Ok, I am not native speaker & all my knowledge normally came from textbook.

When teacher teaches Indirect speech at school, they often use the verb "say".

For example:

Direct speech: It is raining hard today.

Indirect speech: She said that it was raining hard yesterday.

We have to change the "present simple" to "past simple" & "today" to "yesterday".

Ok, no problem.

But my question is that

does indirect speech apply to other verbs such as "think", "hope",.. instead of "say"?

For example, can we say:

Indirect speech: She thought that it was raining hard yesterday

or "She laughed at me that it was raining hard yesterday".

  • Yes, essentially. It's not the speech of another that is being depicted, but but another's point of view. Verbs like "think" are sometimes called as "world creating", for this reason. The way in which things are described may reflect others' worlds, for which you may not wish to take responsibility.
    – Greg Lee
    Commented May 29, 2016 at 5:50

1 Answer 1


The key to direct vs indirect speech is that it's speech, which in the direct form is enclosed by quotation marks and needs to be converted to an unquoted (indirect) statement. Thus, she said "I am hungry" (direct) becomes she said that she was hungry (indirect).

It doesn't matter how the speech occurs, e.g. said, asked, screamed, whispered, demanded, stammered, quibbled, thought, typed, signalled, indicated, "said with her eyes", communicated telepathically, etc. In each case, to change from direct to indirect:

  • you still use the word describing the kind of speech (e.g. "She said…");
  • you remove the quotation marks;
  • you change the syntactic structure, typically by creating a content clause (e.g. "… that X", or for questions, "… whether X");
  • you may have to change the person (e.g. from I to she); and
  • you often have to change the tense (e.g. from am to was).

The result is something like:

She said, "I'm hungry." => She said she was hungry.

He thought, "This plan is stupid." => He thought that the plan was stupid.

I asked, "Were you hungry?" => I asked whether you had been hungry.

She typed, "I'll be finished soon." => She typed that she would be finished soon.

It gets more complicated converting some kinds of direct speech to indirect speech - for example:

He whimpered, "Don't ask me that."
I said, "Yes, please."

I'll leave these to someone else to explain!

  • 1
    The key to indirect speech is that it's a report of someone's past words, which may be uttered, written, or merely thought. You may also have to change the location: He said, "I am here." -> He said that he was there." Probably, He whimpered that I wasn't to ask him that.
    – deadrat
    Commented May 29, 2016 at 6:30
  • @deadrat: Yes, I hadn't thought of location. Changing relative pronouns can be tricky too - He said, "This tastes good" => *He said that it tasted good" loses something, using "this" is problematic for a past tense, and I don't like "that that". I like your "whimpered" solution, but there's no easy formula for it, and "wasn't to", "shouldn't", "ought not" and "mustn't" all lend a slightly different slant. I saw another post about the difficulty with negative imperatives. The message I took home: don't go there! ;-) Commented May 29, 2016 at 7:03
  • 'He thought that the plan was stupid' defaults to 'He considered the plan to be stupid', which is hardly an example of indirect speech. I think you can't 'indirectise' the rather unusual << He thought, "This plan is stupid." >> The modern trend seems to be even to render the 'direct' version << This plan is stupid, he thought. >> Commented Mar 23, 2018 at 9:26

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