What did he/she say?

Direct to indirect speech activity with some people you might know. These days there is no reason for a language activity to boring.

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What did/he she say

Cartoon from "Understanding English verb forms"

Someone says something to you and later you want to tell someone else what was said. You can use the exact words the person used (direct speech), but more often you make some adjustments, putting it into indirect speech. Here are some examples from my book, "Understanding English verb forms":

“I have no intention of quitting my job.”
He said he had no intention of quitting his job.

“Have you ever been to Phuket?”
She asked if I had ever been to Phuket?

“Can we stay more than a month on a tourist visa?”
The group leader asked if they could stay more than a month on a tourist visa?

News writers probably use direct/indirect speech more than any other profession and you will find many, many examples everyday in the Bangkok Post. I thought it would be fun to pretend to be a news writer and practice changing direct speech into indirect speech using examples from some very famous people.

In the following activity, you will see and hear short (10-20 second) clips from videos I found on Youtube. To make things easier, each clip is repeated, so you have two chances to understand.

Queen Elizabeth II

Let's start with a rare interview of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. I'll give you some help with this one. Notice I made some small changes when I did the indirect speech.

Direct speech: "It is a job for life. Most people have a job and then they go home. And in this existence, the job and the life go on together because you can't really divide it up."

Indirect speech: The Queen said it was a job for life. She said most people had a job and then they went home. She said in her existence the job and the life went on together because you couldn't really divide it up.

The Duchess of Cambridge

Staying with British royalty, here is the Duchess of Cambridge (the former Kate Middleton) talking about her reaction to Prince William's proposal of marriage. Listen and try to explain what she said using indirect speech. I'll give you my version at the bottom of this page.

Tiger Woods

Let's move to the world of sports where there is no one more famous than Tiger Woods. He was even famous when he was only 14 years old when this interview was done. Here he answers the question of what he thought set him apart (made him different, i.e., more successful) than his opponents. Listen and try to explain what he said using indirect speech. I'll give you my version at the bottom of this page.

Here are some words you will need to know

competitiveness – trying very hard to be better than others ความตั้งใจในการแข่งขัน; ความสามารถในการแข่งขัน
in the clutch – in a high pressure situation, where doing well means the difference between winning and losing
another zone – feeling like you are in a different place, especially a place where you have complete control of yourself and your emotions

Taylor Swift

From the world of sports to the world of music. This is a star who is on top of that world: Taylor Swift. Here she answers the question about whether this was a nervewracking time for her.

Here are some words you will need to know:

nerve-racking – making you feel very nervous and worried ซึ่งลำบากหรือหวาดกลัวอย่างที่สุด, น่าเขย่าขวัญ
pressure – a worried feeling that you get when you have to deal with a difficult or complicated situation ความกดดัน
constant – continuous; all the time ต่อเนื่อง
balancing act – an attempt to cope/deal with several often conflicting factors or situations at the same time การทรงตัว

Mark Zuckerberg

Here's a man who has affected the lives of more than a billion people: Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook.

Here are some words you will need to know:

mission – an important piece of work that a person or a group of people has been given to do ภาระกิจ หน้าที่
connect – to join together two or more things เชื่อมต่อ
proud – feeling pleased and satisfied about something that you own or have done, or are connected with ภูมิใจ

Nelson Mandela

Finally, let's go all the way back to 1961 before Nelson Mandela was arrested and sent to a South African jail for 27 years. Were his views about blacks and whites living together different then?

Know these words:

policy – a set of plans or action agreed on by a government, political party, business, or other group นโยบาย
race – one of the main groups that humans can be divided into according to their physical differences, for example the colour of their skin กลุ่มชาติพันธุ์, เผ่าพันธุ์
various – several different หลากหลาย, ซึ่งแตกต่างกัน

Indirect speech examples:

The Duchess of Cambridge: She said she really didn't expect it (the proposal) at all. She said she thought he might have thought about it. She said it was a total shock when it came. (She was) very excited, she said.

Tiger Woods: He said it was his competitiveness. That, he said, brought him through in the clutch. When you had to make a putt, you made a putt. When you had to hit the shot, you hit the shot. He said you sort of dropped into another zone and you blocked out everything. That had really helped him, he said.

Taylor Swift: She said almost everytime was a nerve-racking time for her because she would find pressure in every situation and think about it. She said her life had become sort of a constant balancing act between hope and fear, faith and worrying.

Mark Zuckerberg: He said that obviously a big part of their mission was just connecting all these different people in the world. He said one of the things that they were really proud of was that now 800 million people around the world were using Facebook every month.

Nelson Mandela: He said they had made it very clear in their policy that South Africa was a country of many races. He said there was room for all the various races in this country.

To further understand the direct and indirect speech, read the chapter in Understanding English verb forms: indirect speech

You can find a full description of Understanding English verb forms here:


You can buy the book online here:



Related search: Direct to indirect speech, video examples

About the author

Writer: Terry Fredrickson
Position: Education Marketing and Support Manager