You are here

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

ReorderingHorizontal_MTY1NDc=

Reporting verbs 2

GapFillTyping_MTY1NTA=

Comments

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

Hello there,

Jeff has answered his wife’s demand that he ____ full confession of his errors and offenses.

A) made
B) makes
C) make
D) has made

Would you be kind enough to explain the grammar rule applied in this case? Or are there references I can look up for this kind of sentence patterns? Thank you in advance.

Hello kiwikiss0319,

The verb demand follows this pattern:

demand (that) sb do sth

In this pattern, do is the bare form of the verb. It is actually the present subjunctive form:

She demands that he go now.

The police are demanding that she give them the passcode to her phone.

In your example demand is a noun but the construction remains the same.

 

If the action is in the past then the past subjunctive is used:

She demanded that he went immediately.

The police were demanding that she gave them the passcode to her phone.

 

Other verbs which follow this pattern include insist, suggest, recommend and propose. As you can see, many verbs like this have a similar meaning.

You can read more about the subjunctive in English here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_subjunctive

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. Is the following sentence correct using "if" or it must be "whether" instead.
- The teacher asked me if I visited France or not.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam

'if' and 'whether' are both correct here.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. Could you help me? Which verb form is correct?
He asked me just now if I will watch the football match at the stadium.
He asked me just now if I would watch the football match at the stadium.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

Both forms are possible. In reported speech (including reported questions) there is often a tense shift backwards, which would make 'Will you watch...' into '...if I would watch...'. However, the shift is not always necessary. If the event (the match) has not yet taken place then will is also possible. There is no difference in meaning in this case.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. Are the two sentences correct?
- Jana has just told Hana that they are going to their friend's party tonight.
- Jana has just told Hana that they were going to their friend's party tonight.
I am confused when the reporting verb is: "has just told", "said a moment ago".
I think we must not backshift the tense with these statements.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam

The first sentence is correct, but the second one is not. If you changed 'has just told' to 'just told', then it would be correct, especially in American English, where it's very common to use the past simple with 'just' to refer to a very recent past.

Please note that you might hear a sentence like the second one in informal speaking from time to time, but it is not a standard form.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Pages