Direct Speech vs. Indirect Speech

What's the Difference?

Direct speech is when someone's exact words are quoted and reported within quotation marks. It is used to convey the speaker's words verbatim, including any grammatical errors or informal language. On the other hand, indirect speech is when someone's words are reported indirectly, without using quotation marks. It involves paraphrasing the speaker's words and often requires changes in pronouns, verb tenses, and word order. Indirect speech is commonly used in writing and reporting to summarize or convey the meaning of someone's speech or thoughts. While direct speech provides a more accurate representation of the speaker's words, indirect speech allows for more flexibility in reporting and summarizing information.


AttributeDirect SpeechIndirect Speech
DefinitionExact words spoken by a person, enclosed in quotation marks.Reported or paraphrased words spoken by a person, without quotation marks.
PunctuationUses quotation marks to enclose the spoken words.Does not use quotation marks.
TenseUsually uses present tense.Usually changes the tense to past tense.
PronounsUses first and second person pronouns directly.Changes first and second person pronouns to third person pronouns.
Reporting VerbDoes not require a reporting verb.Requires a reporting verb to introduce the reported speech.
Word OrderPreserves the original word order.May change the word order to fit the reporting structure.
Quotation MarksUses double quotation marks ("") to enclose the spoken words.Does not use quotation marks.
DirectnessDirectly quotes the speaker's words.Indirectly reports the speaker's words.

Further Detail


Speech is a fundamental aspect of human communication, allowing us to convey our thoughts, emotions, and ideas. When it comes to reporting or narrating someone's words, two common methods are employed: direct speech and indirect speech. Both direct and indirect speech serve distinct purposes and have their own set of attributes. In this article, we will explore the characteristics of direct speech and indirect speech, highlighting their differences and examining the contexts in which they are most commonly used.

Direct Speech

Direct speech, also known as quoted speech or direct discourse, involves the exact reproduction of someone's words. It is presented within quotation marks and often accompanied by a reporting verb that introduces the speech. For example:

"I love chocolate," said Sarah.

In this example, the words "I love chocolate" are directly attributed to Sarah.

Direct speech offers several advantages. Firstly, it allows for a more immediate and authentic representation of the speaker's words, capturing their tone, emotions, and style of expression. It provides a sense of directness and can enhance the reader's engagement with the text. Additionally, direct speech can be useful in dialogue-heavy narratives, as it helps to distinguish between different characters and their unique voices.

Attributes of Direct Speech

1. Quotation Marks: Direct speech is enclosed within quotation marks, which serve as a visual indicator that the words are being directly attributed to the speaker.

2. Reporting Verb: Direct speech is often accompanied by a reporting verb, such as "said," "asked," "shouted," or "whispered." This verb helps to identify the speaker and provides context for the dialogue.

3. Pronoun Changes: When reporting direct speech, pronouns may need to be adjusted to match the perspective of the reporting speaker. For example, "He said, 'I am happy'" would become "He said that he was happy."

4. Tense Changes: Similarly, verb tenses may need to be altered when converting direct speech into indirect speech. For instance, "I will go" becomes "She said she would go."

5. Punctuation: Punctuation within the direct speech, such as question marks or exclamation points, is retained in direct speech. For example, "Are you coming?" becomes "She asked, 'Are you coming?'"

Indirect Speech

Indirect speech, also known as reported speech or indirect discourse, involves the paraphrasing or summarizing of someone's words without using their exact phrasing. It is typically introduced by a reporting verb and does not require quotation marks. For example:

Sarah said that she loved chocolate.

In this example, the words "I love chocolate" are indirectly attributed to Sarah.

Indirect speech serves several purposes. It allows the speaker or writer to convey information in a more concise and summarized manner, eliminating unnecessary details. It also provides an opportunity to add interpretation or clarification to the reported speech, allowing the reporter to convey their own perspective or understanding of the original words.

Attributes of Indirect Speech

1. Reporting Verb: Similar to direct speech, indirect speech is introduced by a reporting verb. However, in indirect speech, the reporting verb is often followed by the conjunction "that" to indicate the shift from direct to indirect speech.

2. No Quotation Marks: Unlike direct speech, indirect speech does not require the use of quotation marks. This absence of quotation marks distinguishes it from direct speech and indicates that the words are being reported rather than directly quoted.

3. Pronoun and Tense Changes: In indirect speech, pronouns and verb tenses may need to be adjusted to reflect the perspective of the reporting speaker and the time of reporting. For example, "I am happy" becomes "She said she was happy."

4. Reporting Words: Indirect speech often involves the use of reporting words or phrases, such as "said," "told," "asked," or "inquired." These words help to attribute the reported speech to the original speaker and provide context for the reported words.

5. Conjunctions: Conjunctions like "that," "if," or "whether" are commonly used in indirect speech to introduce reported clauses. For example, "She asked if I was coming."

Contextual Usage

The choice between direct speech and indirect speech depends on the context and the writer's intention. Direct speech is often employed in fictional narratives, dialogues, or interviews, where the goal is to capture the authenticity and immediacy of the speaker's words. It brings characters to life and allows readers to experience their emotions and personalities firsthand.

On the other hand, indirect speech is commonly used in news reporting, academic writing, or when summarizing conversations. It enables the writer to present information objectively and concisely, without the need for verbatim reproduction. Indirect speech also allows for the inclusion of additional context or analysis, providing a more comprehensive understanding of the reported speech.


Direct speech and indirect speech are two distinct methods of reporting someone's words, each with its own attributes and purposes. Direct speech offers immediacy, authenticity, and a direct representation of the speaker's words, making it ideal for dialogue-heavy narratives. Indirect speech, on the other hand, provides a summarized and interpreted version of the reported speech, allowing for concise reporting and the inclusion of additional context or analysis. The choice between direct and indirect speech depends on the writer's intention, the context, and the desired effect on the reader. By understanding the attributes and contextual usage of both direct and indirect speech, writers can effectively convey the words and thoughts of others in their narratives, reports, or academic papers.

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