolo. Respect your elders." Another man told Manolo to be quiet and to respect his elders.
Reporting yes/no questions (those that can be answered with yes or no)
  • Remove both quotation marks and question mark, as well as internal capital letters. Add whether or if.
  • Take verbs out of question order and shift them one step back in time.
  • Adjust pronouns and other relationship words.
The tourist asked, "Is this a shark?" The tourist asked if that was a shark.
Reporting information questions (those that begin with question words)
  • Remove both quotation marks and question mark, as well as internal capital letters. Keep the question word.
  • Take verbs out of question order and shift them one step back in time.
  • Adjust pronouns and other relationship words.
Her husband wondered, "Why do you think it's a shark?" Her husband wondered why she thought it was a shark.

To practice and to clarify your understanding, write a conversation using direct quotations. Then rewrite those conversations, removing the voices of the speakers and reporting what they said. Follow the rules above and imitate the examples. Bring your questions to your teacher or tutor.

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