English grammar has different elements that convey a message in different ways. When we say a message, we automatically refer to sentences, which help us speak our thoughts and ideas into words and phrases. However, conveying a thought or speech can be done in different ways.
Today, we will study a type of sentence structure that conveys a speech in its own unique way, the indirect speech. There are two types of speech structure. One is direct, and the other is the indirect speech structure. Today, our concern is indirect speech. It is basically a sentence that reports the message or the content of someone’s speech by rephrasing the original words.
It is quite different from direct speech. And it has certain rules that we need to follow to use it correctly. So, let us get into a quick discussion and get a hold of them.
What is indirect speech?
By definition, indirect speech is a sentence where we tell or report the content of what a particular person said by rephrasing their words instead of placing their exact words. It is basically a report statement where only the necessary or the important content of the speech spoken by someone is emphasized instead of the entire or full speech. Due to this very reason, indirect speech is often referred to as the reported speech.
In simple words, indirect speech is a sentence where we usually use the word that and then convey what a person said in our own words. Here, the general points of what someone has said are reported. We specifically focus on the content rather than the speech or words of the person. The main aim is to convey the same message with the same meaning.
However, in indirect speech, the reported clause can change according to the context. That means the structure can change depending on whether it is a statement, a question, or a command. But before getting into detail, let us look at some basic examples of indirect speech to have a better idea;
- Sia told them that she won’t come tomorrow.
- I asked the teacher if she wanted to take some rest.
- Ram said that he was not feeling very well today.
- Sir asked us whether we wanted games or computer classes.
- The teacher ordered the students to exit the ground immediately.
- She asked the boy who he was.
- She said that she is very old to attend the club meeting.
As we can see, the sentences convey different people’s speech. But here, the importance is not in the use of exact words under speech marks. Instead, our own words or paraphrased lines help convey the necessary content.
Different reported clauses of indirect speech
The first reported clause is the that-clause. It is the most common one that is generally used when we refer to indirect speech. We use a that-clause when we are reporting statements. So, such an indirect speech will contain a reporting clause and a reported clause, that-clause. However, the that word is often removed when we talk in a formal setting.
- The waiter said that the food was almost ready.
- My wife told me that she is getting lazier day by day.
- The teacher told us that she was absent last class.
Reporting statements without that-clause:
- I told my boss I wanted to leave early this year.
- The interviewer said the weather was not acting too good yesterday.
Reporting questions through indirect speech can be done in two ways. The first way concerns the yes/no questions. When we are reporting a question that may have a response of yes/no, the sentence will consist of a reporting clause and a reported clause, if or whether.
Also, it is important to know that reporting a question will require changing the statement from an interrogative form into an affirmative sentence. That means we follow the statement form, not the question form.
- The teacher asked if I was from Texas.
- The girl asked whether we wanted to buy some chocolates from her.
Now, the second way of reporting a question is regarding the wh-questions. These are questions that have words like what, where, who, when, etc. Here also we change the interrogative form of the sentence into an affirmative one where we do not use question marks. But in reporting such questions, the sentences will consist of a reporting clause and a reported clause that is a wh-word. That means the reported clause will be similar to question words such as what, who, where, etc.
- She wanted to ask where I studied before.
- The teacher asked us what we wanted to study in the next class.
Also, another important point is, in indirect reporting, where the question concerns who, whom, or what, the wh-word might act as the object or the subject of the reported clause.
When it comes to reporting commands of a person, we simply use a reporting clause and reported clause, to. We usually use the word tell and the infinitive of the verb while reporting a command. But sometimes, we can also use other verbs, which can mean getting people to do a particular thing.
- The teacher told us to move to the ground immediately.
- She told me to leave the bus.
- They advised him to study harder.
- The teacher warned us not to exit through the last gate again.
Similarly, we can also report requests. But when we are reporting requests, we use the verb to ask along with the infinitive form of the verb. For example;
- He asked me to bring two tiffin boxes today.
- They asked us to help them with stretching.
So, these are the different ways we can report different speeches of a person.
The main point while using indirect speech is that it is not a necessity to use the exact same words that someone spoke at a point. The concern or the priority is only with conveying the important content.