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GRAMMAR & STRUCTURE — Examples
Reported Speech

 
 

Chart showing how verb tense changes in reported speech

Verb Tense in Original Sentence

Changes to This Tense in the Reported Speech Sentence

present simple

present simple
past simple

present continuous

past continuous
present continuous

past simple

past perfect

past continuous

past perfect continuous

present perfect past perfect
present perfect continuous present perfect continuous
past perfect continuous
past perfect past perfect

Examples of sentences using reported speech

Reporting in the present tense

YESTERDAY

John: "The new café has delicious coffee."

Present simple

TODAY

"John says that the new café has delicious coffee."

Explanation: John is telling a general truth. The coffee is good today, tomorrow, next week. John will say the same thing today, tomorrow, and next week.
The verb tense stays in the present in reported speech.

Present simple


Reporting in the past tense

TODAY

Susan: "I watched a movie last night."

Past simple

 

"Susan said that she watched a movie last night."

Past simple

YESTERDAY Susan: "I am watching TV." Present continuous
TODAY

"Susan told me she was watching TV."

Explanation: Susan was watching TV yesterday. She is not watching television now, so the verb form changes to show the action is finished.
The verb tense changes to the past continuous in reported speech.

Past continuous

Reporting about the future

LAST WEEK

Susan: "I am going to see a movie next week."

Present continuous (future: going to)

THIS WEEK

"Susan said that she is going to see a movie this week."

Explanation: Susan is talking about a future event. Susan has not seen the movie yet, but she will see it very soon, so the verb form does not change. The time expression should change to show the change from Susan talking last week to you talking this week.
The verb tense stays in present continuous to show future in reported speech.

Present continuous (future: going to)


Reporting in the perfect tense

YESTERDAY

Susan: "I was watching television."

Past continuous

TODAY

"Susan said she had been watching television."

Explanation: Susan was talking about a past time. She was not watching television when she spoke, and she is not watching television now, so the verb form changes.
The verb tense changes to past perfect continuous in reported speech.

Past perfect continuous


Reporting in the perfect tense

YESTERDAY

Susan: "I have watched TV all day."

Present perfect

TODAY

"Susan told me that she had watched TV all day."

Explanation: Susan was talking about yesterday. She is not watching TV today, so the verb form changes.
The verb tense changes to past perfect in reported speech.

Past perfect


Reporting the recent and continuing past

TODAY at 2:00 p.m.

Susan: "I have been watching TV for two hours."

Present perfect continuous

TODAY at 2:10 p.m.

"Susan said that she has been watching TV for two hours."

Explanation: Susan is still watching television, so the action is connected to the present. The verb form does not change.
The verb tense stays in the present perfect continuous in reported speech.

Present perfect continuous


Reporting in the perfect tense

YESTERDAY

Susan: "I had watched television for two hours when I fell asleep."

Past perfect

TODAY

"Susan said that she had watched television for two hours when she fell asleep."

Explanation: Susan was talking about a past time, before yesterday. Usually you must change the verb tense, but there is no "farther past" verb tense than past perfect. Therefore, do not change the verb tense.
The verb tense stays in the past perfect in reported speech.

Past perfect


Reporting information questions

YESTERDAY

John: "What is Susan doing?"

Present continuous question form

TODAY

"John asked what Susan was doing."

Explanation: John asked the question yesterday. Susan was doing something yesterday. So, the verb tense must change.
The verb tense changes to past continuous in reported speech.

Past continuous statement form (not a question)


Reporting yes / no questions

YESTERDAY

John: "Is Susan hungry?"

Present simple question form

TODAY

"John asked if Susan was hungry."

Explanation: John asked the question yesterday. Yesterday Susan was hungry. Now Susan is no longer hungry, so the verb tense must change.
The verb tense changes to past simple in reported speech.

Past simple statement form (not a question)