Reporting verb is the verb which reports the speech.
- She said, “I am fine.” (Reporting verb: said)
- He asked, “Can I have more of that cheese?” (Reporting verb: asked)
- She says, “I am going.” (Reporting verb: says)
Said is preferred when there is no object.
- He said that he was fine.
Tell/told is used when you say who is/was being spoken to.
- He told me that he was fine.
We use talk and speak when we are referring to the action of communicating.
- He talked to us.
- She was speaking on the telephone.
- He said, “I will pay you the money tomorrow.”
- He promised to pay me the money the next day.
- He promised that he would pay me the money the next day.
Other verbs used to report hopes, intentions, and promises include: hope, propose, threaten, guarantee and swear.
- “I will be back by lunch time,” he said.
- He promised to be back by lunchtime.
- He promised that he would be back by lunchtime.
- “We would arrive in London before nightfall,” they said.
- They hoped to arrive in London before nightfall.
- They hoped that they would arrive in London before nightfall.
- “Give me the money or I will shoot you.”
- He threatened to shoot me if I didn’t give him the money.
- He threatened that he would shoot me if I didn’t give him the money.
Verbs that can be followed by either a that-clause or a to-infinitive include: decide, expect, guarantee, hope, promise, swear, and threaten.
In reported questions the subject normally comes before the verb. It is not necessary to use do or did. Question marks are not used in reported questions.
- He said, “When are you leaving?”
- He asked me when I was leaving. (NOT When was I leaving?)
- I said, “Where are you staying?”
- I asked her where she was staying.
- “Where does John live?” she asked me.
- She asked me where John lived.
- John asked, “Where did you go last weekend?”
- John asked where I had gone the previous weekend.
- He asked, “Why are you staring at me?”
- He asked me why I was staring at him.
Yes/No questions are reported with if/whether.
- “Do you speak English,” she asked him.
- She asked him if he spoke English.
- “Are you British or French?” they asked me.
- They asked me whether I was British or French.
- “Did you come by train?” she enquired.
- She enquired if I had come by train.
We do not normally use say or tell in reported questions.
Wh-questions are reported by using ask (or another verb like ask) + question word + clause. We use normal word order.
- “What is your name?” he asked me.
- He asked what my name was.
- “How old is your mother?” he asked her.
- He asked her how old her mother was.
When we report questions constructed with who/what/which + be + complement, be can be put before or after the complement.
- She asked, “Who is the best player here?”
- She asked me who the best player was.
- She asked me who was the best player.
- He asked, “What is the matter?”
- He asked what the matter was.
- He asked what was the matter.
Reporting orders, requests and advice
To report orders, requests and suggestions, we normally use a reporting verb like tell with (object) + to infinitive.
- “Be careful,” I told him.
- I told him to be careful.
- “Go away,” he said.
- He told me to go away.
- “Call the first witness,” said the judge.
- The judge ordered them to call the first witness.
- She told him, “Please wait here till I return.”
- She requested him to wait there till she returned.
- “Stop smoking,” the doctor said.
- The doctor told me to stop smoking.
- The stranger said to me, “Please help me.”
- The stranger requested me to help him.
- The clerk said to the officer, “Kindly grant me leave for two days.”
- The clerk requested the officer to grant him leave for two days.
- The teacher said to the students, “Work hard.”
- The teacher advised the students to work hard.
- I said to the child, “Do not look down into the well.”
- I warned the child not to look down into the well.
- The doctor said to the patient, “Please come in.”
- The doctor allowed (or asked) the patient to come in.
Requests for objects are reported using the structure ask + for + object.
- She asked, “Can I have an apple?”
- She asked for an apple.
- “Sugar, please,” she said.
- She asked for sugar.
Other verbs used in this way include: command, order, warn, ask, advise, invite, beg, teach and forbid.
Verbs that can be followed by object + to-infinitive include: advise, ask, beg, command, forbid, instruct, invite, teach, tell and warn.
Suggestions are normally reported with a that-clause. That and should are optional and can be left out.
- “You should consult a doctor,” she said.
- She suggested that I should consult a doctor.
- She suggested I consult a doctor.
Note that suggest cannot be followed by a to-infinitive. However, it can be followed by an -ing form.
- My mother suggested seeing a dentist.
Other reporting verbs used this way are: insist, recommend, demand, request and propose.
- The dentist said, “I think you should change your toothpaste.”
- The dentist recommended that I should change my toothpaste.