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Common Misconceptions in Reported Speech

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We know that, in SSC exams, direct questions on direct to indirect speech conversion and vice-versa are asked, one hardly makes any mistake while attempting them. Likewise there is no scope for error in Banking and insurance exams, where we usually attempts questions like error spotting, phrase replacement, etc.

Rules of reported speech can be very confusing sometimes. In this article we will address some common misconceptions related to reported speech in a simple way. Keep reading to learn the rules for converting direct indirect speech, spotting errors in reported speech sentences, etc, also by the end of this article, you will be able to write essays letters, flawlessly.

Now let us look at the Common Misconceptions in Reported Speech.

Misconception #1: Direct speech is not the reporting of speech

Actually, direct speech is reporting of speech by repeating exactly the actual words of the speaker. But it is not the reported speech! It is the quoted speech.

Misconceptions in Reported Speech.PNG

Misconception #2: Indirect speech always includes ‘that’

Misconception 2 - Usage of that in reported speech

‘That’ is omitted while reporting questions and commands:

He asked me, “Where are you going?”
He asked me where I was going. → Correct
He asked me that where I was going. → Incorrect

Misconception #3: Indirect speech is ‘always’ changing the tense to its past form

We use past tense in indirect speech to indicate that what we are saying has happened in the past.

Misconceptions about Reported Speech
But a statement which is true can be reported in the present tense.

Irin: My name is Irin.  She said her name is Irin.
(Her name is Irin still at this point in time.)

Teacher: The sun rises in the east. → The teacher said that the sun rises in the east.
(Today also the sun rose in the east.)

While talking about a future event, backshift to past tense is not required.

“I will help you with this project”, Professor promised. → Our Professor promised that he will help us with this project. (What matters here is the time when the promise will come true – future.)

Misconception #4: ‘Will’ becomes ‘would’, ‘can’ becomes ‘could’, and then ‘shall’ must be changed to ‘should’.

Case 1: “I shall be there”, Ryan said.Ryan said (that) he should be there. → Incorrect.

Ryan said (that) he would be there. → Correct.

‘Ryan said (that) he should be there’ means he feels he must be there; it is more like an obligation or necessity.

Case 2: “Shall I open it?” she asked. → She asked if she should open it.

In reported questions, shall changes to should. In reported statements, shall changes to would.

Misconception #5: May always changes to might

Case 1: “I may not be there,” he said.  He said (that) he might not be there.

‘May’ indicates his possibility of being at that place. When ‘may’ is used to indicate the possibility of something, it becomes ‘might’ in indirect speech.

Case 2: “May I come in?” he asked. He asked if he could come in.

Here, ‘may’ indicates asking permission. In such cases, ‘may’ becomes ‘could’ in indirect speech.

“You may wait here,” his secretary said.  His secretary said (that) I could wait in the hallway.

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