Academia Fran Cambridge English Language Exam Preperation Centre

Reported speech; say/said or tell/told

Changing the tense

When we report what people have said, we usually change the tense of the verb. Look at the following examples:

What was said Reported speech
Present Simple:

"I like the red dress," she said.

Past Simple:

She said she liked the red dress.

Present Continuous:

"He's working late," I said.

Past Continuous:

I said he was working late.

Past Simple / Present Perfect:

"They thought about his offer," they said.

"The chain has broken," he said.

Past Perfect:

They said they had thought about his offer.

He said the chain had broken.


"I'll meet you at the restaurant," she said.


She said she would meet me at the restaurant.

am/is/are going to:

"We're going to be late," I said.

was/were going to:

I said that we were going to be late.


"I can book the flights," he said.


He said he could book the flights.

Using 'that'

It isn't necessary to use that in reported speech:

He said (that) he missed the train.

Using 'say' and 'tell'.

We say something. We don't say someone something.

She said (that) she wanted to go to London. correct
She said me (that) she wanted to go to London. incorrect

We tell someone something. We don't tell something.

She told me (that) she wanted to go to London. correct
She told (that) she wanted to go to London. incorrect