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ESL Medium Quiz

What Did You Say? - Reported Speech

Quiz playing is a wonderful way to increase your knowledge of English as a Second Language. Remember that all of our ESL quizzes have titles that are both friendly and technical at the same time… In the case of this quiz you might like to tell your friends about “What Did You Say?” but no doubt your teachers will talk about the “Reported Speech quiz”! If you hear a technical term and you want to find a quiz about the subject then just look through the list of quiz titles until you find what you need.

This quiz is all about reported (or 'indirect' speech: how you describe 'what someone said to you'). Reported speech is simple enough once you understand how English uses the tenses in common situations. There may be one or two other changes to the original words, too, but there is always a logic at work...

'What did you say?' / 'I said the water's freezing!'

  1. Pick the answer that best completes the gap/s in good, clear, accurate English.
    'But he told me it ... ... dreadful in July, during their winter.'
    'Was' is now right, because he told us this in the past, and he was talking ~ back then ~ about time that was already in the further past.
    If he had meant 'every July' (as a regular feature of the climate), he would have said 'is', and that in turn would have been reported onwards now as 'is'.
  2. Pick the answer that best completes the gap/s in good, clear, accurate English.
    'My cousin in New Zealand says the weather ... ... really good out there.'
    We don't usually use 'have' or 'make' in English weather expressions.
    'Is' is fine here, because he is describing something that is generally true at any time (and therefore, Present).
  3. Pick the answer that best completes the gap/s in good, clear, accurate English.
    'The weather forecasters were right, for once: they said it ... ... cloud over by teatime.'
    Answer 2 is also possible, just slightly longer.
    The forecast would (!) have said, 'It WILL become cloudy by mid-afternoon tomorrow'; but we are now looking at theses clouds in the Present, or even the recent past: 'They said it WOULD, and it now HAS become cloudy.'
  4. Pick the answer that best completes the gap/s in good, clear, accurate English.
    'We were wondering where ... ... these dirty boots of ours.'
    When reporting an (indirect / repeated) question, English always turns the verb and subject 'back round', i.e.:
    The original words were probably 'Where shall we put these?'
    The reported version becomes 'We asked where we should ... '
    Note that this all happened in the past from now, so the tense of the verb also changes ( 'shall' => 'should' ; i.e. 'where we WERE supposed to put them, at that time).
  5. Pick the answer that best completes the gap/s in good, clear, accurate English.
    'When I met her at the party, she said how glad she was that I ... ... '
    ' ... she was (then) glad that I was (at that same, now-past time) able to be at the party.'
    It would be 'come' rather than 'go', because the speaker's journey to meet her at the party took him towards her, rather than away: she viewed the experience as him coming closer to her, not just moving away from where he had been before.
  6. Pick the answer that best completes the gap/s in good, clear, accurate English.
    'Her sister has warned her ... ... .'
    This is a slightly different form of Reported Speech. Whatever the timescale or 'outer tense', people can be told / advised / warned / recommended (etc.) TO DO something ~ or, indeed, not to. ('I recommend you never to stay at the Hotel X.')
  7. Pick the answer that best completes the gap/s in good, clear, accurate English.
    'How ignorant can they be, these people on the television quiz shows? That couple there couldn't remember, between them, the name of the scientist who proved that the surface of the Earth ... ... flat.'
    The discovery of this scientific truth lies in the past; the person who realised it would have said, 'Now I know the world IS not flat', but it was already true back then, and we are reporting the past discovery.
    We could use 'is' (Answer 4) since the fact remains true in the present, as a permanent 'rule'.
    We hope nobody chose Answers 1 or 2 ... which might make good English, but clearly they aren't true!
  8. Pick the answer that best completes the gap/s in good, clear, accurate English.
    'They sent us a message last Wednesday, to say the engineer ... ... .'
    At the time when 'they' sent the message, 'tomorrow' was Thursday ~ but that is no longer true, since last week is now over. The engineer 'was (then, supposed to be) coming', or 'would be coming' (Answer 4), but we have to replace the original 'Thursday' with 'the next (or 'following') day'.
    It would be worth you thinking carefully about how your own language handles such information. Do you do more or less the same as English does? If not, how is it different? This may involve quite a lot of hard thought, but that's probably the only way to 'get your brain round' how English works.
  9. Pick the answer that best completes the gap/s in good, clear, accurate English.
    'Each Easter when we went to stay with my grandparents, I ... ... chocolate eggs hidden somewhere in their house or garden.'
    'I knew (back then) that there were going to be (shortly, but not yet! ~ i.e. in the fairly immediate future after when we arrived) ... eggs.'
  10. Pick the answer that best completes the gap/s in good, clear, accurate English.
    'He also said, though, that he and his family ... ... out in the midsummer sun on Christmas Day, in their shorts and sandals and shirtsleeves!'
    He told us this at a time before 'now' (i.e. one step into the past); his experience of a sunny Christmas in the southern hemisphere was already in the past then, i.e. it had happened before he told us about it.
    His own direct words to describe this would probably have been 'We were / went / have been out in the sun ... '.
    But that's TWO steps back into the past from 'when we are, now', with his telling-us somewhere in between it actually happening and our Present. So the Reported Speech goes into the Past Perfect (or 'Pluperfect').

Author: Ian Miles

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