There is something makes me confused when I use reported speech. Please help me to understand this.

For example, in a three people conversation.

A said: I like ice-cream. When I reported this sentence to B Should I say: "He said he liked ice-cream"?

Does past tense in reported speech really mean action in the past? Does "liked" mean he doesn't like ice-cream anymore at the moment I say to B?

Sorry if my question sounds a little stupid...

  • No it doesn't. "He said he likes ice scream" is still ok. Nov 30, 2018 at 4:55
  • I saw a lot of sentences like: She said (that) she was living in London ( the fact is she is still living in London ) ; She said (that) the sky was blue. Direct speech: Where do you live? Reported speech: She asked me where I lived. I just don't understand the meaning of past tense here. Nov 30, 2018 at 6:31

2 Answers 2


When the facts have not changed between the time of the original speech and the time it is reported, then the choice of tense does not really matter. When the original statement is only in the recent past, then people are likely to use the present tense in the reported speech. For example:

Bob takes a big bite of food and mumbles something unclear.

Anne: "What did he say?"

Jose: "He said he loves potatoes."

When the reported speech occurs very soon after the original statement, even the verb "to say" may be in present tense, so Jose's response above may be:

Jose: "He says he loves potatoes."

However, the past tense might be more appropriate than the present tense when the original statement is no longer valid or applicable at the time it is reported. For example:

Anne: "Bob's car won't start."

Jose: "That's strange. Yesterday he said that it was working well."

If Jose had used the present tense in the reported speech, it might sound like he was accusing Bob of lying. The past tense instead implies that Bob's situation may have changed.

The past tense can also be used to emphasize uncertainty as to whether the reported speech is still valid or applicable.

Anne: "What dessert would Bob like?"

Jose: "He said he liked ice cream, but it has been five years since we had that conversation."

Here Jose might use the past tense in the reported speech simply to emphasize that things may have changed since the time of the original statement.

  • Thank you for your answer. It seems I understand it fully now Jan 9, 2019 at 2:49

You can do this in two ways:

  1. Direct speech - what the first person said is put in quotation marks.

For example: Mr. A said, "I like ice-cream."

  1. Reported speech - In this, "I" would becomes "he or "she", and we use the word "that".

For example: Mr. A said that he likes ice-cream.

  • This answer does not seem to address the issue of tense.
    – Tashus
    Dec 1, 2018 at 7:57

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