direct and indirect speech

Direct and indirect speech are two ways to quote or reproduce another’s message. Direct speech quotes verbatim what is meant, without modifications, while indirect speech requires the interpretation of the message, altering the original message, without modifying its meaning.

Both direct and indirect speech require the use of the verb to say or any of its variations, such as the verbs announce, explain, narrate, assert, ask, expose, agree, inform, quote, point, etc.

Direct speechIndirect speech
DefinitionIt is a way of reproducing your own message or someone else’s, quoting verbatim what was said.It is a way of reproducing your own message or that of another person, interpreting what was said.
  • It requires the use of the verb to say and its variants (assent, express, order, point, etc.).
  • Requires the use of quotation marks or hyphens or dashes.
  • It does not require interpretation or modification of the message.
  • It is used in the media, academic and literary texts.
  • It requires the use of the verb to say and its variants (assent, express, order, point, etc.).
  • It does not require the use of quotation marks or hyphens or dashes.
  • Requires the use of the conjunction “that”
  • The message is interpreted and modified to suit what is meant.
  • It requires the change of verb tenses.
  • It is used in everyday speech.
  • My father told me: “the only thing I can give you is a good education.”
  • The health minister pointed out: “the goal is for all citizens to be vaccinated before the end of the year.”
  • The old man began to scream with excitement “I finally meet my grandchildren.”
  • My father told me that the only thing he could give me was a good education.
  • The health minister pointed out that the goal is for all citizens to be vaccinated by the end of the year.
  • The old man began to shout excitedly that he finally knew his grandchildren.

What is direct speech?

It is the reproduction of a message in the same way in which it has been sent, without alterations or interpretations. In other words, it is about citing an idea of ​​your own or of another, as it was said.

There are two ways to indicate that it is a direct speech: with quotation marks or with dashes.

With quotes

In a written text, direct speech can be recognized by using quotation marks, which indicate that the words that follow are from someone else or have been copied as they were originally written. For instance:

  • She told me: “I prefer to live in a quieter city.” And I agree.
  • The president declared: “I am very happy with the results.”

Direct speech is a widely used resource in the media, especially in the field of journalism, where it is common to use quotation marks to highlight an idea said by someone. It is also a tool used in academic texts (thesis, specialized books, research papers, etc.) to point out ideas from other authors.

With stripes

Another way to recognize a direct speech is by the use of lines, which mark the beginning of a dialogue. The stripes indicate that what follows is an exchange between two or more people, reproduced verbatim. For instance,

“Do you know what happened to the English teacher?”
-I do not know. Looks like he’s not coming today.

Stripes are commonly used in written interviews and in literary texts such as plays, short stories, or novels, where they are used to indicate what each character should say.

Examples of direct speech

1. In her speech, the actress said “I want to thank my family for all their support”.

2. The defendant complained to the judge: “this sentence is unjust”.

3. My boss told me “you have to solve it, because I’m going on vacation.”

4. “Even now, eighteen years later, I remember that meadow in its small details.” (Tokyo blues, by Haruki Murakami)

5. —But… what are you doing around here?
And he answered then, softly, as something very important:
“Please … paint me a lamb!” (The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)

6. One child says to the other:
—My father knows three languages ​​perfectly.
“Mine knows many more.”
“Is he a polyglot?”
“No, dentist.”

See also Difference between oral and written communication

What is indirect speech?

It is a discursive way in which the message of another sender is paraphrased. That is, the author or narrator takes a message from another, interprets it and incorporates it into his speech not in a textual way (as it was said), but as he wants to tell it.

These types of modifications in indirect speech are made to adapt the original message to the way in which you want to convey the message. For example, in a direct speech, someone says, “I am not available today. But tomorrow we can go to the movies, if you want ”. In its indirect form, it would change to:

He told me that he was not available today, but that we could go to the movies tomorrow if I wanted.

In our daily communication, we often use the indirect style, both orally and in writing.

How to modify the verb tenses in indirect speech?

As in indirect speech the message is not reproduced in its original form, it can undergo modifications that are expressed with changes in verb tenses or pronouns. Furthermore, in the indirect style, the conjunction “that” precedes the idea to be communicated. In this comparative table we can see some examples of these modifications:

Direct speechIndirect speech
The doctor said: ” I am the best surgeon in this hospital”The doctor said he was the best surgeon in the hospital.
” I’m waiting outside the building.”He said he was waiting for me outside the building.
” I’ve been cooking all day.”He told me that he cooked all day.
“My life there was wonderful.”She said her life there was wonderful
” I will be with you very soon.”My sister told me that she would be with us very soon.
” I’ll have everything ready for the meeting.”He said he would have everything ready for the meeting
” Let us approve this decision at the board.”She said to approve this decision at the board.
“Surely my brother has only been to the party for a little while.”He told me that his brother probably only went to the party for a little while.

Examples with indirect speech

1. She said she would work from home.

2. My brother told me that he would accept the contract.

3. The policeman assured him that he would find the thief.

4. The researcher explained that she had designed the vaccine in one year.

5. Your boss told you you did a good job.

6. Pepito came home drenched in sweat. His mother asks him why and he tells her that he came running after the bus, because that way he could save five pesos. His mother replies that it is very silly, and that for the next time a taxi should run behind and thus save forty pesos.

See also Types of texts

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