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Reported speech ( rules for changing persons)

Rules for changing persons in Reported speech.

We have studied that the ‘first person pronouns’ of ‘direct speech’ will be changed into  ‘third person pronouns’ ,     and   ‘second person pronouns’  will be changed into  eitherfirst person’ or  ‘third person’  in reported speech.

But these changes are occurred  ‘depending on  the reporting object’,   on ‘two conditions’, as explained below;

I   Conditions for changing  ‘first person pronouns’  into  ‘third person pronouns’.

  •   If the  ‘reporting object’  is  ‘third person’,   ‘the first person’  in the  ‘direct speech’ is changed into ‘third person’  in  ‘reported speech’.

Eg:  Manuel said to his mother, “ Mother….,  I saw your friend,  Anne aunt, yesterday”        

Manuel told his mother that  he had seen her friend  Anne the last day.

Here, in the example, the reporting object ‘his mother’ is third person.   So the first person subject ‘I’ in the direct speech is changed into third person subject ‘he’ in the reported speech.

One more example,

Tom said to his friends, “  My father and my mother really surprised me by gifting a bike on my birthday last week”

Tom told his friends that ‘his’ father and ‘his’ mother had really surprised ‘him’ by gifting a  bike on ‘his’ birthday the previous week.

Here, in the example too, the reporting object is ‘third person’ ( his friends),   so the ‘first person possessive adjective’ ‘my’ is changed into ‘third person possessive adjective’his’,   the first person object ‘me’ into third person object ‘him’ and  again the first person possessive adjective ‘my’ is changed into third person possessive adjective ‘his’ in reported speech.

  Let’s look at one more example,

Tina said to her brother,” I have been trying to call you”

Tina told her brother that she had been trying to call him.

Here the first person ‘I’ becomes third person  ‘she’.

So let’s conclude that ,  ‘first person pronouns’ are changed into  ‘third person pronouns’ depending on ‘the reporting object’.


II   Conditions  for changing  ‘second person’ into   either  ‘first person’ or  ‘third person’ in  ‘reported speech’ on the basis of reporting object

 ‘Second person’  is changed  into  ‘first person’  on the basis of  ‘two’ rules,

The first rule is that,  if the  ‘reporting object’  is ‘first person’,  the ‘second person’ in  ‘the direct speech’ should be changed into ‘first person’  in  ‘reported speech’.

To clear it, let’s look at the following example,

They said to us,  ” You have to explain the matter soon”

They told us that we had to explain the matter soon.

Here, the reporting object ‘us’ is  ‘first person’ object.  That is why, ‘the second person’ subject  ‘You’ is changed into ‘third person’ subject ‘we’ in the reported speech.

One more example is given,

Thomas said to me,  “ I will give ‘you’ a best gift on ‘your’ birthday”

Thomas told me that he would give ‘me’ a best gift on ‘my’ birthday.

As the  ‘reporting object’  is   first person  ‘me’,    the second person object    ‘you’ and  second person possessive adjective  ‘your’  are changed respectively as first person object ‘me’ and first person possessive adjective ‘my’.  


Now, let’s look at the following question,

Peter said, “ I called you yesterday”

In this sentence, we can’t see  ‘the first person object’ in the question.  In this case, we have to depend on ‘the second rule’  of changing  ‘second person’  into  ‘first person’.

 That is , as per the second rule ,

  • we have to add  a first person reporting object,   that is  ‘me’ or ‘ us’, according to the numbers of the second person  ‘you’.  

           That is ,   if  only  ‘one person’  is intended to ‘you’,  then the first person singular object  ‘me’ is to be added as  the reporting object,   and  similarly ,  if   ‘more than one person’  is intended to  ‘you’,  then the first person plural object  ‘us’  is to be added as the reporting object.

After adding ‘first person’ object as suggested,   we can change ‘the second person’  in direct speech into  ‘first  person’  in indirect speech.

So we can assume the answer of the question,

Peter said,  “ I called ‘you’ yesterday’’  as,

Peter told ‘me’ that he had called ‘me’  the last day.

Here, adding the ‘first person’ object ‘me’  ( as the subject Peter is singular),  the  ‘second person’ object  ‘you’ in the direct speech is changed into the ‘first person’ object  ‘me’ in the reported speech

II   The condition for changing ‘second person’ in ‘direct speech’ into  ‘third person’ in ‘reported speech’ is described below,

If the ‘reporting object’ is ‘third person’,   the ‘second person’ in  ‘direct speech’ will be changed into ‘third person’  in  ‘reported speech’, as seen in the example below.

Merlin said to Jancy, “ I called your sister yesterday, and she said that you had gone to your mother’s home.”

Merlin told Jancy that she had called her sister the last day, and she had said that she had gone to her mother’s home.

Here,  as the reporting object Jancy is third person,  the second person in the direct speech is changed into third person according to its forms while being changed into reported speech.

So, by understanding the above mentioned facts,   we can conclude that  ‘first person’  is changed into ‘third person’,  and  also  ‘the second person’ may be changed into either ‘first person’ or ‘third person’.

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