Direct Speech vs. Indirect Speech

There are two ways to explain and relay something a person said: direct speech and indirect speech. One quotes speech directly, using the exact words, and the other rephrases what was said.

If you are fluent in English, you probably already use these types of speech without realizing it. But now you know what they’re called. Huzzah!

Direct Speech
Direct speech restates what a person said previously using their exact words, which go inside quotation marks.

  • She said, “I ate the last pickle.”
  • “Go to the store to get more pickles,” Sally told me.
  • Yesterday, Sally’s sister asked, “Will you save a pickle for Sally so she doesn’t get angry?”

Indirect Speech
Indirect speech does not use the exact words spoken. Instead, it rephrases what someone said previously.

  • She said Sally told her not to eat the last pickle.
  • I told Sally yesterday that I wanted to eat the last pickle.
  • I heard Sally ask for another jar of pickles.

Notice that indirect speech often uses the verbs say and tell (and said and told in the past tense).

More Examples
Here are examples of direct and indirect speech when used as a statement, command, and question.

Direct Speech Indirect Speech
Statement “I like jazz music,” Nancy said. I heard that Nancy likes jazz music.
Command “You must get out of bed right now!” her mom said. Her mom told her to get out of bed right now.
Question “Where am I?” Cindy asked me. Cindy asked me where she was.

 

Quiz: State whether each sentence is either direct or indirect speech.

  1. Katie said she named her dog Ferdinand.
  2. I told her she needs to teach the dog to stop barking.
  3. “Ferdinand is cute, but she won’t stop barking!” I said to her.
  4. “Why can’t you get her to be quiet?” I asked.
  5. I heard Katie said she gave up teaching the dog to stop barking.

 

Answers: 1. Indirect; 2. Indirect; 3. Direct; 4. Direct; 5. Indirect

Erin Servais is a book editor and coach of author-entrepreneurs, helping writers through every stage of book creation and after. To learn how she can help you with your next project, check out Dot and Dash LLC or email her at Erin@dotanddashllc.com.

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