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Reporting verbs with 'that', 'wh-' and 'if' clauses

Level: intermediate

Reporting verbs with that clauses

When we want to report what people say or think, we can use a reporting verb and 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.

These verbs have the pattern:

Noun + Verb + (that) + Clause

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:

Noun + Verb + Noun + (that) + Clause

Reporting verbs with wh- and if clauses

Some reporting verbs introduce a wh- clause or an if clause:

She explained what we had to do.
I didn't know where to go.

He asked if I was ready.
I wonder if they're at home.

These verbs have the pattern:

Noun + Verb + wh- word + Clause

or

Noun + Verb + if + Clause

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

He told me what I had to do.
He asked them if they were ready.

These verbs have the pattern:

Noun + Verb + Noun + wh- word + Clause

or

Noun + Verb + Noun + if + Clause

Reporting verbs 1

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Reporting verbs 2

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Comments

Hello. I'm confused about the answers of this MCQ question. Why?
- "I asked if Tom was at home." Who is the possible addressee?
(a- Tom b- Someone else c- a & b)
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

Though I don't know the context, I would imagine that the answer is 'someone else'. After all, if you are speaking to Tom then you don't need to ask if he is at home, so the question would make no sense.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Could you please help me? I think all of the choices are correct, right? What are the differences?
"I must leave tomorrow."- He said that he ((had to - must - would have to - will have to) tomorrow.
Thank you so much.

Hi Ahmed Imam,

Yes, I agree :) I think all the options work. Two of them (had to / would have to) are the backshifted verb forms that are normally used in reported speech. But the other two options (must / will have to) are also correct, because the reported speech sentence includes tomorrow.

I don't find any major difference in meaning between the four options, only that the forms with have/had to leave are more likely to mean an externally imposed obligation (i.e. somebody or something is forcing him to leave), while he must leave could be an external or an internal obligation (i.e. leaving is his own personal choice; he wasn't forced to do it).

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. Another question please. Could you help me choose the correct answer? Why?
Tom asked me where (I had gone - I went) the day before.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

Both of these are used, but I'd recommend the 'had gone' form.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. Could you please help me to correctly change the following sentence into reported speech?
- Tom said to me,"While I was cooking, I burnt myself."
I tried the following but I am not sure.
1- Tom told me that while he was cooking, he burnt himself.
2- Tom told me that while he had been cooking, he burnt himself.
3- Tom told me that while he had been cooking, he had burnt himself.
4- Tom told me that while he was cooking, he had burnt himself.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

I'd recommend the first sentence for most situations. The fourth one's also correct, though I think it'd be more natural to switch the order of the clauses: 'Tom told me that he'd burnt himself while he was cooking.'

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

I'm curious about the method to decide the tense of a subordinate clause(not only a noun clause but also an adjective clause and an adverb clause).

I'll give an example exercise right below.

He majored in physics in college. And also, Emma told me yesterday that he (had also majored/also majored) in philosophy in college.

I'm curious about whether I can link the tense of a subordinate clause with not only the main clause of it, but also a totally different sentence if only what time I'm talking about is obvious.

Hello Kim Hui-jeong,

Generally, we do not need to backshift the verb in reported speech when the facts described have not changed between the time of the original speech and the time when it is reported. It is not wrong to shift the tense back, but it is not necessary. However, if the facts have changed then shifting the tense back is used to indicate this. For example:

"I love you."

> She said she loves me. [she loved me then and she still that loves me now]

> She said she loved me. [she loved me then; it is not clear from the sentence if she still loves me now]

 

In your example, the fact cannot have changed, so both options are possible.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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