Explanation of speech

Time Expressions with Reported Speech

Sometimes when we change direct speech into reported speech we have to change time expressions too. We don't always have to do this, however. It depends on when we heard the direct speech and when we say the reported speech.

For example:

It's Monday. Julie says "I'm leaving today ".

If I tell someone on Monday, I say "Julie said she was leaving today ".
If I tell someone on Tuesday, I say "Julie said she was leaving yesterday ".
If I tell someone on Wednesday, I say "Julie said she was leaving on Monday ".
If I tell someone a month later, I say "Julie said she was leaving that day ".

So, there's no easy conversion. You really have to think about when the direct speech was said.

Here's a table of some possible conversions: now then / at that time today yesterday / that day / Tuesday / the 27th of June yesterday the day before yesterday / the day before / Wednesday / the 5th of December last night the night before, Thursday night last week the week before / the previous week tomorrow today / the next day / the following day / Friday

  • Click here for an exercise about using 'say' and 'tell'.
  • Click here for a list of all the reported speech exercises.

Be careful not to use quotation marks in an attempt to emphasize a word (the kind of thing you see in grocery store windows—Big "Sale" Today!). Underline or italicize that word instead. (The quotation marks will suggest to some people that you are using that word in a special or peculiar way and that you really mean something else—or that your sale is entirely bogus.) The American Medical Association Manual of Style (9th ed, 1998) calls misused quotation marks like this Apologetic Quotation Marks and says:

Explanation of speech

explanation of speech

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