What is Direct and Indirect Speech?

A large amount of literature is made up of plays, sonnets and poems. In these types of literature, we oftentimes find the use of Direct and Indirect speech. In our everyday life, there are times when we need to explain to others an event or a conversation that has occurred. Relating those stories may involve repeating what someone has said. In order to describe what people have said, we can use two types of speech – Direct and Indirect (or reported speech). What is Direct and Indirect Speech?

This article will help you to understand exactly what Direct Speech consists of, as well as help you to be able to differentiate it from Indirect Speech. Enhancing your skills in using this type of speech correctly will no doubt improve your written storytelling abilities.

Think about sending your friend a play-by-play conversation that you had with your parents. If it was very important that you gave the exact points that were brought out in that conversation, you would use Direct Speech. If you were giving your friend an overview of what was said, you could successfully use Indirect Speech to convey the message.

white quote paper cutout
What is Direct and Indirect Speech?


Direct speech uses the exact words of the speaker. It is indicated by inverted commas. When many speakers are introduced in the text, a new paragraph is used for each new speaker. In cartoons or comics, these words are enclosed in a bubble. A Direct Speech sentence is broken into two parts:

  • A clause containing an introductory verb such as said or asked which indicates the speaker. The introductory verb is always followed by a comma.
  • The actual words that are spoken. These words will always be enclosed in quotation marks. The first word of the spoken sentence always begins with a capital letter.


  • Mary said, “It is cold today.
  • Mary asked, “Is it cold today?
  • Every time I come home my mother shouts, “Take your bag to your room!
  • Rupert suggested, “Shall we dance?
What is Direct and Indirect Speech?


There are three types of direct speech formats. These are based on where we find the direct speech in the sentence. It can either begin the sentence, or it can come after the introductory verb, or the direct speech can be before and after the introductory verb, which will then split the sentence into two parts. Let’s look at an example of each of these below:

  • FORMAT 1: The introductory verb usually comes before the words that are spoken:
    • The supporters shouted, “Come on, Manchester United!”
  • FORMAT 2: The spoken words can sometimes come first. The spoken words will then be followed by a comma, exclamation mark or a question mark, but never a full stop.
    • “How long until half-time?” asked an excited spectator
    • “I’m so sorry this is the last match of the season,” sighed the schoolboy
    • “Please be careful of the cars.” warned his mother. [INCORRECT]
    • “I don’t have any spare change.” Jason said sheepishly. [INCORRECT]
  • FORMAT 3: The introductory verb may be found in the middle of the sentence. This will split the sentence into two parts. The second part is called the follow-on sentence. Note that the follow-on sentence will not begin with a capital letter.
    • “You guys are hopeless,” shouted the captain, “and are going to cost us the trophy!”
    • “I can’t take you anywhere,” Michelle told him, “because you always try to embarrass me.”
    • “When I go to Woolworths,” Mbali said as she sipped her tea, “I make sure I carry a jacket.”


We would employ the use of indirect speech in our writing when it is not imperative to have the exact words of the conversation recorded. Indirect speck makes our sentences less formal. Many changes occur when we convert a sentence from Direct to Indirect or Reported Speech. Take note of the changes in sentence structure which occur when taking direct speech to indirect speech:


In order to move from direct speech to reported speech, we would remove the inverted commas, question marks, exclamation marks and capital letters. However, you should not remove the capital letter if the first word in the inverted commas is a proper noun.

  • Mother asked, “Where have I left my keys?”        [DIRECT SPEECH]
  • Mother asked where she had left her keys.          [INDIRECT SPEECH]
  • Mother asked, “John, have you tidied your room?” [DIRECT SPEECH]
  • Mother asked John if he had tidied his room. [INDIRECT SPEECH]


When converting the sentence below from Direct Speech to Indirect Speech, notice how we would change the pronouns accordingly to ensure that the sentence retains its meaning.

  • Shahida said, “My family and I are going to the flea market today.”
  • Shahida said that she and her family would be going to the flea market that day


We would need to insert the word – that – to link the introductory verb to the spoken words e.g. said, says, stated, declared, exclaimed, complained.

  • Annabel says, “I love the sounds, smells and vibe of the flea market.”
  • Annabel says that she loves the sounds, smells and vibe of a flea market.


Insert the words if or whether after questions in the Direct Speech sentence using question verbs e.g. asked, enquired, questioned.

  • The children enquired, “Are there fun-rides at this flea market?”
  • The children enquired if/whether there were fun-rides at that flea market.

If the first word of a question is a question word, use this word as the connecting word e.g. who, what, when, where, why, how.

  • “Why can’t I have another candy floss?” asked Roxanne.
  • Roxanne asked why she couldn’t have another candy floss.


If the introductory verb is in the present tense, report the speech as if it has just been said.

  • Joanne says, “I am feeling dizzy today.”
  • Joanne says that she is feeling dizzy today.

If the introductory verb is in the past tense and what is reported has already occurred, report the spoken words in the past tense by putting them one stage back in terms of tense.

  • Joanne said, “I am feeling dizzy today.’
  • Joanne said that she was feeling dizzy that day.

[This is similar to Court Room Language: “Your Honour, Joanne said that she was feeling dizzy that day.”]


Below is a list of examples of adverbs of time that may be found in the Direct Speech sentence, and how you would change them to past tense in your indirect speech sentence

  • here – there
  • this – that
  • now – then
  • today – that day
  • yesterday – the previous day
  • the day before yesterday – two days ago
  • tomorrow – the following day
  • the day after tomorrow – in two days’ time


If the sentence is a command, either of two ways may be used to convert this type of sentence to reported speech. In Option 1 below the use of ‘to do’ is employed; while in Option 2 ‘that’ is used to link the sentence:

  • The teacher ordered, “Children, do your homework!”    
  • [Option 1] – The teacher ordered the children to do their homework               
  • [Option 2] – The teacher ordered that the children should do their homework.            


Exclamatory words may not be used in reported speech. Exclamations and emotions should, however, still be expressed and we do so by describing them. Some examples of exclamation words in Direct Speech would be – Ouch! Hooray! Wow! and Good heavens!

Below are some examples of how we can still retain these exclamatory words for the feeling of the sentence, yet not using them as if we are the one speaking:

  • Ouch! I’ve stumped my toe!” screamed the girl.
  • The girl screamed in pain that she had stumped her toe.
  • The players shouted, “Hooray! We’ve won the trophy!”
  • The players shouted with joy that they had won the trophy.
  • Monique said, “Wow, you look so beautiful!” when she saw me in my outfit.
  • Monique expressed how beautiful she thought I looked.

Conclusion – What is Direct and Indirect Speech?

As we have learned in this article, Direct and Indirect Speech helps us to convey what has been said in any given situation.

Direct Speech would be used to represent exact words and ideas that were spoken, while Indirect Speech is used to tell a story of what someone said without necessarily using a word for word account. Indirect Speech, therefore, gives us leniency to be able to relate the gist of the event in a less formal format of writing.

woman in a blazer holding microphone
What is Direct and Indirect Speech?

We also looked in detail at the many ways in which a Direct Speech sentence would change if it were converted to an Indirect Speech sentence. Note the changes and try to come up with a few examples on your own the next time you are sending a message or writing an email of this nature.

This website is designed for those who are excelling at English as well as the student that may struggle to grasp some basic concepts. Forgot some Collective nouns? Poetry Turning out to be a problem to interpret? Looking for tough concepts to be easily explained? Look no further!

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