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Indirect Speech for question sentences - Rules

The basic rules for converting Direct Speech (question sentences) into Indirect Speech are as follows: Examples are at the end.

  1. Comma and inverted commas will be removed.
  2. The conjunction “that” will not be used in Indirect Speech (in question sentence). The conjunction “that” is used in Indirect speech of all positive sentences.
  3. In indirect speech, the question sentence will be expressed in assertive (positive) form instead of interrogative form.
  4. Question mark (?) will not be used in indirect speech of interrogative sentence. .
  5. The verb such as ‘say’ or ‘tell’ (e.g. he said or she said) in direct speech is replaced with verb such ‘ask’ or ‘inquire’ (e.g. he asked, she inquired) in indirect speech.

The above rules are common for all question-sentences. Apart from these common rules, there are a few specific rules which apply according to the type of question in sentence.

There are two types of question-sentences:

  1. Question which can be answered with YES or NO
  2. Question which cannot be answered only with YES or NO, but requires a detailed answer. Such questions usually start with “what, why, how, when e.t.c”

Examples:

Do you like a mango? (Such a question can be answered by saying only YES or No)
What are you doing?  (Such a question cannot be answered by Yes or No but it requires a bit explanation i.e. I am listening to music.)

The specific rules according to type of question are as follows:

Questions that can be answered with “YES or NO”

To make indirect speech of such questions, the word “if” or “whether” will be used in Indirect Speech. Both the words “if” or “whether” can be used interchangeably.

Examples:

Direct Speech Indirect Speech
David said to me, “Do you like coffee?” David asked me if I liked coffee.
He said to me, “Will you help me?” He asked me if I would help him.
She said to me, “Can I use your Phone?” She asked me if she could use my Phone.
They told me, “Have you gone to London?” They asked me if I had gone to London.
He said to me, “Did you meet your friend?” He asked me if I had met my friend.
John said to her, “Will you buy the book?” John asked her whether she would buy the book.
She said, “Are they waiting for me?” She asked whether they were waiting for her.

Questions that cannot be answered with only “YES or NO”

To make indirect speech of such questions, the word “if” or “whether” will not be used. The question is changed into assertive(positive) form and is simply placed after the reporting verb.

Examples:

Direct Speech Indirect Speech
He said to me, “What are you doing?” He asked me what I was doing.
She said to me, “What is your name?” She asked me what my name was.
David said to me, “How are you?” David asked me how I was.
They said to me, “where have you gone?” They asked me where I had gone.
Teacher told her, “Why did you fail the exam? Teacher asked her why she had failed the exam.
I said to her, “What were you eating?” I asked her what she had been eating.
He said to her, “How will you help me?” He asked her how he would help her.
The student said, “How can I buy this book?” The student asked how he could buy this book.
They said, “How is the weather?” The asked how the weather was.