Direct and Indirect Speech in Narration Change – Reported Speech & Verbs, Examples, Rules

narration change in English grammar definition examples rules list title

What is Narration Change or reported speech or reporting verbs or direct and indirect speech? Do you have any idea! Change of narration is one of the most common grammatical practices that we have been doing since we learned to speak.

In this post, we will learn all about the rules you need to keep in mind while changing the narration like direct speeches into indirect speeches, along with a lot of examples as well as explanations for your better understanding. So, let’s get started.

Narration Change – Reported Speech, Verbs, Direct & Indirect Speech

Before we start dealing with the rules of narration change, let’s find out what exactly a narration is? To define narration, we can say that it is a kind of telling a story or simply recounting an event or a series of events.

Why does Narration Change Require?

Irrespective of what our mother tongue is, the narration is something that comes naturally to us and it is required for our communication.

  • But when it comes to the narration change in the English language, there are a few rules that we need to abide by. These grammatical rules make the transformation of sentences precise and our expressions clear.
  • Not abiding by these rules will make the transformed sentences confusing and challenging to understand. Needless to say, that these rules are employed as per the use of tense in which the direct speech was spoken.

Now, let’s look at the various elements used in narration change.

narration change in English grammar definition examples list
Narration change in English grammar definition examples list

As mentioned earlier, narration change is something that we have been doing since childhood. This is because there are two ways to convey a message or a speech given by another person,

  • the first is direct speech, and
  • the second is indirect speech.

Let’s look at their definition.

Direct Speech

A direct speech is nothing but a quoted speech that presents a thought from the original speaker in its original form. Since it is written directly as the speaker speaks it, it is treated as a quotation and is usually enclosed in quotation marks. Also, we can see the speaker using the reporting verb, determining the tense of the speech.

For example,

She said, “Things between us are not the same anymore.”

Indirect Speech

Indirect speech is nothing but reporting speech. It may contain a statement, a question, or other information but without any quotation mark. This indicates that they are not exclusively spoken by a particular speaker. One can also say that after changing the narration of a direct speech, the sentence that we get is indirect speech.

Like, when someone says,

  • I am singing”, it becomes direct speech, but
  • if the person says “he is singingit becomes indirect speech.

Another example of this kind can be; She said that things between us were not the same anymore.

Reporting Verb

Reporting verb is the first part of the sentence where the verb is written before the speech. For example,

  • She said, “I am a student.”
  • Here, ‘said’ is a verb that is present before the speech. Hence, ‘said’ is a reporting verb.

In the same way, some reporting verbs can be

  • he said”,
  • she said”,
  • he says”,
  • they said”,
  • she says”.

These verbs often indicate the grammatical change in the reporting speech during the narration change. Some examples can be:

  • He said, “I am a professional singer.”
  • He said that he was a professional singer.
  • They say, “The Earth revolves around the Sun.”
  • They say that the Earth revolves around the Sun.

Reported Speech

Reported speech is the second part of the indirect speech in which we can see the speech spoken directly by the speaker, transformed by the rules of narration. By the same logic, the entire indirect speech can be called reported speech also.

For example,

  • He said, “I have kept my promise to you.” (Direct Speech)
  • He said that he had kept his promise to me. (Indirect speech/reported speech)

Rules of Narration Change

Some of the most common rules for narration change are;

narration change in English grammar rules
Narration change in English grammar rules
  • If the reporting verb of the direct speech is in the past tense. then the reporting speech will be changed as per tense in indirect speech.
  • If the reporting verb of the direct speech is in the present or future tense, then the reporting speech will not be changed.
  • The pronouns will be changed accordingly after the change of narration.
  • When writing the indirect speech, “that” will be used as a conjunction.
  • All “Wh” words for integrative sentences will remain the as it is.
  • For interrogative sentences, if/whether will be used in the indirect speech.
  • If the reporting speech is a universal truth, then it will remain unchanged in the indirect speech.

Rule#1 Changes Regarding Past Tense in Reporting Verb and Reporting Speech

If we consider that the reporting verb is in the past tense, then the following changes will take place in the reporting speech.

A simple present will be a simple past.


  • He said, “I am a professional footballer.”
  • He said that he was a professional footballer.
  • He asked, “Are you okay?”
  • He inquired if I was okay.

Present continuous will be past continuous.


  • He said, “I am playing the piano.”
  • He said that he was playing the piano.
  • He asked, “What are you doing?”
  • He inquired what I was doing.

Present perfect will be past perfect.


  • He said, “I have eaten.”
  • He said that he had eaten.

Present perfect continuous will be past perfect continuous.


  • He said, “It has been raining since yesterday morning.”
  • He said that it had been raining since yesterday morning.

Simple past will be past perfect.


  • He said, “I did it.”
  • He said that he had done it.

Past continuous will be past perfect continuous.


  • He said, “I was working in the garage.”
  • He said that he had been working in the garage.

Exception to Rule

If direct speech is about the following two things, then there will not be any change during narration change.

  • A truth that is universally accepted
  • Facts with imagination
  • Fact related to habits
  • Historical facts
  • Two or more actions happen at the same time.

Let’s take few examples and try to correlate the exceptions to the rules,

  • Romen said, “The grass is green”
    Romen said that the grass is green.
  • Mehul said, “If I was poor, I would work all the time.”
    Mehul said that if he was poor he would work all the time. 
  • Sonu said to me, “He kicks with his left leg”
    Sonu told me that he kicks with his left leg.
  • Mani said, “People died after the Spanish flue attack”.
    Mani said that people died after the Spanish flue attack.
  • Riki said “My mother was smiling when I was reading”
    Riki said that her mother was smiling when she was reading.

Rule#2 The Changes Regarding the Use of Pronouns

As discussed earlier briefly, pronouns in indirect speech will be changed based on the speaker. We must notice whether the speaker is referring to himself/herself or someone else or a third person. Let’s look at some examples for better understanding.

  • Direct: Jeremy said, “I am not any more friends with you.”
  • Indirect: Jeremy told that he is not any more friends with me.

Kindly note that here, the pronoun changes in the indirect speech. Jeremy being the speaker is referred to as “he”, whereas the other person is referred to as “me”, considering that the third person is narrating the incident.

Let’s look at some other examples.

  • Direct: I said, “Surprise me!”
  • Indirect: I ordered to surprise me.

Here, since the speaker remains the same, there will be no changes in the indirect speech.

  • Direct: They said, “We will be definitely winning tonight.”
  • Indirect: They declared that they would be definitely winning that night.

Note how the time is also referred to with a change of demonstrative. We will look into that a little later on.

  • Direct: She asked, “Are you coming to the university hall this evening?”
  • Indirect: She asked if I was going to the university hall that evening.

Check a simple table for Change of pronouns during narration change.

Direct SpeechIndirect Speech
Ihe or she
youhe or she or they

Rule#3 Changes Regarding Different Types of Sentences

The reporting speech can contain different kinds of sentences. Each sentence will undergo a few changes as per the rules of narration change.

The Interrogative Sentences

Firstly, as discussed earlier, if the reporting speech consists of a yes / no type question, then in indirect speech, it will start with if/whether. Plus, the subject will come before the verb, i.e., it will no longer remain an interrogative sentence. Example

  • Direct: John asked, “Are you feeling sick today?”
  • Indirect: John asked if I was feeling sick that day.
  • Direct: Rachel asked, “Do you have a pen?”
  • Indirect: Rachel asked if I had a pen.

If the reporting speech starts with “Wh” words such as why, when, what, where then the “Wh” word will remain unchanged, and it will become the subject or sometimes the object of the reported speech after the transformation. Example

  • Direct: Brenda asked, “Who will be kind enough to help me?”
  • Indirect: Brenda asked who would be kind enough to her.
  • Direct: Tyra asked, “How many more days is it till Christmas?”
  • Indirect: Tyra asked how many more days it was till Christmas.
  • Direct: I asked the lady. “Where can I find some water?”
  • Indirect: I asked the lady where I could find some water.
  • Direct: Mother asked, “Where have you been?”
  • Indirect: Mother asked where I had been.

Statement Sentences

If the reporting speech is nothing but a statement, then we will have to use “that” and change the verb “said” into “told” after the change of narration. Example

  • Direct: Eugene said, “I loved the movie.”
  • Indirect: Eugene told that he had loved the movie.
  • Direct: Rosy said, “I want to dance.”
  • Indirect: Rosy told that she wanted to dance.

The Imperative Sentences

If we have an imperative sentence in the reporting speech, we will use “to” before starting the command or request. Also, keep in mind that the reporting verb should be changed, but that will depend on the mood of the sentence. Some alternatives can be,

  • advised,
  • forbade,
  • requested,
  • ordered, etc.


  • Direct: The boy said, “Please give me my comic book back.”
  • Indirect: The boy implored/requested to give him his comic book back.
  • Direct: The Queen said, “Bring me a bunch of beautiful red roses.”
  • Indirect: The Queen ordered to bring her a bunch of beautiful red roses.
  • Direct: Mother said, “Respect your elders.”
  • Indirect: Mother advised me to respect my elders.
  • Direct: The teacher said, “Don’t talk in the classroom.”
  • Indirect: The teacher forbade us to talk in the classroom.

Check out worksheets for narration change for practice.

Rule#4 Changes Regarding the Use of Modals

If the reporting speech consists of modal verbs like “Will”, “Shall”, “May”, “Can”, then there will be a few changes in the indirect speech. Let’s look at a few examples:

  • Direct: Ronny said, “I will surely come.”
  • Indirect: Ronny said that he would surely come.
  • Direct: The man said, “May I use the restroom?”
  • Indirect: The man asked if he could use the restroom.

Kindly note that “May” becomes “could” when seeking permission.

  • Direct: Bob said, “I may not come to your marriage reception party.”
  • Indirect: Bob said that he might not come to my marriage reception party.
  • Direct: Brendon said, “I shall practice my guitar every day.”
  • Indirect: Brendon said that he would practice his guitar every day.
  • Direct: “Shall I make him this offer?” He asked.
  • Indirect: He asked if he should make him this offer.

Please note that when asked a question, “Shall” becomes “Should”.

Also, keep in mind that other modal verbs such as “used to”, “ought to”, “might”, and “must” remain unchanged in indirect speech. Let’s look at some examples.

  • Direct: They said, “We must pay them back for what they did for us today!”
  • Indirect: They said that they must pay them back for what they had done that day.
  • Direct: He said, “You need to get a smart-looking haircut.”
  • Indirect: He said that I need to get a smart-looking haircut.
  • Direct: Grandmother said, “You ought to return him the yellow toy.”
  • Indirect: Grandmother said that I ought to return him his yellow toy.
  • Direct: Jacob said, “I used to go to the cricket ground with my maternal uncle.”
  • Indirect: Jacob said that she used to go to the cricket ground with her maternal uncle.

Rule#5 Changes Regarding Adverbs and Demonstratives

Since the indirect speech will be different from the direct speech’s time and place, the time should be referred to appropriately with the correct demonstrative or adverb. Demonstratives like “this”, “that”, and adverbs like “there”, “here”, “now”will change in the indirect speech.

  • Now will be Then at That Moment
  • Today will be That Day
  • Tomorrow will be The Next Day
  • Yesterday will be The Day Before
  • Come will be Go
  • Bring will be Take
  • This will be That


  • Direct: He said, “I will ask the question again tomorrow.”
  • Indirect: He said that he would ask the question again the next day.
  • Direct: She asked, “Are you free now?”
  • Indirect: She asked if I was free then.

Exercise on Narration Change

Write down the indirect speech of below direct speech.


Direct Speeches are as follows,

  • Rima asked the boy. “Where can I find an oxygen cylinder?”
  • Mihir said, “I love Sonu Sood?”
  • Nitu said to the boy, “She is in Bengal?”
  • My father said to me, “Never tell a lie?”
  • Tina said, “She is happy”


Indirect speeches are, 

  • Rima asked the boy where I could find an oxygen cylinder.
  • Mihir said he loved Sonu Sood.
  • Nitu said to the boy that she was in Bengal.
  • My father said to me that never tell a lie.
  • Tina said that she was happy.  


So, there you go, all the rules necessary to change the narration of any direct speech. At a glance, they might seem a bit confusing and a bit difficult to remember all of them. However, with some practice, you will surely be able to master them.

Much like every other element in English grammar, you need to practice and read a lot in order to master it. Narration change is a common practice, and you can find a ton of examples while you read. Just try to refer back to these rules, and it will help you understand the concept better as well as learn English properly. If you have any further questions about narration change in the English language, please feel free to mention them in the comments section.

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