Reporting Verbs for English Language Learners

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Reporting verbs are verbs that serve to report what someone else has said. Reporting verbs are different than the reported speech in that they are used to paraphrase what someone has said. Reported speech is used when reporting exactly what someone has said. To do this, use 'say' and 'tell'.

John told me he was going to stay late at work.
Jennifer told Peter she had lived in Berlin for ten years.

Peter said he wanted to visit his parents that weekend.
My friend said he would finish his work soon.

Other verbs used with reported speech include 'mention' and 'comment'. Here are some examples:

Tom mentioned he enjoyed playing tennis.
Alice mentioned she could take care of the kids this weekend.

The teacher commented the students weren't getting their homework done on time.
The man commented he felt tired after such a long journey.

When using reported speech, change the verb used by the original speaker to match your usage. In other words, if you report using 'said,' you need to move everything back one step into the past. There are also pronoun changes and time cue changes that need to be made as appropriate in reported speech. 

"I like playing tennis." - Tom mentioned he liked playing tennis. 
"I have lived in Berlin for ten years." - Jennifer told Peter she had lived in Berlin for ten years. 

Say and tell are the most common reporting verbs used to report what others have said. However, there are a number of other reporting verbs which can more accurately describe what someone has said. These verbs take a variety of structures that differ from reported speech. For example:

Original Statement

I will come to your party. I promise.

Reported Speech

He said he would come to my party.

Reporting Verb

He promised to come to my party.

In this example, reported speech changes the original verb to 'would' as well as changing the possessive pronoun 'your' to 'my'. In contrast, the reporting verb 'promise' is simply followed by the infinitive. There are a number of formulas used with reporting verbs. Use the chart below to identify the structure required. 

The following list gives you reporting verbs in various categories based on sentence structure. Note that a number of verbs can take more than one form.

verb object infinitive verb infinitive verb (that) verb gerund verb object preposition gerund verb preposition gerund

Jack encouraged me to look for a new job.

They invited all their friends to attend the presentation.

Bob warned his friend not to open the can of worms.

I advised the students to study carefully for the test.

She offered to give him a lift to work.

My brother refused to take no for an answer.

Mary decided to attend university.

He threatened to sue the company.

Tom admitted (that) he had tried to leave early.

She agreed (that) we needed to reconsider our plans.

The teacher insisted that he didn't give enough homework.

Our manager suggested we take some time off work.

He denied having anything to do with her.

Ken suggested studying early in the morning.

Alice recommends playing golf in Bend, Oregon.

They accused the boys of cheating on the exam.

She blamed her husband for missing the train.

The mother congratulated her daughter on graduating from college.

He apologized for being late.

She insisted on doing the washing up.

Peter apologized for interrupting the meeting.

For more information on reported speech, this overview of reported speech provides a guide on which transformations are required to use the form. Practice using this form with the reported speech worksheet  that provides a quick review and exercise. There's also a reported speech quiz which provides immediate feedback on correct or incorrect answers. Teachers can use this guide on how to teach reported speech for help introducing the reported speech, as well as a reported speech lesson plan and other resources.

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Beare, Kenneth. "Reporting Verbs for English Language Learners." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Beare, Kenneth. (2020, August 26). Reporting Verbs for English Language Learners. Retrieved from Beare, Kenneth. "Reporting Verbs for English Language Learners." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 28, 2023).