Reporting Verbs in Direct and Indirect Speech


In narration change verbs are very important. In narration, verb that is used to convey the speech of the speaker is called reporting verb. In reported clause also verbs are of great importance. We use auxiliary verb or main or principal verb to form the speech and by changing the tense of the verb in reported clause we convert speech from direct to indirect or vice versa. 

Today we are going to take a detailed look at reporting verbs.

 Most of the time, we use say, tell and ask as reporting verb. Usually these reporting verbs are used in past forms. 

Present tensePast tense
Ask Asked 

‘Say’, ‘tell’, ‘ask’ can be used depending on the context of the sentence. 

‘Say’ and ‘tell’ are the most common used verbs. Although the meaning of ‘say’ and ‘tell’ is almost similar, there is a bit difference between the two reporting verbs. 

We use ‘say’ in narration to just generally introduce the words of the speaker. The ‘say’ verb dose not reveal to whom the words are spoken to. If we want to indicate, we have to put a ‘to’ after ‘say’.


Rita says, “The world is full of wonder.”
Rita says to me, “the world is full of wonder.”

We use ‘tell’ to indicate who is spoken to. In this context ‘to’ need not to be used. Tell is also used to instruct or inform. 


Mama told me, “Be a good boy.”
The teacher tells us, “Knowledge is power.”

‘Ask’ is used in case of interrogative sentence. We use ask to question or to inquire. We can also use to after ‘ask’. 


Rabi asked Rupa, “Are you all right?” 
The man asks, “Does god exist?’’

We can also use advice, request, and order, instruct, reply, suggest, complain, etc. as reporting verbs.