Reported speech

Reported questions

Reported Questions

When we report what people say, we usually change the tense of the verbs to reflect that we are reporting – not giving direct speech. This pattern is followed when we report questions and there are also other important changes between direct questions and reported questions.

Reported questions are one form of reported speech.

direct question reported question
She said: "Are you cold?" She asked me if I was cold.
He said: "Where's my pen?" He asked where his pen was.

We usually introduce reported questions with the verb "ask":

  • He asked (me) if/whether... (YES/NO questions)
  • He asked (me) why/when/where/what/how... (question-word questions)

As with reported statements, we may need to change pronouns and tense(backshift) as well as time and place in reported questions.

But we also need to change the word order. After we report a question, it is no longer a question (and in writing there is no question mark). The word order is like that of a normal statement (subject-verb-object).

Reported YES/NO questions

We introduce reported YES/NO questions with ask + if:

direct question She said, "Do you like coffee?"
reported question She asked if I liked coffee.

Note that in the above example the reported question has no auxiliary "do". But there is pronoun change and backshift.

Note that we sometimes use "whether" instead of "if". The meaning is the same. "Whether" is a little more formal and more usual in writing:

  • They asked us if we wanted lunch.
  • They asked us whether we wanted lunch.

Reported question-word questions

We introduce reported question-word questions with ask + question word:

direct question He said, "Where do you live?"
reported question He asked me where I lived.

Note that in the above example the reported question has no auxiliary "do". But there is pronoun change and backshift.

Remember that there are basically three types of question:

  1. YES/NO questions: Do you want tea?
  2. Question Word questions: Where did you drink tea?
  3. Choice questions: Do you prefer tea or coffee?

Reported choice questions have the same structure as Reported YES/NO questions. Questions with the verb BE always have a different structure: Was the tea cold? Where is my tea? You can see all these differences in the examples below.

Look at these example sentences:

direct question reported question
YES/NO questions I said: "Can I help you?" I asked if I could help her.
She said to us: "Did you feel cold?" She asked if we had felt cold.
He said: "Are your hands cold?" He asked whether my hands were cold.
question-word questions He said: "Where are you going?" He asked me where I was going.
He said: "Why didn't you say something?" He asked me why I hadn't said anything.
He said: "When will they come?" He asked when they would come.
He said: "Who has seen Avatar?" He asked me who had seen Avatar.
He said: "How much might it cost?" He asked me how much it might cost.
She said to me: "Where is the station?" She asked me where the station was.
choice questions He asked, "Do you want tea or coffee?" He asked whether I wanted tea or coffee.
He said, "Is the car new or second-hand?" He asked whether the car was new or second-hand.
Changing time and place in reported speech (Prev Lesson)
(Next Lesson) Reporting verbs
Back to Reported speech