Sentence Synthesis

Sentence Synthesis: Direct and Indirect Speech – Reporting a Statement

Sentence synthesis is about putting the original information together but in a different way. For different types of questions, there are different things to look out for when stringing the information together. Today, we will look at one of the hot favourites in examinations, transforming of direct speech to indirect (or reported) speech.

For this purpose, I am thrilled to introduce to you a new friend in this journey of English, Synthesis-on-a-stick.


Sentence SynthesisSOS (Synthesis-On-a-Stick)

Age: 9 + 10 + 11 + 12 (There are 4 of them on that stick!)

Hobbies: Constantly rearranging themselves in different combinations on the stick, eating kebabs.

Talent: Have a record of answering 78 correct sentence synthesis in a row.

Let SOS start telling you more about direct and indirect speech now!

What is direct and indirect (reported) speech?

I like to tell my children to remember that when converting a direct speech to indirect speech, what they are essentially doing is reporting what has been said. This makes it easier for them to understand the need for the changes to be made.

Basic Rules of the Thumb

There are 4 basic things to look out for when reporting what has been said.





Children can use the acronym TPTP. (Some children will remember it as Toilet Paper Toilet Paper or Ten Pigs Tried Pizza. It is up to your child to make up something fun to remember it by.)

1. Tenses

A change in tenses takes place ONLY when the direct speech has already occurred in past tense. A backshift occurs during the change in tenses where each tense shifts one step to the past. Look at the table and backshift timeline below.

Sentence Synthesis

Sentence Synthesis

Exceptions – A fact

The only exception to a change in tenses for direct speech that occurred in the past tense is when what was said is a fact e.g. “The Earth is round.”, “An elephant has a trunk.”.

The teacher said, “An elephant has a trunk.”

The teacher said that an elephant has a trunk.

Common Errors

1. Changing simple present tense from singular to plural (jumps –> jump)
2. Forgetting to change the modal verbs e.g. will, can, shall etc.
3. Not knowing how to change the modal verb “must”.

2. Pronouns

Pronouns refer to words like “she”, “I”, “us” and “them”. Depending on who has spoken and to whom, the pronouns will be changed accordingly.

Sentence Synthesis


Common Errors

1. Forgetting to change “we” to “they” and “us” to “them”.
2. Changing “you” to a singular pronoun e.g. “her” when it should be plural, “them”. (Refer to example above)

3. Time

Remember, when we report a speech, what was happening will be over by the time we are doing it. Hence, what was “now” would be “then”, “yesterday” would be the “previous day” (and not yesterday from the point you are speaking.).

Indirect Speech : Time

Indirect Speech: TimeIndirect Speech : Time


Common Errors

1. Using “the day before/after” for “yesterday” and “tomorrow”.
2. Forgetting to change “the next day” to “the following day”.
3. Forgetting how to change “ago” to “before”.

4. Place

A change in place also refers to a change in position. By the time you report what was said, the thing or person would no longer be at that place or position and would be considered distant. Hence, what was “here” would be “there” by the time the speech was reported. Here are a few others:

Indirect Speech : Place

Indirect Speech : Place

Common Error

1. Forgetting to change from “these” to “those”.

I hope today’s post has provided a clear overview of the changes to be made for each component for questions on reported speech and you have benefitted from the examples given as well! Knowing clearly the things to look out for while doing such questions will definitely help to ensure higher accuracy in transforming the sentences. Do remember that it is a good practice to write the changes for reported speech on top of the direct speech (like what is seen in the examples sentences above with coloured bubbles) before transferring the answer so that you will not miss out on the words to be changed when you are writing quickly.

Authentic English Tip: For children who are just learning about direct and indirect speech conversion or those who are still confused, try role-playing with them by telling them a sentence and have them retell it to someone else. You may tell them, “I am hungry.” and their task will be to tell another person, “Mother(or if you are their teacher, your name) said that she was hungry.” When they become more confident, you can increase the complexity of the sentence. This practice can also be carried out after a lesson on this



Synthesis Skill-wers

1. 30 over bite-sized video lessons! (On Golden Rules for sentence synthesis and focused question types)

2. Unique strategies to tackle a wide range of sentence synthesis question types e.g. Active/Passive voice, Direct/Indirect Speech, No sooner had… than…, Not only… but also etc.

3. Topical worksheets accompanying each video consisting of at least 5 questions + A bonus 20-question quiz upon completion of course! (over 150 practice questions in total)


Are you a Wooden, Bronze, Silver or Golden Skill-wer?

Try the Synthesis and Transformation Quiz consisting of 5 questions and determine your skill level.

Become a Golden Skill-wer today!


Synthesis Skill-wers Quiz



Mrs Lily Chew

With her passion to create relevant and easy-to-understand materials for the lil’ ones, Mrs Lily Chew works alongside her team of teachers to design the Lil’ but Mighty curriculum. Constantly looking at best educational practices and thinking of ways to improve the curriculum, Mrs Chew finds pure joy in unlocking creative and different ways of helping each child achieve his or her personal best.

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