We use reported speech to repeat what someone else has said.  Because you are telling us what someone said in the past everything will be in a past form.


The first clause in the simple form of reported speech uses the word said.  In other forms of reported speech, we do use other words, but in the simple form we only use the word said.


The second clause tells what was said and is always in a past tense. The present simple becomes the past simple, the present perfect becomes the past perfect, the present continuous becomes the past continuous, and so on.  The one difference that is important to remember is that the past simple becomes the past perfect.  Future tenses also take past forms


Present Past
Present Cont.Past Cont.
Present Perfect Past Perfect
Past Past Perfect


  1. He said that he ate a sandwich for lunch.
  2. Diane said that her husband had been having trouble at work
  3. Tom said that because they had arrived late everyone else had already eaten.


We do not change the past continuous to the past perfect when we talk about past intentions.

» I was going to go to the cinema.»

She said that she was going to go to the cinema.


We change some modal verbs to the past by using other modal verbs.


Will Would
Can Could
MustHad to
May Might


  1. Brigid said that she would come back today.
  2. Jones said he could do it if he had a little practice.
  3. Jim’s mother said he had to be home by nine-thirty.
  4. Tyron said he might come with us tomorrow.


Be careful with the use of words like here and there as these also change depending on the speaker’s perspective.

“I’ll wait for you here.”

“He said he would wait for us there.”

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