reporting verbs with that, wh- and if clauses

 

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.

or

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.

or

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

Comments

Dear Teachers,
Could you please clear my doubts on mixed conditionals and subjunctive mood.Here are the following examples:
Mixed conditions :

  1. If I had passed the medical exam,I would be a doctor today.
  2. If you passed the medical exam,you would have attained a physician's position.

Could you please clarify what we are trying to express by using mixed conditionals.
Subjunctive mood

  1. Had I known about the construction work on the road, I would have opted an alternative route.
  2. Were I a millionaire,I would set up a small business.

Are these correct subjunctive mood examples?
Would you tell me what we are trying to express by using this subjunctive mood.
Best wishes,
Livon
 

Hello Livon,

Mixed conditions are conditional sentences in which there is a different time reference in each clause (past and present, for example); however, both clauses must agree in terms of being about real or hypothetical situations.  When we apply this to your examples we can see that one sentence is fine, but the other is incorrect.

If I had passed the medical exam [unreal, past time], I would be a doctor today [unreal, present time]. - this sentence is fine


There is a problem with the second sentence.  The second part ('you would have attained') refers to unreal past time: something that did not happen in the past.  However the first part ('If you passed') can have two meanings in conditional sentences: unreal future time (as in a second conditional) or real past time.  Neither of these can be used with the second part as there must be agreement (both real or both unreal) and there must be a logical chronological sequence (the condition must precede the result).  For the sentence to work we need to change one of the verb forms:

If you had passed the medical exam (unreal past time), you would have attained a physician's position (unreal past time).

If you passed the medical exam (unreal future time), you would attain a physician's position (unreal future time).

If you had passed the medical exam (unreal past time), you would attain a physician's position (unreal present/future time).

If you passed the medical exam (real past time), you attained a physician's position (real past time).

Your second pair of sentences are both correct, though 'opt' should be followed by 'for'.  They are both alternatives to conditional forms with 'if': 'If I had known...' and 'If I were...' respectively.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Teachers,
Please reply my queries as these are quite important to me .
I would be very thankful to you.
Best wishes,
Livon
 

Hello Livon,

I'm sure your queries are important to you; however, I'm equally sure that the queries of all our other users are no less important to them.  We reply to queries are quickly as we can, even in holiday periods (as you can see, as I have replied to several of your questions this morning), but some questions take much longer to reply to than others.  If a question is effectively asking for an online grammar lesson, as many of yours are, then it will be answered when time allows, whereas a briefer, more to the point question will be answered much more promptly.  Simply put, if I or my colleagues have an hour to deal with questions and we have the choice of answering one or two long and complex questions or answering fifteen brief and direct questions then we will choose the latter because I would rather one user waited a little longer rather than fifteen users.  

Our primary role in answering questions is to help users to understand the material on the site and direct them to materials which will be of most use to them, not to be online teachers.  We do not mind these kinds of questions, but they have a high time cost for us and we cannot allow a backlog of other questions from other users to build up, which is why, generally speaking, the longer, most general or the more involved the question is, the longer it will take to get a reply and the more patient you will need to be.

I hope that is clear for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Pete,
 I appreciate your response. Please keep up the good work.
Best wishes,
Livon

Dear Pete, 
Could you answer the second part of my query.
why do we use inverse mood in conditionals?
Best wishes,
Livon

Hi Livon,

The subjunctive mood is used to talk about unreal situations, which is exactly what is expressed in many (though not all) conditional sentences. In the sentences you gave, an unreal situation is indeed talked about, and therefore the subjunctive is used.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear sir,
I've been looking for the rule without finding it. I know there is no change in reported statements when the reporting verbs are in the present, but what happens with reported questions?
I'm concerned with reporting verbs + if clauses referring to the future.
Is it correct to use 'will'? Ex. She's asking if he'll come to the party
Is there a difference between that use and 'wonder if + will'?
Ex. I wonder if I'll ever see you again (Lenny Kraviz)
I'd really appreciate that!

Hello Trinitysesto,

'She's asking if he will come to the party' is correct; 'will' is perfectly acceptable here to describe an event which has not yet taken place, and it would also be acceptable to use 'will' with a past tense reporting verb, provided the even which it describes has not yet taken place (e.g. 'She asked if he'll come to the party' if fine, as is 'She asked if he'd come to the party').

Obviously 'wonder' has a particular meaning (speculate to yourself).  Here, 'wonder + will' is fine, as is 'wondered + would'.  The combination 'wondered + will' is very unlikely as the past form of 'wonder' suggests that the person is no longer wondering - that the second part has already been determined, and so the speculation is over and 'will' is logically difficult.

That's quite a complicated answer, I'm afraid, but it's a nuanced part of the language which is hard to summarise in just a few words.  I hope my answer helps to clarify it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Ok, so reported questions tenses follow the rule of reported statements sentences. I was just not comfortable with using 'will' after 'if'.
Thank you very much,
Cristina

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