How To Teach Reported Speech

Reported speech is one of my least favourite grammar points, because it’s a bit messy! But it’s staple knowledge for students and it comes around 6 or 7 times a year. So unavoidable! Here’s my guide to making it less messy to teach, and how to make sure that your students understand the ins and outs!

When we report what somebody else has said, we often change the tense of the verb to further back in time. Have a quick look at the tense changes.

Reported Speech Tense Changes

The verb doesn’t change when….

  1. We want to make it clear that what the person said is still relevant; “I love chocolate chip ice cream” – “He said he loves chocolate chip ice cream”
  2. If the reporting verb is in the present; “I’m looking forward to seeing you” – “She says she is looking forward to her holiday”

Remember to watch out for pronoun, possessive adjective and adverb changes!

Reporting Verbs

There are a lot of verbs that we use to report what somebody has said. They each follow a different pattern and it is important that students are able to categorize the verbs into the structure the verb should be used in. The following is a list of structures and a list of common examples we commonly use. You can probably find the same list in the back of a textbook, level B2 or higher.

1. Verb + Infinitive




2. Verb + Object + Infinitive

Advise                    Order

Ask                         Persuade

Invite                     Remind

3. Verb + Preposition + Noun / Verb + – ing ending

Complain about

Apologise for

Accuse of

4. Verb + Noun / Verb + – ing ending





5. Verb + Sentence / Clause

Admit                  Promise

Agree                  Recommend

Complain           Suggest


Reporting Questions

Reporting a question means changing the sentence into statement form. There are two different ways, depending on the type of question;

Wh- / How Questions

Here you must change the word order and eliminate the auxiliary verb ‘do’ in the present tense or the past simple. For example;

“What are you reading?” – He asked me what I was reading

“Where do you go to school?” – She asked us where we went to school”

Yes / No Questions

If the question requires a simple yes or no answer, we add ‘if’ or ‘whether’. For example;

“Do you like ice cream?” – He asked me whether I liked ice cream”


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