Seven cardinal principles (or changes) governing the conversion of direct speech to the indirect speech are:
- Verb changes.
- Pronoun changes.
- Adverb changes.
- Adjective changes.
- Structural changes.
- Punctuation/mechanical changes.
- Vocative changes.
a) If the reporting verb in the main (introductory) clause is in the past tense, the other verb(s) in the reported (indirect) speech/dependent clause must also be in the past tense, with corresponding changes in adjectives, adverbs, and pronouns.
b) But if the verb in the direct speech states some general, universal, or habitual truth, it must retain its simple present tense when turned into the indirect speech, irrespective of the tense (past or present) of the reporting verb in the introductory clause.
- Direct: Socrates said, “Man is mortal.”
- Indirect: Socrates said that man is mortal.
c) If the reporting verb is the present, future, or present perfect tense, the verb in the reported statement will not change its tense.
- Direct: She says, “I am an honest girl. “
- Indirect: She says that she is an honest girl.
- Direct: She will tell you, “I am an honest.”
- Indirect: She will tell you that she is an honest girl.
- Direct: She has told me, “I am an honest.’
- Indirect: She has told me that she is an honest girl.
d) A command/order in the direct speech becomes an infinitive in the indirect speech.
- Direct: “Get out. “
- Indirect: He told me to get out.
e) “Must” expressing a present sense in the direct speech changes into had to in the indirect speech; mast expressing future sense (i.e. shall have to) in the direct speech changes into would have to in the indirect speech; “must expressing an imperative or a regulation in the indirect, remains must in the indirect speech.
- Direct: “I must go now.
- Indirect: He said that he had to go then.
- Direct: “She must visit me tomorrow.
- Indirect: He said that she would have to visit him the next day. (Or: He said that she must visit him the next day.)
- Direct: “You must sweep here.”
- Indirect: He said that I must sweep there.
we can represent the basic verb changes on a table thus: