Reporting verbs with that clauses:

Some verbs introduce a report, an idea or a summary. These verbs have the pattern:

N + V + (that) + clause

When we want to say what someone says or thinks we can use a clause with that;

He said that I had to see a doctor.
I thought that he was being silly.

We can leave out the word that:

He said I had to see a doctor.
I thought he was being silly.

With some verbs we can mention the hearer as the object of the verb:

She reminded him that it was time to go.
He told me he was a friend of yours.

These verbs have the pattern;

N + V + N + (that) + clause.

Reporting verbs with wh- and if clauses

Some verbs introduce summaries, reports, questions or problems:

She explained what we had to do.
He asked if I was ready
I didn’t know what to do.

These verbs have the pattern:

N + V + wh- + clause:
She wondered where she was.


N + V + if + clause:
Ken asked if we wanted to go.

With some verbs we can mention the hearer as the object of the verb:

She asked me if I was ready.
He told me what I had to do.

These verbs have the pattern:

N + V + N + wh- + clause:
I told them what he was doing.


N + V + N + if + clause:
Ken asked us if we wanted to go.






''I thought John would go to Paris.''
If it is still true that John is going to Paris, should I change would to will or present continuous?

Does changing aspects in all of that clauses work in the same way(present to past, past to past perfect ...)? For example,
if I say

''She said John needed something.''

I don't know whether it refers to past or present because we change aspect from present to past simple. ''She'' reports John's words(I need something) and refers to time of John's speaking.

''I knew I needed something.''

Here we could say ''I'' reports I's thoughts(I need something) to himself and I don't know either if needing refers to past or present.

''I knew I had needed something.''

''I'' reports(I needed something) and refers to the past of the past.

Correct me please if I am wrong.

Thank you.

Hello JamlMakav,

It's great that you've noticed that the time referred to in the subordinate clauses of sentences with reported indirect speech is ambiguous. As you say, in a sentence like 'She said John needed something', it's not clear whether John's need was only in the past or was in the past and present, or is only in the present. There is no way to know from the sentence itself. Sometimes the context (i.e. sentences before) will make it clear, but sometimes you have to guess or ask the person a question to find out.

This is especially true of stative verbs like 'need', 'know', 'want', etc., as they are used less often in some verb tenses (e.g. the past continuous) since they often describe actions that last for some time. 'I knew I had needed' is correct, though 'I knew I needed' is probably more common, unless the need was really in a past time and no longer relevant at the time of knowing.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

(He told me he was a friend of yours.) this is the original sentence from this lesson.

my question is can i use "that" with clause here.

"he told me that he was a friend of yours." are the sentence grammatically correct

"He said that I had to see a doctor."


Hello taj25,

The 'had' here is the past form of 'have to', which shows obligation in a similar way to 'must'. It is followed by an infinitive form which does not change. Thus we say:

I had to see a doctor (past time)

I have to see a doctor (present time)

I will have to see a doctor (future time)


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Can i use wh -clause after preposition. ?
E.g Tell me about where you live .
It depens on how much there traffic is.

Hello khitnay,

Yes, it is possible for a wh-clause to be the object of a preposition. There's an example in milad999's comment on our wh-clauses page, plus an explanation of it in Peter's answer just below.

Both of your example sentences are also good examples (and are correct).

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank You Mr.Kirk for clarifying the points I raised in this forum.Actually these doubts were lingering in my mind for so long without getting a clear and precise answer. In my opinion (as a foreign learner of English language) prepositions and verbs used transitively and intransitively are the most difficult to master. I follow three Advanced learner's dictionaries ,Oxford,Longman and Collins Cobuild. Among the three dictionaries I have mentioned Oxford Advanced Learners dictionary gives grammatical patterns such as "somebody something" for example - give somebody something or "something to somebody" for example - give something to somebody. In such verbs if "somebody something" pattern is not given is it possible make meaningful sentences by using those verbs succeeded by the preposition 'to' when the object of the verb is a person. For example finally I revealed to her the truth.Almost similar issue was answered in one of my earlier postings, however I have been persisting with it just to reinforce my understanding.
With regards
Syam kumar

Hello language experts
Is it correct to surmise that transitive verbs take a direct object,without preceded by a preposition,for example I enjoyed the dinner or I advised him to be punctual and intransitive verbs take an object preceded by a preposition,for example he consented to our proposal, I opted for a short break or she stared at me. Secondly is it possible to use a transitive verb without an object/noun to form a meaningful sentence and is it possible to use a intransitive without an object preceded by a preposition to form a meaningful sentence ,for example- finally he relented or water receded or she smiled. Is my comprehension about transitive verbs and intransitive verbs correct?

Hello Syam,

That's an interesting idea, but I'm afraid that the presence of absence of a preposition or other particle after a verb is not a reliable indication of whether it is transitive or intransitive. If you look at a dictionary of phrasal verbs, all of which are a verb + some kind of particle, you'll see they are both transitive and intransitive. A verb or phrasal verb is transitive or intransitive depending on how it is used, which is simply a convention. This means that there is no way to tell which kind of verb it is simply by examining its form.

As for your second question, normally transitive verbs must always have an object. There are probably some exceptions to this, but in general they always need an object. Intransitive verbs don't take an object, so it's of course normal to use them without one, as in the examples you wrote.

I hope this helps clarify things a bit for you.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team