Is there such thing as a double reported speech?

I told her that you told me that you won't come to class tomorrow.

Here, I want to report to a friend that I reported her words to someone else, but I'm not sure if this "double reporting" is possible and how I would phrase the sentence above.

  • There's no "grammatical" restriction on how deeply you can nest such constructions. For example, I could tell my father that you told her that someone told you that they won't come to class tomorrow. And although it might tax my father's language processing skills a bit, he could presumably report all that back to me... You get the drift. Aug 2, 2013 at 3:08

2 Answers 2


That is a valid sentence and represents this sequence of actions:

  1. You told me you won't come to class.
  2. I told her what you said.
  3. I am telling you now about event #2.

This is an example of reported speech. And you're right, it's reporting reported speech! The important thing here is to focus on the tense shifts. In your sentence, I would actually prefer:

"I told her that you told me that you wouldn't come to class tomorrow."

When we report the verb "will" (either positive or negative), we shift to "would." This is important, because since you're working with a complicated construction, clarity is really important.

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