How to Teach Reported Speech

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Teaching students reported or indirect speech can be complicated by the all the changes that are required when moving from direct speech into reported speech. First off, students should understand that reported speech is quite useful in conversational English as relating what someone has said using "quote" and "unquote" is awkward at best. A further aspect of reported speech is encouraging students to use other reporting verbs beyond "say" and "tell".

Introducing the Concept to Students

Start with Tenses

Start with simple examples in which changes are only made in tense. For example:

Write on the Board:

Direct Speech

Tom said, "I enjoy watching action movies."
becomes

Indirect Speech

Tom said he enjoyed watching action movies.

Direct Speech

Anna told me, "I went to the shopping mall."
becomes

Indirect Speech

Anna told me she had gone to the shopping mall.

Move on to Pronouns and Time Expressions

Once students have understood the basic concept of stepping one step back into the past when reporting in the past, they can easily begin to make the minor changes in pronoun and time expression usage. For example:

Write on the Board:

Direct Speech

The teacher said, "We're working on the present continuous today."
becomes

Indirect Speech

The teacher said we were working on the present continuous that day.

Direct Speech

Anna told me, "My brother Tom has been to Paris twice this year."
becomes

Indirect Speech

Anna told me her brother Tom had been to Paris twice that year.

Practice

Provide students with a chart of the principal changes in reported speech (i.e. will -> would, present perfect -> past perfect, etc.). Ask students to practice the reported speech by beginning with a simple reported speech quiz, a reported speech worksheet, or by asking them to change sentences from direct to reported speech.

Once students have become comfortable with direct to indirect speech transformations, practice reporting through the use of interviews as in this reported speech lesson plan.As students become familiar with the reported speech, introduce a wider range of reporting verbs to help students move post "say" and "tell".

Advanced Issues

Once the basics have been understood, there are a few more advanced issues to discuss. Here is a quick outline of some of the more problematic aspects of the reported speech that students might find confusing.

  • Reporting Tense: Says instead of Said - Sometimes, in the moment of speaking a speaker may use the present tense to report what has been said. In this case, there is no change in the tense. However, changes in pronouns apply. For example:

    Teacher: We're going to work on the reported speech. Please turn to page 121 in your book.
    Student 1: I can't understand. What are we supposed to do?
    Student 2: The teacher says we are going to work on the reported speech on page 121.

    Tom: I think this is a great idea!
    Peter: Andy, I didn't understand.
    Andy: Tom tells us he thinks it's a good idea.

  • Other Reporting Verbs: Advise / Instruct / Etc. + Infinitive of Purpose - A number of reporting verbs use the infinitive of purpose to express the idea, rather than using a transition of the tense. For example:

    Teacher: We're going to work on the reported speech. Please turn to page 121 in your book.
    Student 1: I can't understand. What are we supposed to do?
    Student 2: The teacher instructed us to work on reported speech and turn to page 121.

    Teacher: I think you should hurry up and finish the activity.
    Student 1: I didn't understand.
    Student 2: The teacher advised us to hurry up and finish the activity.

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    Your Citation
    Beare, Kenneth. "How to Teach Reported Speech." ThoughtCo, Sep. 17, 2017, thoughtco.com/how-to-teach-reported-speech-1212116. Beare, Kenneth. (2017, September 17). How to Teach Reported Speech. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-teach-reported-speech-1212116 Beare, Kenneth. "How to Teach Reported Speech." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-teach-reported-speech-1212116 (accessed November 21, 2017).