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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


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


Noun + Verb + Noun + if + Clause

Reporting verbs 1


Reporting verbs 2



Hi ihsan_qwerty,

There is no reason reported speech cannot be used in conversation. It depends entirely on what you are talking about and what you want to say.

YouTube is not an accredited school by any means. Remember that anyone can create a video and put it on the site, and make any claims they wish.



The LearnEnglish Team

In the sentence "He said that I had to see a doctor". "I" mean him or mean the reporter?
I concern about direct and indirect report.
Like I understood that he had to see a doctor or I myself had to see a doctor?
Thank you for your help!

Hello Nam Phan,

In this sentence the pronoun 'I' refers to the person who is reporting the words. To make it clearer, compare these two alternatives:

Paul said that I had to see a doctor. [The person telling us this is sick]

Paul said that he had to see a doctor. [Paul is sick]


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Yes, you are right: I realised I didn't put an "s" as soon as I sent the message... Sorry!
Thank u very much Peter. Yr explanation has been most useful!

Hi there, I've found the following sentence in a book I'm reading: She had suggested that we leave the train--- is it correct? Wouldn't be better "She had suggested that we left the train--- ?
In an English grammar book I see that the sentence "The minister proposed regular meeting for the committee" can be changed in "The minister proposed that the committee should meet regularly", using the word "meet'. Would it also be right if I used "meet" as it follows: "The minister proposed the committee to meet regularly"? Thank you very much for yr help.

Hello mariaidabertocchi,

After 'suggest' we generally use the subjunctive form, which is the base form of the verb (without -ed, without the third-person 's' etc.). For example:

I suggested that he leave.

I'll suggest that we go there next week.

There are other verbs which work in the same way, such as 'insist' and 'request'.

The subjunctive is a lot less common than it was in the past in English and is slowly disappearing, so you can now find examples of the present simple or past simple replacing it. It would not be wrong to use 'left' in your example for this reason. It is an example of the language changing.

I think you may have made a mistake in copying the sentence from your grammar book, as an article or a plural form is necessary:


The minister proposed a regular meeting for the committee.


The minister proposed regular meetings for the committee.


The minister proposed that the committee should meet regularly.

is fine as an alternative. However, your version is not correct. You could say:

The minister proposed that the committee meet regularly.

which uses a subjunctive form.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Can I put the word "that" in this sentence below?
He told me "THAT" he was a friend of yours.
Thanks in advance.

Hello Ricardo,

Yes, you can use the word 'that' here or you can omit it -- both are correct. People tend to leave it out when speaking, and often in writing as well, but there is nothing wrong with using it.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team


''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