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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Hair shirt

A hair shirt is as it sounds: a shirt made out of hair. Though they are rarely used today, historically people in some Christian religious orders wore them as a means of penance. The shirts were originally woven with goat hair and were worn next to the skin to keep the wearer in constant discomfort and awareness of the shirt’s presence. (The shirts evolved to contain bits of metal woven with hair. Delightful.)

Today, this item of self-torture survives in the language as a noun that means “one that irritates like a hair shirt” and as an adjective that means “austere and self-sacrificing.”

Here are some examples of hair shirt as a noun:

Uncle Harvey is such a hair shirt. I would rather drink soup from a toilet than listen to another of his “olden days” stories.

Merv thought yoga was a hair shirt until he tried it and enjoyed how limber he felt afterward.

Here are some examples of hair shirt as an adjective:

Carla felt so guilty about murdering her gardener that she chose to live a hair-shirt existence. She gave her belongings to charity and moved to the desert, where she survived by eating spiders and rats.

Getting healthy doesn’t mean living a hair-shirt lifestyle. Merv found vegetables to be delicious, and he got lots of dates from yoga class.

Gray vs. grey

Gray and grey are both correct spellings for that almost-black color, but choosing which to use depends on where you live.

If you are in the United States, gray is more common. If you are in another English-speaking country, grey is preferred.

You can remember this by noting the A and the E in the words:

In America, use grAy.
In England, use grEy.

(But, of course, don’t forget Scotland, Ireland, Australia, and Canada. They use grey too.)

Fairy tale vs. fairy-tale

 

fairy tale (noun): a story (as for children) involving fantastic forces and beings (as fairies, wizards, and goblins)

fairy-tale (adjective): characteristic of or suitable to a fairy tale, marked by seemingly unreal beauty, perfection, luck, or happiness

—Merriam-Webster

It’s finally feeling like summer. The wind is carrying lovely, flowery scents (unless you live in a city—then it’s most likely pee smell). Either way, this is the season to daydream and think of fairy tales. Now let’s make sure you are using the term correctly.

When used as a noun, fairy tale is two words without a hyphen.

Example: Mom told me a fairy tale about a princess who turned into a fairy.

However, when it is used as an adjective to describe a noun, it has a hyphen and looks like this: fairy-tale.

Example: Her fairy-tale wedding must have cost a fortune.

(Here, fairy-tale describes the noun wedding.)

Quiz
Check your understanding with this quiz. Fill in either fairy tale or fairy-tale in the blanks. The answers are below.

1) Every day as he sat in his cubicle, Ralph dreamed of a new life, a _______ life.

2) The _______ involved goblins and mean elves, so Susie thought it was scary.

3) Al had a new car, a new wife, a mansion, and a raise. Could this mean his _______ was coming true?

4. The cake had chocolate chips, frosting, strawberries, and fudge. It was basically a _______ dessert.

 

 

Answers:
1) fairy-tale (adjective describing life); 2) fairy tale (noun); 3) fairy tale (noun); 4) fairy-tale (adjective describing dessert)

 

Are since and because interchangeable?

since: from a past time until now; after a time in the past; before the present time
because: for the reason that
—Merriam-Webster

Though in the definition listed above since appears to relate only to time, in reality, people use it the same as because to imply cause.

Notice the similarities in these two sentences:

Since he ate cookies, Charlie is a happy boy.
Because he ate cookies, Charlie is a happy boy.

In the sentences, both since and because are helping us show the cause of Charlie’s happiness: eating cookies.

However, using since and because interchangeably can cause problems when it is unclear whether since is referring to time or to cause.

Notice this sentence:

Since he slayed the dragon, Charlie got measles.

In this sentence, it is unclear whether Charlie got measles as a direct result of (caused by) killing the dragon or if he simply contracted measles in the period of time after killing the dragon (not caused by the killing).

If we used because in the sentence above, we would know the dragon slaying directly caused his measles. As it is written with since, the causation is unclear.

To avoid confusion, it is best to limit since to time elements and not use it interchangeably with because. Because is the best choice to indicate directly the reason something happened.