Author: British Council | Published on 1 November 2022


Stage 1: Present examples

Write these sentences on the board with the words underlined as shown.                

Ask: “What do you notice about the underlined words in the sentences?”

a) “I am tired.”

b) He said he was tired.

c) “I am listening to the radio.”

d) She said she was listening to the radio.

e) Portia can sing really well.

f) She said that Portia could sing really well.

g) It will be great!

h) She thought it would be great.

To help learners:

Ask: “What happens to the verb when what is said is reported?” Elicit – it changes.

i) “I am 15”

j) He told me he is 15.

To help learners:

Ask: “Why do you think the verb didn’t change when sentence i) was reported?” Elicit – because he is still fifteen so it’s true. 

k) “We are going to be late.”

l) He said they were going to be late.”

m) “I have a test tomorrow.”

n) She said she had a test the next day

o) “I like it here.”

p) He said he liked it there.

To help learners:

Ask: What happens to the underlined word in the direct speech when it is reported? Elicit – it changes.

Stage 2: Take feedback

Ask learners to share their feedback on what they noticed in the examples. Some key points you might want to share with them include:

  • When the verb is in present simple it changes to past simple when it is reported (Sentence a & b). 
  • When the verb is in present continuous it changes to past continuous when it is reported (Sentences c & d).
  • When the modal is can it changes to could in the reported sentence (Sentences e & f).
  • When the modal is will it changes to would in the reported sentence (Sentences g & h).
  • The verb in the reported speech doesn’t need to change if the information is still true. (Sentences i) & j). 
  • Some pronouns and expressions of time and place often change when reported (Sentences k, l, m, n, o & p)

Stage 3: Use the grammar

a. Change it

Write up some sentences either in direct speech or reported speech and get the learners to write how they were said / reported. 

  1. Gift: “It’s raining.” (Gift said that it was raining) 
  2. She said she would be late. (“I will be late.”)
  3. Florence: “I’ll talk to the teacher.” (Florence said she would talk to the teacher.”)
  4. Vincent said they would leave soon. (“I will leave soon.”)
  5. Rejoice: “I can cook really well.” (“Rejoice said she could cook really well”)

b. What they said

Say: “Make a list of the different people you have spoken to in your life.” You might want to give an example. Then elicit a list of people / jobs and write them up on the board i.e. teacher, doctor, bus driver, policeman etc.

Then demonstrate the game. Say: “I’m going to tell you something one of these people said to me. You have to guess which person it was.” The say: “He said I was driving too fast.” Ask the learners: “Who do you think it was?” Elicit – policeman. Then say: “What did he actually say to me?” and elicit the direct sentence.

Put learners in groups and say: “Take turns saying something one of these people said to you and the other learners guess who the person was.”

c. The go-between

Demonstrate the game first.

Choose a learner to sit in a chair facing you (A), but about 5 metres away. Say: “I need a volunteer (B).” Ask Learner B to stand halfway between you and Learner A. Say: “Come here. I’m going to tell you a sentence. When I have done this, tell Learner B what I said.”

Tell learner B a short sentence.

Say: “Go and report what I said to learner A.”

Make sure you can hear what learner B says, so you can check it’s correct.

Then say: “Learner A say something to Learner B.”

Then say: “Learner B come and tell me what Learner A said to you.” 

Repeat this a few times.

Next, put learners in groups of three, two sitting facing each other and the third as the ‘go-between’. Play the game.

It’s nice to set a situation where this might happen i.e. You’ve had an argument with a friend. Your friend won’t speak to you, but you want to solve the problem.


Verb: words that show an action (sing), occurrence (develop), or state of being (exist)

Reported: speech which tells you what someone said

Elicit: How a teacher gets information from learners, e.g. asking questions, prompting.

modal verb: a type of verb that contextually indicates a modality such as a likelihood, ability, permission, request, capacity, suggestion, order, obligation, or advice. 

direct speech: a sentence in which the exact words spoken are reproduced in speech marks

demonstrate: To show and explain how learners should do a task.

See also