Reporting Verb Grammar Term

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

reporting verbs
Examples of reporting verbs in English.

In English grammar, a reporting verb is a verb (such as say, tell, believe, reply, respond, ask) used to indicate that discourse is being quoted or paraphrased. Also called a communication verb.

A reporting verb may be in the historical present tense (to refer to an event that took place in the past) or the literary present tense (to refer to any aspect of a work of literature).

If the identity of a speaker is clear from the context, the reporting phrase is often omitted.

Examples and Observations

  • "'Of course he can shoot you,' Madame Wing says, and then she says to Nick, 'Aim at the knees.'"
    (Timothy Hallinan, A Nail Through the Heart. Harper, 2008)
  • Describing his own career, Samuel Goldwyn supposedly said, "I was always an independent, even when I had partners."
  • "I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, 'Where's the self-help section?' She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose."
    (George Carlin)
  • "'Maybe she's just worried,' Boney observed solemnly. 'She's had a lot of reason to be worried about you, old fellow.'"
    (Ken Kesey, Sometimes a Great Notion, 1964)
  • "The following example shows how reporters attempt to maintain the causal relationship or order of reported events:
    The man on the right talks about, ah excuse me, the man on the left mentions that he had ah contemplated buying a muffin but he said he didn't feel well, and the man on the right says he also did not feel well but decided to buy the muffins anyways.
    The tenses of the reporting verbs (which are [italicized]) alternate between present and past in this example."
    (Tomoko I. Sakita, Reporting Discourse, Tense, and Cognition. Emerald Group, 2002)

    Reporting Verbs With Paraphrases

    • "[T]he number of reporting verbs that can be employed to mark paraphrases is around a dozen, and they can be learned with relative ease while working on a writing assignment (e.g., the author says, states, indicates, comments, notes, observes, believes, points out, emphasizes, advocates, reports, concludes, underscores, mentions, finds), not to mention phrases with similar textual functions such as according to the author, as the author states/indicates, in the author's view/opinion/understanding, or as noted/stated/mentioned." (Eli Hinkel, Teaching Academic ESL Writing. Routledge, 2004)
    • "The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But said is far less intrusive than grumbled, gasped, cautioned, lied. I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with 'she asseverated,' and had to stop reading to get the dictionary."
      (Elmore Leonard, "Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle." The New York Times, July 16, 2001)
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    Your Citation
    Nordquist, Richard. "Reporting Verb Grammar Term." ThoughtCo, Apr. 2, 2017, Nordquist, Richard. (2017, April 2). Reporting Verb Grammar Term. Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "Reporting Verb Grammar Term." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 22, 2018).