Most Common Errors in the Use of Reported Speech

English language Grammar is quite complex, especially for non-native speakers. They tend to make frequent mistakes. Here below I have tried my best to list the common frequent errors in the use of direct and indirect speech.

5 Repeated Errors in the Use of Direct and Indirect Speech

1. Use of that:

It is widely believed that the use of ‘that’ is mandatory in all reported speech sentences. But the case is otherwise. Here are some uses of ‘that’ in direct and indirect speech.

(1) It acts as a connector between reporting and reported speech.
(2) The word ‘that’ is not used in making the reported speech of interrogative sentences.

Consider the examples below

He said, “Where is the shop?”
He asked that where was the shop.(Incorrect)
He asked where was the shop. (Correct)

She said, “Can you help me?
She asked that if I could help her. (Incorrect)
She asked if I could help her. (Correct)

2.  Misunderstanding the Context:

It is generally believed that the reported speech of all type of sentence follows the same pattern. Every sentence has a different implied meaning. There are different contexts of sentences. Like some ask questions, give suggestions or emphasis upon a piece of advice etc. The reported speech of each sentence follows the required pattern. Take the examples below:

The doctor said to me, “Take some rest.”
The doctor told me to take some rest. (Incorrect)
The doctor advised me to take some rest. (Correct)

She said, “Let’s arrange a meetup.”
She said to arrange a meetup. (Incorrect)
She suggested that we should arrange a meetup. (Correct)

The manager said to Gardner, “Clean out the grass today.”
The manager said to Gardner to clean out the grass that day. (Incorrect)
The manager ordered the gardener to clean out the grass that day. (Correct)

You have observed that the sentences above have their own context of advice, suggestion, order respectively.

3. Error in the Sequence of Tenses:

There are certain rules of direct and indirect speech with Tense forms. When the reporting speech is in the Present tense, the following reported part of the sentence doesn’t change from present to past tense. Take the examples below
She says, “I like mangoes.”
She says that she liked mangoes. (Incorrect)
She says that she likes mangoes. (Correct)

For a detailed study of Tense rules refer here our main page.

4. The use of Said and Told.

Both ‘said’ and ‘told’ are used in reporting speech as per the context. The most common error here occurs in the use of object ‘me’ with said/told. Take the example below

She said to the doctor, “My uncle is very ill.”
She told to doctor that her uncle was very ill. (Incorrect)
She told the doctor that her uncle was very ill. (Correct)

From the above example, it is crystal clear the right use of ‘said/told’ in reported speech. However, if you still feel unsettled, find more on our main page for reported speech rules said and told.

5. The incorrect use of May into might, shall into should and will into would.

Well, as per the use of modal verbs for reported speech, ‘may, will and shall are changed into the past form. But, when they come at the beginning of reported speech there are other rules as per the context of the sentence. Consider the examples below.

She said, “May I use your phone?”
She said that might she use my phone. (Incorrect)
She requested if she might use my phone. (Correct)

He said, “Shall I wait for more?”
He said that should he wait for more. (Incorrect)
He inquired/asked if he should wait for more. (Correct)

Well, these are the most common errors in the use of direct and indirect speech. For a further detailed study, you are again suggested to browse here the resources more.

How to Avoid these Errors?

The most common errors of direct and indirect speech that we have discussed above can easily be avoided. Out of my years of teaching experience, I would recommend you the following must-have steps to gain maximum accuracy in direct and indirect speech.

1. Mastery over the rules

There is no way out. For avoiding an error you must have to learn the essential rules of reported speech. It might look difficult for a non-native speaker, to learn it quickly all the way. But given the facts, as they are, you are strictly suggested to learn, understand and revise the rules of direct and indirect speech to claim mastery over it.

2. Group discussion with colleagues:

Group study is the best ever way to learn quickly. Studies have shown that group studies with health-related discussions have brought improvements in learning outcomes. Group studies are the essential part of schools.

Therefore, it is recommended to you to form a study group with like-minded individuals to improve and strengthen your learning outcomes.

3. Frequent Online Exercises:

The technology has made it easier. Find out the best ever resources related to your subject. Practice online reported speech exercises to gain mastery and minimize errors in English. Various English grammar software, Android/IOS apps, games, and other digital resources are quite handy in this regard.

4. Strengthen your Back with Extensive study.

While in the pursuit of learning English, do not limit yourself to Grammar only. You are strongly suggested to expand your area of study. You had better read the best books of literature, art, science, etc. By expanding your area of study, you will strengthen your back of English. It truly helps in making you a good man in English speaking.

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