Many students fear reported speech questions like I fear the dentist!

It’s actually one of the EASIEST synthesis questions to get right, IF you follow this formula, and practice this procedure. Once you have mastered this sequence, you’ll NEVER get any Reported Speech questions wrong again!

Step 1:

Highlight/Underline ALL the auxiliary and main verbs in the direct speech. Make SURE these verbs are CHANGED in the answer.

Repeat this sequence EVERY TIME you do a Reported Speech question:



PAST PERFECT must have HAD + PAST PARTICIPLE (VERY IMPORTANT! Most students do NOT know what’s Past Perfect or Past Participle – see grammar notes at http://thechalkboardacademy.sg/2017/06/06/148/)


Did you take this bus to school yesterday?” Mary asked her brother.

Since DID is past tense, you need to change it to PAST PERFECT. That means you need HAD + PAST PARTICIPLE = HAD TAKEN. Write the changes in pencil above the question.

Step 2:

Highlight / Underline ALL pronouns in the direct speech.

Did you take this bus to school yesterday?” Mary asked her brother.

Change the PRONOUN appropriately.

Step 3:

Highlight / Underline all TIME references. Change it to the appropriate reference.

  • Today = that day
  • Tomorrow = the next day
  • Yesterday = the previous day

and so on!

Did you take this bus to school yesterday?” Mary asked her brother.

Don’t forget to write the changes above the words!

Step 4:

Highlight / Underline all PLACE references. These are words like:

  • This = that
  • here = there
  • these = those
  • come = go

Did you take this bus to school yesterday?” Mary asked her brother.

Don’t forget to write the changes above the words!

Now put the answer together!

Mary asked her brother if he had taken that bus to school the previous day.



  • If it’s a question, and the answer could be a YES or a NO, your answer MUST have ‘IF’ (try not to use the word ‘whether’ because MANY students tend to misspell it! Wheather, weather, wether…UGH!!!!)
  • NEVER REPEAT a question AS a question in Reported Speech! e.g. He asked me, “Where is the toilet?” Your answer CANNOT be: He asked me where WAS the toilet. (that’s in a question format), it has to be – He asked me where the toilet WAS.
  • If you get a question with DO NOT, it automatically becomes NOT TO. E.g. “Don’t step on the grass!” he told me. Ans: He told me NOT TO step on the grass.
  • ALWAYS USE THE 4 STEPS! Check ESPECIALLY for PAST TENSE, because THAT’S the most popular test. Why? Because MANY students forget, or do not know about the Past Perfect tense!
  • FACTS. like scientific ones, do NOT need their tenses changed, e.g. He said, “The sun rises in the east.” Ans: He said the sun rises in the east. Because it still does!
  • Do NOT use the day before / the night before anymore, use the previous day/night
  • Watch out for DOUBLE HAD – yes it exists! Usually if you see DID+HAVE or HAD (as a main verb) in a question, chances are the answer will be HAD HAD.


e.g. Jaydem told Maria, “I had chicken rice for dinner last night.”

ans: Jaydem told Maria that he had had chicken rice for dinner the previous night.

why? Because had (main verb) is in the past tense, and if you follow the sequence, PAST —> PAST PERFECT —> HAD+PAST PARTICIPLE therefore HAD (auxiliary verb) HAD (main verb in past participle)

e.g. “Did you have a good time at the concert yesterday?” I asked John

Ans: I asked John if he had had a good time at the concert the day before.

Why? Again, if you follow the checking sequence, DID = PAST TENSE —> PAST PERFECT —> HAD + PAST PARTICIPLE = HAD (auxilary verb) HAD (past participle of HAVE)

Now all you need to do, is follow the above steps, recite the sequence EVERYTIME you do a reported speech question, and you’ll NEVER make a mistake again! Applies also to INDIRECT TO DIRECT (just do it in reverse!)





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