Tense changes with reported speech

Normally, the tense in reported speech is one tense back in time from the tense in direct speech:

She said, “I am tired.” ——>  She said that she was tired.

The changes are shown below:

Simple present Simple past

“I always drink coffee”, she said


She said that she always drankcoffee.

Present continuous Past continuous

“I am reading a book”, he explained.


He explained that he was reading a book

Simple past Past perfect

“Bill arrived on Saturday”, he said.


He said that Bill had arrived on Saturday

Present perfect Past perfect

“I have been to Spain”, he told me.


He told me that he had been to Spain

Past perfect Past perfect

“I had just turned out the light,” he explained.


He explained that he had just turned out the light.

Present perfect continuous Past perfect continuous

They complained, “We have been waiting for hours”.


They complained that they had been waiting for hours.

Past continuous Past perfect continuous

“We were living in Paris”, they told me.


They told me that they had been living in Paris.

Future Present conditional

“I will be in Geneva on Monday”, he said


He said that he would be in Geneva on Monday.

Future continuous Conditional continuous

She said, “I’ll be using the car next Friday”.


She said that she would be usingthe car next Friday.


1. You do not need to change the tense if the reporting verb is in the present, or if the original statement was about something that is still true, e.g.

  • He says he has missed the train but he’ll catch the next one.
  • We explained that it is very difficult to find our house.

2. These modal verbs do not change in reported speech:

might, could, would, should, ought to, e.g.

  • We explained that it could be difficult to find our house.
  • She said that she might bring a friend to the party.with