Handling Adverbs in Indirect Speech


Published February 5, 2019


Akeem Lasisi

Often , many of us concentrate on changes in tenses when we change a sentence from the direct to indirect speech . Yes , it is good to watch the behaviour of the verbs involved as well as pay attention to changes in punctuation marks . But this is not enough if we want to get perfect indirect or reported speech . Another key aspect of the rite has to do with adverbs in the statement , which must also experience transformation .

In other words , adverbs , especially adverbs of time and place, also change forms, just as verbs do. Not observing this aspect of the rule makes each of the following clauses faulty, for instance :

Direct speech : The man said , “ I want to know how the vice president ’s chopper crash -landed .”

Indirect speech : The man said he wanted to know how the vice president ’s chopper crash -landed yesterday .

Direct speech : “The campaign will resume tomorrow ,” she said .

She said the campaign would resume tomorrow .

Direct speech : Davido said , “ I don’t want any controversy now . ”

Indirect speech : Davido said he didn ’ t want any controversy now .

You would think that I did well by ensuring that I changed the tenses of the verbs in the statements in the direct speech , while also ensuring I throw away the quotation marks . But is my effort enough to guarantee me flawless statements in reported expressions ? No . I failed to do the needful on the adverbs in the sentences, so the reported statements harbour grammatical errors . In the indirect speech form , yesterday, tomorrow and now should become the previous night , the day after and then respectively :

The man said he wanted to know how the vice president’ s chopper crash – landed the previous day .

The woman said the campaign would resume the day after.

Davido said he didn’ t want any controversy then.

Hope you remember that adverbs are words that modify verbs . They tell us more about verbs in terms of when , where , why and in what circumstance an action is taking place . That is why we, for instance , have adverbs of place (here, there ) and time ( now , yesterday ). The two types of adverbs are particularly affected by the rule we are examining :

Direct speech : “ They want to go now, ” the teacher said .

The teacher said they wanted to go now . ( Wrong )

The teacher said they wanted to go then . ( Correct)

James claimed , “ The money is not here .”

James claimed the money was not here . ( Wrong )

John claimed the money was not there . ( Correct)

Some of the adverbs affected, however , have more than one option. Among them are ‘yesterday ’ , which can become the previous day or the day before ; and ‘last night ’, which changes to the previous night or the night before. In the same vein , the next day, next week and next year become the following day , the following week and the following year respectively .

While ‘ago’ also becomes ‘before ’ and ‘today ’ becomes ‘ that day ’, note that there are other words that are neither verbs nor adverbs which must also change when the clause is being transformed . They include ‘this ’ and ‘that ’ , as exemplified below:

“ I don’ t want this ,” he insisted .

He insisted that he didn ’t want this . (Wrong )

He insisted that he didn ’t want that . (Correct)

“ These politicians are very funny , ” the critic said .

The critic said these politicians were very funny . (Wrong )

The critic said those politicians were very funny . (Correct)

When ‘ now ’, ‘here ’ have to remain the same

If the person reporting the speech and the listener happen to be where the person who gave the direct speech made it, ‘here ’ will retain its form . It will not become ‘ there ’. Also , if the report is made immediately , or ‘now ’ refers to an object present at the time of reporting , it need not become ‘then’ :

The doctor said , “ You can’ t eat now . ”

The doctor said I couldn’ t eat now . Correct)

Another word covered by the exemption is ‘this ’. If the object is present where the speech is being reported , the word does not transform to ‘ that’ :

“ Give her this, ” the matron remarked.

The matron remarked that I should give her this . ( The object is right there .)

Of course , if the object is more than one , and ‘these ’ is used, it too does not turn to ‘those ’.

“ These are his shoes , ” the cobbler said .

The cobbler said these are his shoes .

Reported speech in present tense not affected

Remember that the reporter can decide to use the present tense to report the speech . When he does this, the verbs remain in the present tense or present continuous form . Automatically too , all adverbs remain the same :

The President says , “I won ’ t punish the minister now . ”

The President says he won ’ t punish the minister then . (Wrong )

The President says he won ’ t punish the minister now . (Correct)


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