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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



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,



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,

Q 4
Possibly the correct structure is
Do you think they'll come.

Hello LearnEnglishTeam,
I agree with Zoje Gabili Vhere is the "Wh-" in the 4. question. 

where is the v+n+(that)+clause in the sentence "do you think they`ll come" 
because i dont understand thanks

your welcome sir and thanks for your answer oops yeah i know about ' have to ' but didn't know about had to thanks once again .

sir , i have one conflict why you used first form of verb (see) with had.. cause i have read somewhere that we have to use verb's third form (past participle ) with have and had ( past perfect and past continuous )

Hello Jas,
Firstly, thanks for your very nice words about LearnEnglish in your other comment.
I think you're talking about the sentence 'He said that I had to see a doctor.' You're right that when we use 'have' or 'had' to make a verb form, we usually use the past participle or third form of the main verb. However, in this sentence we're not using 'have', we are using 'have to'! They are very different.
Have to has a similar meaning to must and is followed by the bare infinitive. You can read more about 'have to' in our grammar section.
Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

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