Reported questions

Form & meaning

These general rules for reported speech also apply.

  1. When we report questions, the subject comes before the verb.
    • Direct speech: “Where are you going?”
      Reported speech: He asked me where I was going.
    • Direct speech: “Why is he shouting?”
      Reported speech: He asked me why he was shouting.
    • Direct speech: “What do you want?”
      Reported speech: She asked me what I wanted.
  2. When reporting questions we don’t use the auxiliary verb do, except in negative questions.
    • Direct speech: “Who doesn’t like cheese?”
      Reported speech: She asked me who didn’t like cheese.
  3. We report yes/no questions with if or whether.
    • Direct speech: “Do you want me to come?”
      Reported speech: I asked him if he wanted me to come.
    • Direct speech: “Have you fed the dog?”
      Reported speech: She asked me whether I had fed the dog.
  4. When we report questions with who, what or which + to be + object, the verb be can come before or after the object.
    • Direct speech: “Who is the champion?”
      Reported speech: She asked me who the champion was / She asked me who was the champion.
    • Direct speech: “What is your favourite colour?”
      Reported speech: She asked me what my favourite colour was / She asked me what was my favourite colour.

Related grammar points

Reported Speech
Reporting Verbs
Say and Tell

6 teaching ideas and comments

  1. Sneha

    It’s very informative… It helped me a lot…
    Thank you

  2. ausha

    can you convert this?
    the student said, “would that my results were different”

  3. N.H

    Hi , in my book there is exercise that want change sentence from Reported question sentence to direct question
    My question is ( in past perfect sentence ) how I know that this sentence change to past simple or present perfect.
    Because both of them in direct speech change to past perfect .

    • Eslbase

      Hi, can you write here the sentence that you need to change?

  4. Gorgui sow

    I have a question, my English teacher said we never inverted the subjects in the reported questions. But in your work I saw that you are inverted the subjects in that reported question. Can you tell me why you do this?

    • Eslbase

      Hi Gorgiu

      Here’s an example, without the subject and auxiliary inverted first, and then with them inverted:

      1. He asked me where was I going.
      2. He asked me where I was going.

      The second example, with the inversion, is correct for reported speech.

      However, you could say the first one like this:
      1. He asked me: “Where was I going?”

      This is in quite common use in spoken English, and anything which is in common use is acceptable. It’s really a mix of direct and reported speech. With kind of use we would expect just direct speech:
      1. He asked me: “Where are you going?”

      But as I say, anything which is in common use is acceptable, but may not be “correct” in written English or in tests and exams.

      Hope this helps.


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