Direct and Indirect Speech - English Grammar Notes

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Direct Speech

  • Direct speech is used to give a speaker’s exact words. It is also referred to as direct quotation.
  • Direct speech is always enclosed within quotation marks.
    Hemedi announced, “My aunt works in a biscuit factory. ”
    “Creating jobs will be my first priority”, the governor said.
  • A comma always separates the quoted words from the speaker’s name, whether the name comes before or after the quotation
    - Jim asked, “Who are you voting for?”
    - “I don’t know yet,” answered Carol.
  • A direct quotation always begins with a capital letter
    - Senator Karabba said, “You must believe in the new constitution."
  • When a direct quotation is divided by speech tags, the second part of the quotation must begin with a small letter.
    - “Register to vote,” said the senator, "before the end of the day”.
  • If the second part of the quotation is a complete sentence, the first word of this sentence is capitalized.
    - “I did register,” said Carol. “It took only a few minutes”
  • Commas and full stops are placed inside quotation marks
    - “Last night,” said Joyce, "I listened to a debate.”
  • Quotation marks and exclamation marks are placed inside a quotation mark if they belong to the quotation. If they do not, they are placed outside the quotation.
    - Joyce asked, “Whom are you voting for?"
    - Did Carol say, “I don’t know yet’?
    - I can’t believe that she said, “I don’t know yet"!
  • Speech tags may appear before, in the middle or at the direct speech.
    - He said, “You know quite well that you have to vote”
    - “You know quite well, he said, “that you have to vote”.
    - “You know quite well that you have to vote,” he said.

Exercise 1

Rewrite the following sentences correctly in direct speech. Ensure you puntuiate them accordingly.

  1. John said there was a terrible accident in Nairobi.
  2. Petro added it happened in Umoja Estate.
  3. it involved a train and a bus added John
  4. sarah asked did anyone die
  5. No one died, but the railway line was destroyed answered Peter
  6. Over the months said John the railway line has been rebuilt
  7. How lucky that no one died exclaimed sarah
  8. I think they shoul put a railway-crossing sigh board
    Petro said it would help bus drivers a lot
  9. Or they shoul put bumps on both sides of the railway line to slow down the buses John suggested
  10. Who knows what might happen next wondered Sarah

Indirect Speech

  • Indirect speech is used to refer to a person’s words without quoting him or her exactly. It is also referred to as indirect quotation or reported speech. The original spoken words are not repeated.
  • The exact meaning is given without repeating the speaker’s words.

    Direct speech
    : The governor said, “Creating new jobs will be my first priority.”
    Indirect speech: The governor said that creating new jobs would be his first priority.
  • Several changes do occur when changing a sentence from direct to indirect speech
    1. Quotation marks
      - Quotation marks are left out when writing a sentence in direct speech.

      Direct: Hemedi announced, “My aunt works in a biscuit factory.”
      Indirect: Hemedi announced that his aunt worked in a biscuit factory.
    2. Tense - The tense of a verb in the direct sentence will change in indirect speech

      1. Simple present changes to past simple
        Direct: John said, “She goes to school early.”
        Indirect: John said that she went to school early.
      2. Simple past changes to past perfect
        Direct: John said, “She went to school early”
        Indirect: John said that she had gone to school early.
      3. Present progressive changes to past progressive
        Direct: “The baby is eating a banana,” the nurse said.
        Indirect: The nurse said that the baby was eating a banana.
      4. Present perfect changes to past perfect
        Direct: “South Sudan has become a republic,” the new president declared.
        Indirect: The new president declared that South Sudan had become a republic
      5. Past progressive changes to past perfect progressive
        Direct: “ I was dreaming when the fire started,” the boy said.
        Indirect: The boy said the he had been dreaming when the fire started.
      6. Future simple changes to modal
        Direct: “I will visit you tomorrow,” my desk mate said.
        Indirect: My desk mate said the he would visit me the following day.
    3. May changes to might
      Direct: : I may also visit you too,” I replied.
      Indirect: I replied that I might also visit him too.
    4. Sometimes the verb in indirect speech does not change tense. This occurs in sentences that are universal truths
      Direct: Our Geography teacher said “The earth rotates round the sun.”
      Indirect: Our Geography teacher said that the earth rotates round the sun
    5. Words referring to place also change

      Direct: “I live here,” retorted the old man.
      Indirect: The old man retorted that he lived there

      Direct: “This place stinks,” noted the boy.
      Indirect: The boy noted that that place stunk.
    6. Words referring to time also change

      Direct: “I will visit you tomorrow,” he shouted.
      Indirect: He shouted that he would visit me the following/next day

      Direct : “ He died last year,” the policeman reported.
      Indirect: The policeman reported that he had dies the previous year/ the year before.
    7. Demonstrative pronouns also change:

      Direct: “This book is mine,” Jane claimed.
      Indirect: Jane claimed that that book was hers.

      Direct: “These are hard times,” observed the president.
      Indirect: The president observed that those were hard times.
    8. Pronouns also change when rewriting a sentence from direct to indirect speech.

      Direct: “My car is better than yours,” the teacher bragged.
      Indirect: The teacher bragged that his/her car was better that his/hers/theirs.

Exercise 2

Change the following sentences from Direct to Indirect speech.

  1. “Did you see the fire at the West gate Mall?” asked Joel.
  2. Njagi said,” Ten fire-engines arrived in fifteen minutes.”
  3. Patty exclaimed, “It destroyed an entire block of building!”
  4. “One fire fighter was slightly injured,” said Joel.
  5. Njagi said, “Several people working in the building escaped unhurt.”
  6. “Tell me what will happen to them,” said Patty.
  7. “Other people are giving them food and clothes,” replied Joel.
  8. Njagi added,” They are resting in the school for now.”
  9. “These terrorists will finish us!” exclaimed Patty.
  10. “Don’t worry,” Joels aid “They will be apprehended tomorrow”.
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