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Free Indirect Speech


What is free indirect speech?

Free indirect speech is also called as free indirect discourse, free indirect style, or discours indirect libre in French.)

While indirect speech conveys the report in the words of the reporter, with verbs generally 'backshifted' in tense and changes in pronouns and adverbials of time and place are made to align with the time of reporting; free direct speech lacks a reporting clause to show the shift from narration to reporting, it is often used in fiction to represent the mental reactions of characters to what they see or experience.

Indirect speech vs free indirect speech

Similarities:

Free indirect speech resembles indirect speech in shifting tenses and other references

Differences:

There is generally no reporting clause in free indirect speech and it retains some features of direct speech (such as direct questions and vocatives).

Examples:

Direct speech:

He sat down on the sofa carelessly. "Why are they asking me to contribute to the project?" he asked.

Indirect speech:

He sat down on the sofa carelessly and asked himself why they were asking him to contribute to the project.

Free indirect speech:

He sat down on the sofa carelessly. Why are they asking him to contribute to the project?

Famous writers who use free indirect speech

  • Goethe
  • Jane Austen
  • Gustave Flaubert
  • James Joyce
  • Virginia Woolf

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Reported speech