Reported speech and reporting verbs

You will need to know the rules for reporting speech (statements and questions) as well as the patterns following reporting verbs (e.g. "apologise for doing something"). If you need more information about these rules, look at my lessons for reported speech, and reporting verbs.

Reported speech

"I want to be a doctor," said Tom.
→ Tom told me (that) he wanted to be a doctor.
→ Tom said (that) he wanted to be a doctor.

"Will you help me," she asked.
→ She asked (me) if I would help her.
→ She wondered if I would help her.

Note the difference between "say" and "tell". We say something, but we tell someone something.

Verbs which are similar to "say" are:

mention, explain, point out, agree, promise, threaten, pretend, claim, recommend, suggest, admit, deny, boast, complain, insist, propose, reply

Verbs which are similar to '"tell" are:

promise him, advise him, warn him, remind him


Reporting verbs

Here are some common reporting verbs with the patterns which follow them. You should learn and remember these. (good luck - there are a lot!!!)

I offered to do it (verb + to do)

  • Other similar verbs are agreed, refused, promised, threatened, pretended, and claimed.
  • This pattern is common with verbs which mean "I'll do it!". Here, the person who is speaking does the action.
  • Note that "claimed" is usually used with a perfect infinitive ("He claimed to have lost his phone").

I ordered him to do it (verb + person + to do)

  • Other similar verbs are told, asked, begged, advised, reminded, persuaded, encouraged, warned, and invited.
  • This pattern is common with verbs which mean "You do it!". Here, the person who is listening does the action. 
  • Note that "warn" is usually used with a negative. ("I warned him not to go.")

I suggested going out for dinner (subject + verb-ing). 

  • Other similar verbs are admitted, denied, and recommended. 
  • A lot of students make mistakes with suggest and recommend so make sure you learn these.

Finally, there are a lot of reporting verbs which use prepositions. Again, you have to remember all these patterns.

  • I blamed him for doing it.
  • I confessed to doing it.
  • I accused him of doing it.
  • I apologised for doing it.
  • I congratulated him on doing it.
  • I insisted on doing it.

Practice 1: Key transformations.

Rewrite each of these sentences so they have the same meaning as the first. Use between 2 and 5 words, and do not change the word in brackets.

  1. "Can you open the window?" asked Sarah.
    Sarah open the window. (I)
  2. "If you remind me, I'll help," said Sam.
    Sam said that he him. (reminded)
  3. "I'm sorry I broke your computer," said Frank.
    Frank my computer. (for)
  4. "Don't forget to do your homework tonight," said the teacher.
    The teacher homework. (us)
  5. "It was Andy who stole the money," said Mary.
    Mary the money. (of)

Practice 2: multiple choice cloze

This grammar might also appear in part 1 of Use of English (multiple choice cloze).

  1. I ___ him for everything.
     accused    apologised    blamed    confessed
  2. I congratulated him ___ winning the competition.
     on    of    in    for
  3. I ___ him that we should go on holiday.
     suggested    told    explained    invited
  4. I ___ that I would never do it again.
     told    promised    refused    wondered
  5. I ___ that I would help him if he needed it.
     offered    persuaded    refused    agreed

Need some more practice? Try some more exercises for reported speech, reported questions and reporting verbs here.