A "quotation" is the exact word or words that a person speaks. It’s good to understand the difference between a direct quotation, the words you hear from someone speaking, and an indirect quotation, which are the words that someone else uses to describe another speaker. Confused? When you’re confused it helps to look at an example.
Direct Quotation (Direct Speech)
"I need to go to the store," said my wife.
Indirect Quotation (Indirect Speech)
My wife said that she needed to go to the store.
Notice that "said" is in the past tense, so the verb "need" also becomes past tense.
There’s something called the "sequence of tenses" which is useful to look at now:
The Sequence of Tenses
Direct Speech Indirect Speech
Present Continuous Past Continuous
Past Past Perfect
Present Perfect Past Perfect
There are other tenses that could be added here, but this is a good start in learning that tenses change their form when using indirect speech. See the examples below.
"I am a beekeeper."
What did he say?
He said he was a beekeeper.
"I’m reading a book."
What did he say?
He said that he was reading a book.
"I was afraid of spiders when I was a little girl."
What did she say?
She said she had been afraid of spiders when she was a little girl.
"I have been in this same spot for an hour and I haven’t caught a thing."
He said that he’d been in that same spot for an hour and he hadn’t caught anything.
(he’d been = had been)
"We enjoy making breakfast together."
They said that they enjoyed making breakfast together.
"I’ll help you pick them up."
He said he would help her pick up the apples.
"He can eat an entire watermelon," his wife said.
His wife said that he could eat an entire watermelon.
"This radio may be over 70 years old," said the owner of the antique shop.
The owner of the antique shop said that the radio might be over 70 years old.
This is an important thing to learn!
Now watch this video. It’s kind of an old video, but it will have to do until I can update it: