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So, I'm walking down the street with a friend, who learns that my brother-in-law is a barber, and I go there to get my hair cut. My friend says,

So, do you pay for those haircuts, or does he do it for free?

I think I understand how this works, but I want confirmation. If I describe this conversation using direct speech, I would write:

He asked me, "Do you pay for those haircuts?"

but indirectly, I would write:

She asked me if I paid for my haircuts.

(Assuming I did this correctly, I noticed two things changed: the word do changed to if, and the tense of the verb pay changed from present to past).

Here is my question: Would it be right or wrong if I tried to rewrite it something like this?

She asked me did you pay for them.

That sounds wrong to me, especially without any quotation marks, but I want to make sure I'm understanding how the English changes between direct and indirect speech, particularly when the reported speech was originally a question.

4

Well, that's a long story! The normal pattern of tense changes in reported speech is:

DIRECT SPEECH ----------------- REPORTED SPEECH

  1. Present simple ...................... past simple
  2. Present continuous ............... past continuous
  3. Past simple ........................... past perfect
  4. Present perfect simple .......... past perfect simple
  5. Present perfect continuous ... past perfect continuous
  6. Past perfect ........................... past perfect continuous
  7. will/shall/must ....................... would/should/(must/had to)
  8. May/might.............................. might
  9. Can ........................................ could

Also, there are often changes in words which refer to the people, time, or place. They are dictated more by logic than by any rules:

Example: "I'm bringing my brother here tomorrow," she said. She said that she was bringing her brother there the next day.

REPORTED QUESTIONS

  • When we report questions, we use affirmative word order and verb forms after the question word. Example:

"Where do you live?" she asked him. She asked him where he lived.

  • To report a yes/no question (one that has no question word) "if or whether" is used. Example:

"Is it raining?" he asked. He asked if/whether it was raining.

  • We can sometimes use an infinitive in a reported question, especially when it is a question about our own action. Example:

"Which shirt shall I wear?" he asked his girlfriend. He asked his girlfriend which shirt to wear.

So, because the example you gave is a yes/no question, it wouldn't be grammatical to change it as: She asked me did you pay for them.

You need to use if/whether while making other changes.

  • Thanks for your quick response and help. I got another question. If I have not changed my place yet, still I have to say "there" instead of "here"? I have asked about this ("I'm bringing my brother here tomorrow," she said. She said that she was bringing her brother there the next day.). – user62015 Jun 1 '14 at 12:48
  • That's why I mentioned some changes are governed by "logic not rule". If you are in the same place saying what happened the previous day, I think it wouldn't be necessary to change "here to there". In that case, even sometimes you don't need to change the tense. I mean, If you're with someone else in that place waiting for her to arrive you can say: She said that she's going to bring her brother here today. Anyway, I think other native users can offer you better help. – M.N Jun 1 '14 at 15:04

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