Reported speech: reporting verbs

Reported speech: reporting verbs

Do you know how to tell someone what another person said using reporting verbs? Test what you know with interactive exercises and read the explanation to help you.

Look at these examples to see how reporting verbs are used.

direct speech: 'You should come, it's going to be a lot of fun,' she said.
indirect speech: She persuaded me to come.

direct speech: 'Wait here,' he said.
indirect speech: He told us to wait there.

direct speech: 'It wasn't me who finished the coffee,' he said.
indirect speech: He denied finishing the coffee.

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

Reported speech 3 – reporting verbs: 1

Grammar explanation

When we tell someone what another person said, we often use the verbs say, tell or ask. These are called 'reporting verbs'. However, we can also use other reporting verbs. Many reporting verbs can be followed by another verb in either an infinitive or an -ing form. 

Reporting verb + infinitive

Verbs like advise, agree, challenge, claim, decide, demand, encourage, invite, offer, persuade, promise, refuse and remind can follow an infinitive pattern.

'Let's see. I'll have the risotto, please.'
  • He decided to have the risotto.
'I'll do the report by Friday, for sure.'
  • She promised to do the report by Friday.
'It's not a good idea to write your passwords down.'
  • They advised us not to write our passwords down.

We can also use an infinitive to report imperatives, with a reporting verb like tell, order, instruct, direct or warn.

'Please wait for me in reception.'
  • The guide told us to wait for her in reception.
'Don't go in there!'
  • The police officer warned us not to go in there.

Reporting verb + -ing form

Verbs like admit, apologise for, complain about, deny, insist on, mention and suggest can follow an -ing form pattern.

'I broke the window.'
  • She admitted breaking the window.
'I'm really sorry I didn't get back to you sooner.'
  • He apologised for not getting back to me sooner.
'Let's take a break.'
  • She suggested taking a break.

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

Reported speech 3 – reporting verbs: 2

Language level

Average: 4 (35 votes)
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If you want to change it into indirect speech, the verb should be "are" or "were", depending on whether they are still waiting outside now, or not any more. --> He said that they are/were waiting outside. You can find more information about this on our Reported speech 1 page (linked).


LearnEnglish team

Submitted by VictoriaBeneva on Wed, 08/03/2023 - 07:20


Hello, would you please tell me if the following sentence in reported speech is correct? Maria said, "Angela had worked at this company bafore I came here."
Maria said that Angela had worked at that company before she had come there. Thank you in advance.

Hi VictoriaBeneva,

It looks mostly good. But I also suggest changing "came" (which refers to the place where the speaker is) to "went". Even better may be "before she (had) started working there", which seems clearer if you don't mind changing the wording of the original sentence a bit more. I think you can use either the past simple or past perfect for that verb.

I hope that helps.


LearnEnglish team

Submitted by ngoc.mai.mindfulness on Sun, 12/02/2023 - 10:38


May I have a question about backshift tense?

Holly played soccer and she said "My mom didn't like it at first, but she never missed a game now"
And they report this sentence: Holly explained that her mom didn't like it at first, but she never missed a game.
Why do they keep past simple for "didn't like" and not backshift the tense?

Hello ngoc.mai.mindfulness,

It's better to say 'Holly explained her mother hadn't liked it at first', but in informal speaking and writing we often use a past simple form instead of a past perfect form. 

We often use a past simple (1 'liked') instead of a past perfect (2 'had liked') when the action was true in the past (at the time the sentence in direct speech was spoken) and is still true in the present (at the time of the sentence in indirect speech). In the sentence you ask about, there was a change and so it's more confusing. This is why I think it would be better to say 'had liked'.

But informal speaking we sometimes take shortcuts. I don't know where this sentence came from, but that might be the reason for it here.

All the best,
LearnEnglish team

Hi Kirk,
I took this sentence from the book Oxford Discover Futures 3, Unit 8, published by Oxford. I was confused and asked some around me but they couldn't explain reasonably.

I don't know if they mistook the answer or not. I explained to my students that "hadn't liked" didn't sound naturally, so they used "didn't like" as the natural rule_ the most important thing in English. And they like --.-- .

Thanks for your answer.
Kind regards,

Hello ngoc.mai.mindfulness,

It can be difficult to give enough context to fully explain the choice of a verb tense, and often textbooks choose simpler explanations because more complex ones can be more confusing. I'm not sure if that's the case here or not, but this sort of thing is not at all uncommon.

Part of what's confusing for me is the word 'missed' in 'My mom didn't like it at first, but she never missed a game now'. I'd expect 'misses' there, because of the word 'now'. Perhaps that is an error in the book, or perhaps it's intended, but I think most of the time 'misses' would be the best form there. If that's what the direct speech is, then for the indirect I'd say 'Holly said that her mother hadn't liked/didn't like watching soccer at first, but that now she never misses a game' (either form would be OK though in more formal situations the past perfect is better).

Anyway, I hope that helps. It sounds to me as if you're making good choices in what you're teaching. Well done!

All the best,
LearnEnglish team

Hello Kirk Moore,

I'm so sorry for my mistake, the direct speech is "My mom didn't like it at first, but she never misses a game now".
And the answer the book gives me for the indirect speech "Holly explained that her mom didn't like it at first, but then she never missed a game".

Thanks for reminding me for "missed", and your help as well.
Kind regards,

Submitted by MayJane123 on Sun, 19/12/2021 - 10:12


I read a grammar book which tells that 'come' will be changed into 'go' in reported speech, and I am confused because of that. Could you please explain that to me?

Hi MayJane123,

I can't be sure but I guess the book imagines the speaker of the reported speech and the original speaker are in different places.

For example, imagine that my boss at work says "Come with me". Then later that day, I go home and I tell my family, using reported speech: "My boss told me to go with her". We can change "come" to "go" because I'm no longer in the office (i.e., the place where my boss said that to me).

The LearnEnglish Team