Indirect speech

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Reported speech, reports people’s speech and thoughts by giving our own version of a person’s exact words, as in He asked me what time it was.

Meaning[edit | edit source]

The function of reported speech is to report speech, and reporting thoughts. This serves an important social function. For example, if Alice says something to Bob, Bob can report Alice’s thoughts to a third party using reported speech.

Form[edit | edit source]

There are two ways of reporting speech; by using a subordinate clause or using a causative verb.

Using a subordinate clause[edit | edit source]

The typical form of reported speech is to use a sentence plus a reporting verb which licenses a subordinate clause containing the speech that is to be reported. For example:

  • Alice said she is a cyclist.
  • Alice said she wanted to go to the park.
  • Alice asked if I wanted to go to the park.
  • Alice asked whether it was going to rain.
  • Alice told me that she wanted to go to the park.
  • etc

Using a causative verb[edit | edit source]

The alternative way of doing this is by using:

  • Alice told me to go to the park.
  • Alice asked me to go to the park.

The form is slightly different for reported statements and reported questions.

There is always perspective shift, and there may be backshift.

Pedagogy[edit | edit source]