Reported speech

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    25 Mart 2008
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    Exercises in translating passages of direct speech into reported speech should not be treated as mere practise practice in mental gymnastics. Exercises of this type are really essays in comprehension and flexibility of expression. The following observations are offered
    as having particular relevance to the exercises that follow:

    1. There are many verbs besides say and tell that can be used in reported speech and that are
    often more expressive than these two rather neutral verbs.

    2. a. Some verbs used in direct speech cannot be used in reported speech, and have to be
    expressed with said and an appropriate adverb of manner indicating the way in which
    something was said.
    b. Sometimes the tone of the original can be preserved in the reported version only by the
    use of said, again with an appropriate adverb of manner.

    3. Tenses are not always changed mechanically when speech is reported. It is especially
    important to remember this when dealing with conditionals.

    4. In longer passages particularly, it is most important to preserve the spirit of the original,
    and this consideration should be before a strict adherence to the form. Students must,
    therefore, not only understand the content but also appreciate the style and tone of the
    original if their own version is not to sound flat or unnatural by comparison.


    SAY. Usually with the actual words spoken. It is never used with the infinitive in reported speech.

    TELL. Never used in a sense of recount, with the actual words spoken. A personal object is
    always present. Imperatives become infinitive phrases in reported speech preceded by a verb
    such as tell, order, command, ask, with a (pro)noun for the person addressed.

    Bring me a book.
    He asked her (him, us, etc.) to bring him a book.


    When the reporting verb is in the PRESENT SIMPLE, PRESENT PERFECT, or FUTURE
    SIMPLE tense, there is no change of tense in the words reported. Notice only the necessary
    change of person.

    I am very sorry.
    He will tell you
    He says (that) he is very sorry.
    He has just told me

    When the reporting verb is in the PAST SIMPLE or, PAST PERFECT tense, or is in a
    should/would form, the words reported are viewed in a different perspective. The speech is
    now remote, and seen as relating a sequence of events happening in the past, the tenses being
    changed accordingly.

    I am a student, and I have studied for three years.
    He said (that) he was a student and had studied for three years.
    So the following tense changes are automatic after past tense reporting verbs:

    Present continuous Past continuous
    Present simpe Past simple
    Present perfect Past perfect
    Past perfect No change
    Past simple Past perfect
    Past continuous No change (usually)
    shall/will Would
    Can Could
    Could No change
    Must Had to or no change
    Should No change
    Ought to No change
    May Might
    Imperative Infinitive

    Adverbs of time and place and a few other expressions also change. Here are some
    examples (to be taken as convenient equivalents, not as rules):

    Speaker's words Reported Statement

    Tomorrow The next day/the following day
    Yesterday The day before
    Here There
    This/that The
    This morning That morning
    Today That day
    Tonight That night
    Next/on Tuesday The following Tuesday
    Last Tuesday The previous Tuesday
    The day after tomorrow In two day's time
    Ago Before/previously

    But these equivalents should be used with common sense.

    This vehicle isn't safe.
    He said that the vehicle was not safe. (the not that unless this is stressed).

    And is not always necessary to use any equivalent at all, as the past tense of the
    introducing verb is often quite sufficient.

    I am coming to see you now.
    He said he was coming to see me. (then is not wanted)

    Must: In ordinary speech must has three possible meanings, each of which has a different
    form when reported. Can and needn't sometimes behave in a similar way.

    1. Necessity or compulsion AT THE MOMENT OF SPEAKING A TRUE PRESENT. This
    of course becomes a PAST when reported.

    I must go now He said he had to go at once.
    I needn't go He said he didn't have to go
    I mustn't go He said he wasn't to go.

    2. Necessity or compulsion in the future; as a substitute for shall/have to. This of course,
    behaves like a future, and changes to the should/would form in reported speech for must
    and needn't.

    He said he
    I must go next week would have to go the following week.
    I needn't go next week wouldn't have to go
    I mustn't go... wasn't to go
    (has no future form)
    3. Permanent ruling or prohibition. Here the must remains unchanged.

    You mustn't cross the road against the red light.
    He told us we mustn't cross the road against the red light.

    All natural laws and eternal truths may remain in the SIMPLE PRESENT.

    The word order of reported speech is the same as the simple STATEMENT; there is no
    inversion as in a simple question. In questions introduced by a question-word (who, what,
    how ,when, etc), this word serves as a link between the introducing verb and the reported question.

    What is your name?
    He asked me what my name was.

    If the question has no question-word, but is one of the type that can take yes or no for an
    answer, whether or if is used as a link between the introducing verb and the reported question.

    Have you seen him anywhere?
    He asked me if I had seen him anywhere.

    Shall in REPORTED QUESTIONS requires a special preliminary exercise if its behaviour
    has not already been learnt. Questions beginning Shall I...? are of two types.


    Shall I ever forget her?

    TYPE 2 REQUEST (=Do you want me to?)

    Shall I open the window?

    In TYPE 1 the Shall I? becomes: ...if he would...

    In TYPE 2 the Shall I? becomes: ...if he should...

    TYPE 1. Shall I ever forget her?

    He wondered if he would ever forget her.

    TYPE 2. Shall I open the window?

    He asked if he should open the window.

    The only point to remember is to change the tense in both parts.

    Do you know who is coming?
    He asked if I knew who was coming.
    Do you know who killed him?
    He asked if I knew who had killed him.
    Did you wonder why I didn't come?
    He asked if I'd wondered why he hadn't come.

    But we rarely find a succession of PAST PERFECTS, any other CONTEMPORARY
    actions being left in the PAST SIMPLE.

    Did you wonder why I didn't come when he was wanted?
    He asked if I'd wondered why he hadn't come when he was wanted. (didn't come is also

    Late response. This is a curious but not uncommon trick of conversation combining the principles
    of direct and reported speech in one. Sometimes a remark is passed, the exact meaning of which is
    not fully grasped at the moment; after a short lapse of time the listener reverts the speaker's
    original subject, asking about the doubtful point, but usually framing his direct question in the
    tense of a REPORTED QUESTION with a past tense introducing verb. Examples will make it

    Mr A. I'm supposed to go again on Friday.
    (pause or more miscellaneous conversation)
    Mr B. When were you supposed to go again?
    (When did you say you were supposed to go again?)

    Mr A. His name is Tanner-Whyte.
    (pause or conversation)
    Mr B. What was the man's name?

    Imperatives take was (were) to, or more rarely had to.

    Mr. A. Put it among the papers in the third drawer down.
    (Pause for forgetting)
    Mr. B. Where was I to put it?
    (Where did you say I was to put it?)

    And in the past:

    Mr. A. They made at least seventeen copies and sold them all.
    (pause or more conversation to confuse the mind of Mr. B.)
    Mr. B. How many copies had they made?
    (How many copies did you say they had made?)


    Reporting an exclamation is usually best achieved by a circumlocution reflecting the spirit
    of the original exclamation.
    Exclamations are not often reported in spoken English, so too much time shouldn't be
    waisted in hunting for the best expression. The other forms of REPORTED SPEECH far more

    Some exclamatory forms are really questions (rhetorical) or imperatives.

    "What a lovely garden!"
    He remarked what a lovely garden it was.
    "Hello! where are you going?"
    He greeted me and asked where I was going.
    "Oh dear! I've torn my frock!"
    She exclaimed bitterly that she had torn her dress.
    or: She sighed and said that she had torn her dress.
    Merve(: bunu beğendi.

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