What Did She Say? Tips on Teaching Reported Speech

What Did She Say? Tips on Teaching Reported Speech

Joyce B
by Joyce B 23,569 views |

Reported Speech is a very useful and substantive topic to approach for advanced level students. It is simply relaying or repeating what another person said. Sounds simple, right?

Unfortunately, it is complicated to introduce and can be somewhat cumbersome to devise natural ways to practice it. Following these tips on teaching reported speech will benefit your students and provide some clear guidelines on how best to approach a notoriously sticky grammar point.

Try These Tips on Teaching Reported Speech

  1. 1

    Grammar Nuances

    To use reported speech, we are in one instance having a conversation or overhearing something, and then repeating it or reporting it to a third party. In order to properly report what was said, we have to alter the tenses that were used. Here is a basic explanation:

    • If the reporting verb (like said) is in the past, the reported speech will also be in past tense. The form is generally one step back into the past from the original.
      • Maria said the exam was difficult.
      • George said the food tasted badly.
    • Quoted speech that is changed to reported speech changes tense according to this rule: simple past, present perfect, and past perfect all must change to past perfect for reported speech. Present tense sometimes stays as present tense if it is immediately reported, but often changes to past tense if it is reported later.
    • Pronouns in quoted speech must also be changed in reported speech. If you are having a conversation with John, and John says, “I am hungry.” It is reported as this: John says he is hungry.

    Provide a lot of examples and scenarios throughout the grammar explanation.

    Quoted Speech
      Reported Speech
    John said, “I live in Memphis.” John said that he lived in Memphis.
    Pat said, “I am talking on the phone.” Pat said she was talking on the phone.
    Mike said, “I ate dinner late.” Mike said that he had eaten dinner late.
    Tina said, “I have never been to Paris.” Tina said she had never been to Paris.
    Mary said, “I had already done the dishes.” Mary said she had already done the dishes.
    Juan said, “I am going to go to the movies.” Juan said he was going to go to the movies.
  2. 2


    Another thing to point out about reported speech is that forming questions can be a little tricky. When reporting questions, it is especially important to pay attention to sentence order. When reporting yes /no questions then you can create the reported question using if. When reporting questions using question words (why, where, when) use the question word. Here are some examples:

    • Marla asked, "Do you want to drive?" = Marla asked me if I wanted to drive.
    • Kiko asked, “Did John go to school?”= Kiko asked if John had gone to school.
    • Dave asked, "Where did you put the bag?" = Dave asked me where I had put the bag.
    • John asked, "What are you studying?" = John asked me what I was studying.
  3. 3

    Triangles And News

    After some seriously involved explanation, discussion and comprehension checks, it is time to move into practicing this jagged little point. Coming up with fun and engaging ways to practice reported speech will really help students remember what they have learned. This is also a grammar point that requires several lessons of practice and explanation, so don’t feel that you have to pack it all into one day. Start small and build upon a strong foundation. The two best practice activities for reported speech are triangles and news reporting.

    • Triangles

    This is always an interesting one to set-up and there are a lot of ways in which you can vary it to your needs. You have three students: Student A is talking to student B and Student C will be the third party. Student B’s job will be to listen to student A and turn to student C and report what student A said. You can come up with a number of scenarios if you want to increase the practice and turn the triangles into mini role plays. A good topic is planning a party or outing of some kind. Student A is the organizer and calls student B and C on the phone and reports what the other two students have said. Another fun one is to do a lesson on gossip and use reported speech to show how it is that gossip can travel so quickly, and also how the story will change when the reporters report incorrect information.

    • News Reporter

    This is a good activity to do once the students have gotten some amount of exposure to reported speech. It takes some creativity on the students’ part and again, there are numerous ways in which you could set it up. One way is to have them read a news story and report the news to the class in a newscaster tone. Another way could be to have a reporter doing an interview on a particular topic. For example student A’s house was broken into and student B is the newscaster there to get the story. Student B will then report the story back to the class. Students can do this activity in small or large groups and then report back after practicing. They could also rotate around the room and each pair gets a chance to report and interview on multiple topics while taking turns with their roles.

Reported speech is something we do every day, and your students will have a good time with it after they have waded through all the grammar specifics.

Creating stimulating activities that contain practice they won’t soon forget will soon have your students reporting on your every move!

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