Direct and Indirect Speech (Positive and negative questions)

1. In an indirect question, we place the subject of the reported clause before the verb as in a statement. We usually change the tense of the verb as well as the pronouns, possessive adjectives and time expressions in the reported clause.


a)  We said to Janet, “Are you leaving the company next month?”

b) We asked Janet if  she was leaving the company

   (Reporting clause) (Subject + verb) (reporting clause)

the following month. (right)

c)   We asked Janet if was she leaving the company

                                  (verb + subject)

the following month. (wrong)


2.  When a direct question has a yes or no answer, we use whether or if to begin the reported clause.


Mum said, “Are the twins in their room?”

Mum asked me if/whether the twins were in their room.


3.  When a direct question begins with the verb ‘to do’ or a (wh-word) with the verb ‘to do’, we leave out the verb ‘to do’ in the indirect question and change the tense of the main verb.



Direct question                            Indirect question

Does ….want (present tense)    wanted (past tense)

Did …..end (past tense)       had ended (past perfect tense)

Jeff said to us, “When did the match end?”

Jeff asked us when the match had ended. (right)

Jeff asked us when did the match had ended. (wrong)


4.  When a direct question begins with a wh-word & the negative form of the verb ‘to do’, we need to retain the verb ‘to do’ in the indirect question because it is the verb ‘to do’ which carries the tense.


Direct question                         Indirect question

Doesn’t understand               didn’t understand

(present tense)                            (past tense)

Didn’t understand                 hadn’t understood

(past tense)                                (past perfect tense)

Susie said, “Who doesn’t want milk in their tea?”

Susie asked who didn’t want milk in their tea.

Tony said, “Sara, Why didn’t you inform me earlier?”

Tony asked Sara why she hadn’t informed him earlier.


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