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ESL Lesson: Indirect Speech

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Indirect speech or "Say it again"

Indirect Speech (also known as Reported Speech) refers to a sentence reporting what someone has said. It is almost always used in spoken English.

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If the reporting verb (i.e. said) is in the past, the reported clause will be in a past form. This form is usually one step back into the past from the original.

For example:

  • She said her job was interesting.
  • She said she went to the library each day.
  • Our new colleague said he spoke French every day.

If simple present, present perfect or the future is used in the reporting verb (i.e. says) the tense is retained. For example:

  • She says that her job is interesting.
  • She says that she goes to the library each day.
  • Our new colleague will say that he speaks French every day.

If reporting a general truth the present tense will be retained or even the future tense can be used. For example:

  • She said that her country is very beautiful.
  • They said that trust is vital for any business.
  • My wife said that she will always love me no matter what.

Now read the following story and find the indirect speech expressions in italics.

"Say it again"

"I'm just popping out to put the car away in the garage. I've left it in the road." — I told my wife that I just was popping out to put the car away in the garage as I had left it in the road. "You be careful. Remember you've had a lot to drink and the police are having a particular purge at the moment in drink driving." — She told me to be careful and reminded me that I had a lot to drink and that the police have a particular purge at the time on drink driving. She is very law-abiding, my wife.

I shut the front door and as I walked down the garden path, I noticed someone standing by the car. It was a policeman. "Very pleasant weather for the time of year." — He pointed out the pleasantness of the weather for the time of year. "Oh er - yes. Absolutely". I hesitated and agreed wholeheartedly. "Is this your car, sir". — He asked me whether it was my car.

"Yes, indeed" I affirmed confidently. "Don't see many of this particular make often. I've sometimes thought of buying one myself." — He reckoned that you did not often see many of that particular make. He sometimes thought of buying one himself. "Oh, really". I expressed interest in his comment.

"What is this man up to? Is he trying to lure me into starting up the car so that he can then breathalyze me?" — I asked myself what that man was up to and wondered whether he was trying to lure me into starting up the car so that he could then breathalyze me. "But then I doubt I could afford it. Cost a fair amount, I expect?" — Then he doubted whether he could afford it and conjectured that it it had to cost a fair amount. "I picked it up quite cheaply actually. It has done a lot of miles, you see." — I explained that I had it picked up quite cheaply because it had done a lot of miles. The man was beginning to get on my nerves. Why didn't he just arrest me for intent to drive a motor car while under the influence of drink?

The next question seemed a bit fatuous as I was clutching my car keys at the time. "Going for a spin, sir?" — He asked me whether I was going for a spin and I didn't like the way he emphasized the word spin. "No, I'm just going to put the car in the garage." — I denied this and pointed out that I was just going to put the car in the garage. "Don't let me hold you up. I'm just waiting around to catch the odd speeding motorist and anyone who's had a bit too many, ha ha." — He told me not to let him hold me up and went on to say that he was just waiting around to catch the odd speeding motorist and then added with a chuckle anyone who had had too much to drink.

I couldn't hesitate any longer and got into the car and switched on the engine. "Just a minute, sir." — The policeman asked me politely to stop for a minute. The voice of my conscience spoke: "He's got you now and you've fallen right into the trap." — He had got me now and I had fallen right into the trap. "What's the matter?" — I asked what the matter was.

"Let me just see that the road's clear for you." — He asked me to let him see the road was clear. It was and so was I. I breathed a sight of relief, drove the car into the garage and shut the door. As I turned to go into the house, I was aware of the policeman. He put his hand into his pocket. I assumed that the moment of truth had arrived. Out came his handkerchief, after all even policemen have to blow their noses. "What does he want, now?" — I asked myself what he was going to do next. "It is my duty to point out to you, sir" — it was his duty to point out to me that I drove a car under the influence? No. He just wanted to point out that one of my brake lights had gone and suggested I put it right as soon as possible.

I needed a drink.

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Next:ESL Lesson: Conjunctions

Author: Alan Townend

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