The reported speech


  1. No backshift
  2. Backshift
  3. Questions
  4. Modals
  5. Tabelle der vorzunehmenden Veränderungen
  6. Übungssätze
  7. Online Multiple-Choice Test

I. No back-shift in reported speech

1. If the reporting verb is in the present tense, present perfect or will-future there is no back-shift!

2. If the statement is generally true (a) or still true at the moment of reporting (b).

II. The back-shift in reported speech

If the reporting verb is in the past tense the tenses change as follows:

direct speechreported speech
simple presentsimple past
present progressivepast progressive
present perfectpast perfect
present perfect progressivepast perfect progressive
simple pastpast perfect
past perfectpast perfect
past perfect progressivepast perfect progressive
going to-futurewas/were going to + infinitive
will-futurewould + infinitive


The reported speech is introduced by reporting verbs like


If the direct speech begins with a question word (what, when, where, how long etc.) the question word is used in reported speech as well.
If there is no question word in the direct speech, you use if or whether in reported speech.

II.1 Modals in reported speech

II.1.1 Modals with back-shift

direct speechreported speech

II.1.2 Modals without back-shift

would, could, might, should, ought to, used to, would like to, had better

R E P O R T E D    S P E E C H

reporting verb is in the present tense, present perfect, will-future 1.   all tenses no backshift
reporting verb is in the past tense

2. a) present tense
b) past tense
c) present perfect
d) past perfect
e) future I
f) future perfect (II)

3. a) general truths

4. auxiliary verbs

a) may/might
b) can
c) must (Verpflichtung oder Zwang)
must (Schlussfolgerung/Vorschlag/Ratschlag)
d) ought to/would/could/should
used to/would like to/had better

5. questions
question word (where/when/etc.)
no question word

6. imperatives

7. pronouns

a) personal pronouns
(I, you; we, you)

b) possessive pronouns
(my, your; our, your)

8. adverbial expressions of time

a) today
b) yesterday
c) three days ago
d) last week
e) tomorrow
f) next week

past tense
past perfect
past perfect
past perfect
conditional I
conditional II

no backshift


had to/must
no change

no change
no change

repetition of question word
whether / if

infinitive + to/not to


he, she; they

his, her; their


that day
the day before
three days before
the previous week/a week before
the next/the following day
the following week/a week later


Put the following sentences into Reported Speech:

  1. "I lost my bag yesterday," Peter said.
  2. "I have never been here before," she said.
  3. "I was very ill yesterday," Ann said.
  4. "I can't do it now, but I'll do it next week," Bob stated.
  5. "I can visit you tomorrow," Paul said.
  6. "I did my homework three days ago," the student told his teacher.
  7. "I'll go on vacation next week," Liz said.
  8. "No one fed the chickens last week," the farmer said angrily.
  9. "My sister finished reading the book five days ago," I said.
  10. "I always wonder what I'll do tomorrow," the tramp said.
  11. "I'm working in a restaurant, and don't much care for it," she said.
  12. "I'm going out now, but I'll be in by nine," he said. ( Omit now)
  13. "I can't live on my basic salary," said Peter.
    "I'll have to offer to do overtime."
  14. "My young brother wants to be a tax inspector," said Mary. "I can't think why. None of my family has ever been a tax inspector."
  15. "We're waiting for the school bus," said the children. "It's late again."
  16. "I've made a terrible mistake!" said Peter.
    "You're always making terrible mistakes," I said.
    "You should be used to it by now."
  17. Peggy: "Tom is boring." Peggy says .....
  18. Richard: "I've lost my money." Richard said .....
  19. "I have something to show you," I said to her.
  20. "I'm going away tomorrow, mother," he said.
  21. "Why are you looking through the keyhole?" I said.
  22. "Who put salt in my coffee?" he asked.
  23. "How can I possibly run in this tight skirt?" she inquired.
  24. "What is your new house like?" I asked them.
  25. "Are you sorry for what you did?" the mother asked the little boy.
  26. "Could I lose ten pounds in one week?" the fat man asked. "No," said the doctor.
  27. He said, "Get out of my way."
  28. "Don't make a sound," he said in a whisper.
  29. "Put your pistol on the table," said the policeman.
  30. "Search the house," said the detective.
  31. She said, "If you feel faint sit down and put your head between your knees."
  32. "When you are driving always look in your rear mirror before turning right," said my instructor.
  33. "Let's go to the cinema," said Anne.
  34. "Get yourself some new clothes," I suggested.
  35. "Tom made this mess. Let him clear it up," said his father.
  36. He said, "I must be at the docks at six a.m. tomorrow.
  37. He said, "Will you come to tea on Monday?"
  38. "Will you help me or shall I ask someone else?" she said.

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