Direct speech: He said,"I shall unlock the secrets of their success".

Indirect speech(book answer): He said that he should unlock the secrets of their success.

Indirect speech(my answer): He said that he would unlock the secrets of their success.

I think my answer is correct I have two reason for that-

  1. Shall is used with first person pronouns (I,we) and will with second and third person pronouns.
    (In my answer there is "he" as a subject so there should be "would".

  2. If it suggest any obligation than we use "will" with first person and "shall" with second and third person pronoun.

So in original question there is no such obligation on speaker so there should be would instead of should.

So correct me if i am wrong?


Direct speech: I wrote,"I shall visit him tomorrow".

Indirect speech(book answer): I wrote that I would visit him next day.

I have same confusion in this sentence.

  • As far as I know, when reporting a past event, both should and would are possible for shall. Commented Jan 3, 2015 at 11:51
  • In that case book should have to give two answer. But there is only one answer for both of my questions
    – starun008
    Commented Jan 3, 2015 at 12:12
  • Does your book emphasize that this is the traditional rule? If so, the answer may lie within the "connotation" of shall.
    – M.A.R.
    Commented Jan 4, 2015 at 18:16
  • No there is no mention of this. Book just give an example to illustrate change of speech of Future tense.
    – starun008
    Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 9:23
  • Er, what book is that?
    – F.E.
    Commented Jan 20, 2015 at 19:47

2 Answers 2


I agree with your book. Your versions with would are perfectly correct sentences, but they're not correct answers, because the past tense of shall is should. Consider these sentences:

(A) I said, "I'm sleepy."
(B) I said, "I feel sleepy."

The corresponding versions with indirect speech instead of direct speech would be:

(C) I said that I was sleepy.
(D) I said that I felt sleepy.

All four of these sentences are basically equivalent, but it's clear that (C) corresponds to (A) and (D) to (B). Just because we're changing from direct speech to indirect speech, that doesn't mean we should change from be to feel or vice versa.

In your first case (though not your second), there is an additional change besides tense; as you note, the version with direct speech uses the first person ("I shall"), whereas the version with indirect speech uses the third person ("he should"). Given that the choice of shall vs. will is often affected by the person of the subject, I can understand why you would think it would make a difference; but when we are attributing statements to other people, even in indirect speech, we generally preserve those aspects of their word choice. Although I would not say "He shall unlock […]", he said "I shall unlock […]", and so in indirect speech, I preserve the shall (but using its past tense form, should).

This property of indirect speech — whereby we take the perspective of the speaker, and use words that represent his/her speech faithfully — is not absolute, but it is nonetheless fairly strong; so strong, in fact, that we even have something called "free indirect speech", where there is no explicit marker of indirect speech (such as "he said"), but rather, it is merely made obvious by the perspective-taking language. The "Free indirect speech" article on Wikipedia gives a few examples of how this works.


He said, "I shall unlock the secrets of success".

I wrote, "I shall visit him tomorrow".

The OP's answers as follows in reported speech are correct:

He said that he would unlock the secrets of success. The use of "should" as per book doesn't sound natural.

I wrote that I would/should visit him next day. For the first person, we can change "shall" into would/should in the past reported speech.

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