There are two ways of re-telling what a person has said: direct and indirect.


Here we repeat the original speaker’s exact words:  direct speech should be places within the quotation marks or inverted commas. The direct speech is found in conversations in books, in plays and quotations.
He said, “I have written the exercise”.


Reporting of what a speaker said without quoting his exact words is called ‘Indirect Speech’. In Indirect speech we give the exact meaning/ the main point of a person’s words, with a few modifications, without necessarily using the speaker’s exact words.

He said that he had written the exercise

Reporting verb. The verb used to introduce the reported speech is called the reporting verb. The tense of the reporting verb is not changed.


Rule :1. The adverbs of nearness should be put into those of distance.

Direct Speech- Indirect Speech
now- Then
here- there
here after- there after
this- that
these- those
ago- before
thus- so
to-day- that day
to-night- that night
last night- the previous night
yesterday- the day before (or)     the previous day
tomorrow- the next day (or)  the following day
last week- the week before (or) the previous week
next week- the week after (or) the following week
last month- the month before (or) the previous month
next month- a month after
hither- thither
hence- thence

Rule :2. Tenses

12 Basic English Tenses

If the reporting verb is in the Present or Future tense (e.g., say/says, will say) there is no change in the tense of the verb in the Indirect speech.

Antony says, “I eat a mango”. (D.S.)
Antony says that he eats a mango”. (I.S.)

Marwa says “I’ll travel to Tarime next week)

Marwa says that he will travel to Tarime next week.

The President will say “We shall raise the teachers’ salaries next year”

The President will say that they will raise the teachers’ salaries next year.

If Reporting Verb is in the Past Tense the tense of the verbs in the reported speech or Indirect Speech must be generally changed.

Simple Present Tense in the D.S. becomes simple past tense in the I.S.

John said, “I write a letter”. (D.S)
John said that he wrote a letter. (I.S)

Mwita said, “I like teaching”

Mwita said that he liked teaching”

Simple Past Tense in the D.S. becomes past perfect or remains unchanged in the I.S.

Angel said, “I brought a pen yesterday”. (D.S)
Angel said that she had bought a pen the day before. (I.S)

Angel said that she bought a pen the previous day (I.S.)

Mwajuma said, “I killed a lion” (D.S)

Mwajuma said that she had killed a lion (I.S)

MWajuma said that she killed a lion. (I.S)

Present Continuous in the D.S. becomes past continuous in the I.S.

John said, “I am going to church”. (D.S)
John said that he was going to church. (I.S)

“I am writing a letter to my brother”, Majura said to Bundala (D.S)

Majura told Bundala that he was writing a letter to his brother. (I.S)

Past Continuous in the D.S. becomes past perfect continuous in the I.S. or remains unchanged.

Nelson said, “I was playing cricket”. (D.S)
Nelson said that he had been playing cricket. (I.S)

Nelson said that he was playing cricket. (I.S)

Sandra said to me, “I was thinking of marrying a rich man.” (D.S)
Sandra told me that she was thinking of marrying a rich man. (I.S)

Sandra told me that she had been thinking of marrying a rich man. (I.S)

Present Perfect in the D.S. becomes past perfect in the I.S.

Kamara said, “I have done my home work”. (D.S)
Kamara said that he had done his home work. (I.S)
“I have lost my handbag”, Shanel said. (D.S)

Shanel said that she had lost her handbag. (I.S)

Present Perfect Continuous in the D.S. becomes past perfect continuous in the I.S.

He said, “I have been reading a novel”. (D.S)
He said that he had been reading a novel. (I.S)

“I have been waiting for you, Mary” Samson said. (D.S)

Samson told Mary that he had been waiting for her.(I.S)

Past perfect in the D.S. remains unchanged in the I.S

“I had finished the work,” Shantel said to her teacher.

Shantel told her teacher that she had finished the work.

“We had slept already when you called.” She said to him

She told him that they had slept already when he called.

8.Past perfect continuous in the D.S remains unchanged in the I.S.

David said, “I had been thinking of marrying a rich girl” (D.S.)

David said that he had been thinking of marrying a rich girl. (I.S)

Martha said to her mother, “We had been doing exams the whole term.” (D.S.)

Martha told her mother that they had been doing exams the whole term. (I.S)

‘Will’ and ‘Shall’ are changed to ‘would’.

He said, “I will go to London tomorrow”. (D.S)
He said that he would go to London the next day. (I.S)

“I will marry when I want”, said Abooki. (D.S)

Abooki said that she would marry when she wanted. (I.S)

may might
can could
come go
must had to (or) must
Had better Had better
Ought to Ought to
Used to Used to

Johns said, “I must go now,” (D.S)
Johns said that she had to go then. (I.S)

“You may go now” I said to Shija.(D.S)

I told Shija that he might go then.(I.S)

“You can take it tomorrow,” the teacher said to Moses.(D.S)

The teacher told Mosses that he could take it the following day.(I.S).

“You had better consult a doctor,” mother said to me. (D.S)

Mother told me that I had better consult a doctor. (I.S)

“You ought to love your parents, children” the pastor said. (D.S)

The pastor told the children that they ought to love their parents. (I.S)

Mwita said to Rhobi, “I used to write love stories”. (D.S)

Mwita told Rhobi that he used to write love stories. (I.S)

“You have to come back tomorrow,” the manager said to me. (D.S)

The manager told me that I had to go back the following day. (I.S)

If the direct speech contains the Universal Truth, habit, facts or permanent states, the tense of the direct speech remains unchanged even if the reporting verb is in the past.

The teacher said, “The sun rises in the East”. (D.S)
The teacher said that the sun rises in the East. (I.S)

My father said “Honesty is the best policy” (D.S)

My father said that honesty in the best policy. (I.S)

“Mt. Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania” the minister said to the tourists. (D.S)

The minister told the tourists that Mt. Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania. (I.S)

“The earth moves round the sun” the Geography teacher said. (D.S)

The Geography teacher said that the earth moves round the sun.

The teacher has said to the pupils, “Sea-water is different from the river water.” (D.S)
The teacher has told the pupils that sea-water is different from river water. (I.S)

David answered, “The Mines are under the ground”. (D.S)
David answered that the Mines are under the ground. (I.S)

John said to his brother, “The U.N. is a world organisation”. (D.S)
John told his brother that the U.N is a world organisation. (I.S)

If the direct speech contains a past historical event no changes are made.

“Tanganyika got independence in 1961,” my history teacher said. (D.S)

My history teacher said that Tanganyika got independence in 1961. (I.S)

“The first world war took place from 1914 to1918,” he said. (D.S)

He said that the First World War took place from 1914 to1918. (I.S)

“Mwalimu Nyerere was born in 1922 and he died in 1999,” he said to me. (D.S)

He told me that Mwalimu Nyerere was born in 1922 and he died in 1999.

Rule 3. Pronouns change in indirect speech.

First Person Pronouns in the D.S change according to the subject of the reporting verb in the I.S.

He said, “I am busy”          (D.S)

He said that he was busy.  (I.S)

She said, “I am not feeling okay” (D.S)

She said that she was not feeling okay (I.S)

I said, “I will tell you tomorrow” (D.S)

I said that I would tell him the next day. (I.S)

They said, “We have to use force” (D.S)

They said that they had to use force. (I.S)

We said, “We have to buy some oranges” (D.S)

We said that we had to buy some oranges. (I.S)

You said “I have finished the work.”

You said that you had finished the work

Second person pronouns in the D. S. change according to the object of the Reporting verb in the I.S.

He said to me, “You have to come with me” (D.S)

He told me that I had to go with him. (I.S)

The teacher said to us, “You must finish your work today”

The teacher told us that we had to finish our work that day.

She said to him, “You can take your bag” (D.S)

She told him that he could take his bag. (I.S)

He said to her, “You love your parents” (D.S)

He told her that she loved her parents (I.S)

The headmaster told them, “You will start your National exams next week” (D.S)

The headmaster told them that they would start their national exams the following week. (I.S)

The teacher said to you “You must see me today” (D.S)

The teacher told you that you had to see him that day. (I.S)

Third Person Pronouns in the Direct speech remain unchanged in the Indirect speech.

He said, “She is a good girl” (D.S)

He said that she was a good girl. (I.S)

They said, “He does not have the required qualifications” (D.S)

They said that he did not have the required qualification. (I.S)

He said, “It is impossible” (D.S)

He said that it was impossible. (I.S)

She said, “They are attending a birthday party” (D.S)

She said that they were attending a birthday party. (I.S)


It should be noted that while changing the pronouns in the manner stated above, pronouns will have the same case and number as the original one.

Basic Rules :

a)Remove the quotation marks in the statement

b)Use the conjunction ‘that’

c)Change the reporting verb ‘say to’ into ‘tell’

d)Change the reporting verb ‘said to’ into ‘told’

e)Other verbs like; replied, answered, informed, stated may be used instead of “said” or “told”.

Note :

He said that (correct)

He told me that (correct)

He told that (Incorrect)

“I will work hard to get division one,” said Lazar (D.S.)
Lazar said he would work hard to get division one. (I.S.)

“You can do this work” said Nelson to Johnsi (D.S.)
Nelson informed Johnsi that he could do that work. (I.S.)

He said, “I am glad to be here this evening”(D.S.)
He said that he was glad to be there that evening. (I.S.)

“I‘m going to the library now” said David (D.S.)
David said that he was going to the library then. (I.S.)


Basic Rules

a)Remove the quotation marks in an imperative sentence.

b)Use ‘to’ if it is an affirmative sentence. (Without don’t)

c)Use ‘not to’ if the sentence begins with “Don’t “

d)Don’t use that.

e)Omit the word ‘please’. Use the word “request’ instead of ‘say’

f)If the direct speech contains a request or a command, the reporting verb (say/said) change to tell, request, order, command, advise, beg, beseech, persuade, etc in its correct tense.

g)Sentences with “Let” can be turned into reported speech in three methods.

  • Suggest/Propose +gerund
  • Suggest/Propose +infinitive
  • Suggest/Propose +That clause

e.g “Let us setup a small scale industry”, my friend said to me. (D.S)

My friend suggested setting up a small scale industry. (I.S)

My friend proposed to set up a small scale industry (I.S)

My friend suggested that we should set up a small scale industry. (I.S)

Ø  “Don‘t talk in the class” said the teacher to the boys. (D.S.)

The teacher advised the boys not to talk in the class. (I.S.)

“Please give me something to eat. I am hungry” the old man said to them. (D.S.)
The old man requested them to give him something to eat and said that he was hungry (I.S.)

“Be careful” said he to her. (D.S.)
He ordered her to be careful. (I.S.)

“Bring me a cup of tea” said Nelson to Andriya. (D.S.)
Nelson asked Andriya to bring him a cup of tea. (I.S.)

“Go and get me a piece of paper”, I said to him. (D.S)

I ordered him to go and get me a piece of paper. (I.S)

“Don’t insult the poor”, he said to me (D.S)

He advised me not to insult the poor. (I.))

“Let me apply a different formula” he said. (D.S)

He suggested applying a different formula(I.S)

He proposed to apply a different formula(I.S)


Basic Rules :

a)Remove the quotation marks and question mark in the interrogative sentence.

b)Use ‘if’ or ‘whether’ if the sentence inside the quotation marks begins with a helping verb (Auxiliary verb).

c)Use the given interrogative word (what, when, where, why, who, whom, whose, which, how ) if it does not begin with the helping verb.

d)Don‘t use ‘that’

e)Changing the reporting verb (say, said) into ‘ask’, ‘enquire’, demand, wonder, want to know, question, interrogate, in its correct tense.

f)Omit helping verb like ‘do, does, did’. But don’t omit them when they are with ‘not’.

“Won’t you help me to carry this box?” said I to my friend. (D.S.)
I asked my friend if he would not help me to carry that box. (I.S.)

Mohan said to Stalin, “Why did not you attend the meeting yesterday”? (D.S.)
Mohan interrogated Stalin why he had not attended the meeting the day before. (I.S.)

“How often do you go to the theatre?” said David to John. (D.S.)
David asked John how often he went to the theatre. (I.S.)

Mohamed said to Sultan, “Do you like mangoes?” (D.S.)

 Mohamed questioned Sultan if he liked mangoes. (I.S.)

“Who told you about my marriage?” Mary said to me.(D.S)

Mary questioned me who told me about her marriage.(I.S)

“Where do you want to go now?” he said to me. (D.S)

He asked me where I wanted to go then. (I.S)

“Don’t you know anything about the micro-chips in computers?” the teacher said to me (D.S)

The expert questioned me whether I didn’t know anything about the micro-chips in computers.(I.S)

“Didn’t you tell her about her father’s death?” he said to me. (D.S)

He asked me whether I didn’t tell her about her father’s death. (I.S)

He asked me whether I hadn’t told her about her father’s death. (I.S)


Basic Rules :

a)Change the exclamatory sentence into statement or Assertive

b)Remove the quotation marks and exclamatory mark.

c)Use the conjunction ‘that’

d)Omit the interjections such as Oh, O, Alas, how, what, hurrah, shit, Gosh, Bravo, lo.

e)Add the word ‘very’ to the adjective or adverb if necessary.

f)If the verb is not given, use ‘Be’ form verb (is, was, are, were, am) in its correct tense according to the subject.

g)Change the reporting verb (say, said) to ‘exclaimed joyfully’ or exclaimed with joy/applaud/surprise for happy incidents.

h)Use ‘exclaim’ sorrowfully or exclaimed with sorrow/ fear/anger/wonder/regret/curse/cry out for sorrowful incidents.

  1. “O, what a beautiful flower that is!” said she. (D.S.)
    She exclaimed joyfully that that was a very beautiful flower. (I.S.)
  2. “What a horrible sight!” we all exclaimed. (D.S.)
    We all exclaimed with sorrow that it was a very horrible sight. (I.S.)
  3. “Alas! I have broken my brother’s watch” said he.
    He exclaimed with regret that he had broken his brother’s watch. (I.S.)
  4. “How beautiful she is!” said Boon. (D.S.)
    Boon exclaimed joyfully that she was very beautiful. (I.S.)


“I don’t know the way. Do you?” he asked. (D.S.)
He said that he didn’t know the way and asked her if she did. (I.S.)

She said, “Oh! It’s a snake. Don’t go near it, children.” (D.S.)
She exclaimed with disgust that it was a snake and told the children not to go near it. (I.S.)

“If the floods get any worse we must leave the house”, he said. (D.S.)
(must = will have to)
He said that if the floods got any worse they would have to leave the house. (I.S.)

“I have just received a letter”, he said; “I must go home at once”. (D.S.)
He said that he had just received a letter and would have to go home at once. (I.S.)

(i) In all these sentences the reported part has more than one clause and tense. So both the parts need attention to be converted into the Indirect speech from the Direct. This type of sentence is called Mixed Type.

(ii) When statements and questions are mixed, each section must be introduced by an appropriate verb, viz. tell, say, explain, remark etc., for statements and ask, enquire, want to know, wonder etc., for questions. A useful connective device for positive statement is “adding that”…

e.g. “I’m off to the pictures. Where are you going?” (D.S.)
He said that he was off to the pictures and wanted to know where I was going. (I.S.)


He said, “John will be in London on Tuesday.” (D.S.)
He said that John would be in London on Tuesday. (I.S.)

  1. “I never eat meat”, he explained. (D.S.)
    He explained that he never ate meat. (I.S.)
  2. He said, “I wish I knew.”(D.S.)
    He said that He wished he knew. (I.S.)
  3. She says, “I shall be there.” (D.S.)
    She says that she will be there. (I.S.)
  4. He said, “She is coming this week.” (D.S.)
    He said that she was coming that week. (I.S.)
  5. He said, “I bought this pearl for my mother.” (D.S.)
    He said that he had bought that pearl for his mother. (I.S.)
  6. He said, “Where is she going?” (D.S.)
    He asked where she was going. (I.S.)
  7.  He said, “Lucy, when is the next bus.” (D.S.)
    He asked Lucy when the next bus was. (I.S.)
  8. “Is anyone there?” she asked. (D.S.)
    She asked if anyone was there. (I.S.)
  9. The mother said, “Lie down, David.” (D.S.)
    The mother asked David to lie down. (I.S.)
  10. He said, “Don’t move, boys.” (D.S.)
    He asked the boys not to move. (I.S.)
  11. He said, “Please say nothing about this.” (D.S.)
    He asked her to say nothing about that. (I.S.)
  12. The teacher has said to the pupils, “Sea-water is different from the river water.” (D.S.)
    The teacher has told the pupils that sea-water is different from river water. (I.S.)
  13. David answered, “The Mines are under the ground”. (D.S.)
    David answered that the Mines are under the ground. (I.S.)
  14. John said to his brother, “The U.N.O. is a world organisation”. (D.S.)
    John told his brother that the U.N.O. is a world organisation. (I.S.)
  15. The Science teacher told the class, “Ice floats on water.” (D.S.)
    The Science teacher told the class that ice floats on water(I.S.)



These people are saying these things. Report them, usingsays that.

  1. Paul: “Atlanta is a wonderful city.”
  2. Ruth: “I go jogging every morning.”
  3. Anna: “Jenny isn’t studying for her exams.”
  4. Andrew: “I used to be very fat.”
  5. Jim: “I can’t swim.”

People made these statements. Report them, usingsaid.

  1. “Mary works in a bank”, Jane said.
  2. “I’m staying with some friends”, Jim said.
  3. “I’ve never been to Russia”, Mike said.
  4. “Tom can’t use a computer”, Ella said.
  5. “Everybody must try to do their best”, Jill said.
  6. “Jane may move to a new flat”, Rachel said.
  7. “I’ll stay at home on Sunday”, Bill said.

Report what the guests said at a wedding last Sunday.

  1. Miss Moore: “They’ll make a lovely couple.”
  2. Mr Smith: “They’re going to live in Brighton.”
  3. Mrs Jones: “The bride and the groom are very nice young people.”
  4. Mr Roberts: “The bride is wearing a beautiful wedding dress.”
  5. Mr Clarke: “The couple’s parents look happy.”
  6. Miss Mayall: “The bride’s father has bought them a big flat.”

Change the following statements into the reported speech.

  1. “I have something to show you”, I said to her.
  2. “I’m going away tomorrow”, he said.
  3. “I’ve been in London for a month but I haven’t had time to visit the Tower”, said Rupert.
  4. “I’ll come with you as soon as I’m ready”, she replied.
  5. “We have a lift but very often it doesn’t work”, they said
  6. “I must go to the dentist tomorrow”, he said.
  7. “I found an old Roman coin in the garden yesterday and I am going to take it to the museum this afternoon”, he said.

Write these sentences in indirect speech.

  1. “I’m very tired”, she said.
  2. “I’ll see them soon”, he said.
  3. “I’m going to the cinema”, she said.
  4. “I see the children quite often”, he said.
  5. “I’m having a bath”, she said.
  6. “I’ve already met their parents”, she said.
  7. “I stayed in a hotel for a few weeks”, she said.
  8. “He must go home to make dinner”, he said.
  9. “I haven’t been waiting long”, she said.
  10. “I’m listening to the radio”, he said.
  11. “I’ll tell them the news on Saturday”, she said.
  12. “I like swimming, dancing and playing tennis”, he said.
  13. “I can drive”, she said.
  14. “I walked home after the party”, he said.
  15. “I’m going to be sick”, she said.
  16. “I must go out to post a letter”, he said.
  17. “I spoke to Jane last week”, she said.
  18. “I’m trying to listen to the music”, he said.
  19. “I’ll phone the office from the airport”, she said.
  20. “I can’t speak any foreign languages”, he said.

Write these sentences in indirect speech, changing words where necessary.

  1. “I’ll see you tomorrow”, she said.
  2. “I saw her today”, he said.
  3. “I don’t like this film”, she said.
  4. She said, “We went swimming today.”
  5. “I met her about three months ago”, he said.
  6. “I’ll see Mary on Sunday”, she said.
  7. “Pete and Sue are getting married tomorrow”, she said.
  8. “Stephen’s bringing some records to the party tomorrow”, she said.
  9. “I really like this furniture”, she said.
  10. “My parents are arriving tomorrow”, she said.
  11. “We visited her this morning” they said.
  12. “We’ll see her next summer” they said.
  13. “They were here three months ago”, he said.
  14. “I’m meeting them at four o’clock today”, he said.
  15. “I can see you tomorrow”, she said.


Report the police-officer’s questions to the shop owner.

  1. What’s your name?
  2. Did you see the robbers?
  3. What were they wearing?
  4. How do you think they got in?
  5. What did they take?
  6. Has this ever happened before?

Write these sentences as reported questions using the words given.

  1. “What’s your name?”, he asked. (Wanted to know)
  2. “Do you like Marlon Brandon?”, she asked.
  3. “How old are you?”, she said. (asked)
  4. “When does the train leave?”, I asked.
  5. “Are you enjoying yourself?”, he asked.
  6. “How are you?”, he said. (asked)
  7. “Does your father work here?”, she asked.
  8. “Do you live near your father?”, he asked.
  9. “Who did you see at the meeting?”, my mother asked.
  10. “Why did you take my wallet?”, he asked.
  11. “How did you get to school?”, she asked.
  12. “Are you a foreigner?”, she asked.
  13. “Where do you live?”, the boy asked.
  14. “Have you met Danny before?”, he asked.
  15. “Are you hungry?”, he asked.
  16. “Why wasn’t Judy at the party?”, she asked.
  17. “Why didn’t you telephone?”, my father asked.
  18. “Did you borrow my dictionary?”, he asked.
  19. “Why are you so late?”, the teacher asked.
  20. “Have you finished your exams?”, she asked.
  21. “Did you invite Judy and Mitch?”, he asked.
  22. “Does your brother live in London?”, she asked.
  23. “Why didn’t the police report the crime?”, the judge asked.
  24. “Do you know who broke the window?”, he asked.
  25. “Why you won’t let me in?” he shouted.

Rewrite these sentences in reported speech.

  1. “Make some coffee, Bob”, Carol said.(ask)
  2. “You must do the homework soon, Jane”, she said.(tell)
  3. “Remember to buy a map, Ann” he said.(remind)
  4. “You should see a doctor, Mrs Clark”, he said.(advise)
  5. “Keep all the windows closed, Bill” they said.(warn)
  6. “Go home, Paul”, Francis said.(tell)
  7. “Please stay for supper, Bob”, he said.(try to persuade)

Report the following sentences.

  1. “Don’t try to be funny.”
  2. “Wait here till I come.”
  3. “Go to bed and don’t get up till you’re called.”
  4. “Be a good girl and sit quietly for five minutes.”“Watch the milk and don’t let it boil over.”
  5. “Don’t take your coat off.”
  6. “Don’t forget to thank Mrs. Jones when you’re saying good bye to her.”
  7. “Stop that dog.”

Write the sentences in reported speech using the words given.

  1. “Sit down, Mary.” (he told)
  2. “Would you pass my suitcase?” (he asked)
  3. “Don’t go near the sea, children.” (the children’s mother warned)
  4. “Don’t be late, Tim.” (Tim’s father told)
  5. “Be quiet, children.” (The librarian told)
  6. “Have your tickets ready, please.” (the inspector told us)


Use the correct form of SAY and TELL in these sentences.

  1. She _______________________ me she didn’t agree.
  2. He _______________________ , “Have we met before?”
  3. I _______________________ them I wasn’t happy with their work.
  4. She smiled and _______________________ to me, “I’m very pleased to meet you.”
  5. She _______________________ me a story about her parents.
  6. He _______________________, “Are you feeling OK?”
  7. I didn’t hear. What did he _______________________?
  8. Could you _______________________ me the time, please?
  9. They _______________________ me they were going to a meeting.
  10. I _______________________ the police my address.
  11. I _______________________ I wanted to buy a magazine.
  12. He _______________________ he wasn’t interested in politics.
  13. Could you _______________________ me your name again?
  14. Do you think he is _______________________ the truth?
  15. Would you _______________________ him to come early tomorrow?
  16. If he _______________________ that again there’ll be trouble.
  17. I _______________________ them it was dangerous to swim here.
  18. Did you _______________________ anything to him about your problem at work?
  19. _______________________ me what happened.
  20. I think he is _______________________ lies.
  21. The policeman _______________________ the man was lying.
  22. Philip _______________________ it would probably rain tomorrow.
  23. Susan _______________________, “Let’s go out for dinner tonight.”
  24. Jim _______________________ me about the party last night.
  25. Our teacher _______________________ he was pleased with our work.
  26. Stop _______________________ lies!


Rewrite the sentences with the gerund or the infinitive in reported speech.

  1. “I’ll bring my CDs to the party.”

He promised to bring his CDs to the party.

  1. “Let’s go to the cinema tonight, shall we?

She suggested

  1. “Yes, I stole the wallet.”

He admitted

  1. “Be careful! The water is boiling.”

She warned us

  1. “You must apologize to your teacher.”

My father insisted (on)

12 Basic English Tenses



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