When we want to tell someone what another person said, we often use the verbs to say, to tell, to ask, to reply, to answer, to shout, to add and to remark. These are called reporting verbs. They are usually followed by that. However, we can omit that after most reporting verbs, but we usually don’t omit it after the reporting verbs to reply, to answer and to respond.
There is a difference between the reporting verbs to tell, to say and to ask:
1. say + (that) + clause
“I have already eaten.” - She said (that) she had already eaten.
2. tell + someone + (that) + clause
“I have already seen the new cartoon.” - I told him (that) I had seen the new cartoon.
The verb to tell normally takes an indirect object and a direct object (the reported clause = do). However, we use the verb to tell without an indirect object with words such as the truth, a lie, a joke, a story:
“I never tell a lie.” - He said (that) he never told a lie.
3. tell + someone + to-infinitive
“Go to bed.” - She told the children to go to bed.
4. ask + someone + if / question word + clause
“Can I leave early?” - I asked my teacher if I could leave early.
“Where is the station?” - She asked them where the station was.
5. ask + someone + to-infinitive (for requests)
“Can you pass me the salt, please?”- I asked Lucy to pass me the salt.
We can also use other reporting verbs. Many reporting verbs can be followed by another verb as a to-infinitive or an -ing form.
1. Reporting verbs + a to-infinitive
The verbs to advise, to agree, to challenge, to decide, to plan, to expect, to invite, to persuade, to claim, to encourage, to demand, to refuse, to offer, to promise, to remind etc. are followed by a to-infinitive.
“I'll do the report by Tuesday.” - She promised to finish the report by Tuesday.
“It's not a good idea to cheat during exams.” - They advised us not to cheat during exams.
“I'm sorry, but I'm not going to lie to you.” - She refused to lie to him.
We can also use such reporting verbs as to tell, to direct, to order, to instruct and to warn to report imperatives. These verbs are also followed by a to-infinitive.
“Please wait for me in the classroom.” - The teacher told us to wait for her in the classroom.
“Don't go in there!” - The professor warned us not to go in there.
“Pay the fine within the next ten days.” - The judge ordered the woman to pay the fine within the next ten days.
There are some different patterns that must be taken into consideration:
1) reporting verb + a to-infinitive (e.g. to propose, to guarantee, to agree, to demand, to vow, to threaten, to volunteer, to offer)
2) reporting verb + (object) + (not) + a to-infinitive (e.g. to want (sb) (not) to do sth, to expect, to ask, to beg
3) reporting verb + object + (not) + a to-infinitive (e.g. to warn (sb) (not) to do sth, to tell, to remind, to request, to advise, to invite, to instruct, to challenge, to permit, to persuade, to implore, to urge, to force, to compel, to order, to allow, to forbid)
4) reporting verb + object + (a to-infinitive) (e.g. to expect sb (to do sth), to believe, to understand, to think, to suppose, to declare, to consider, to feel, to presume, to assume, to acknowledge)
2. Reporting verbs + an -ing form
The verbs like to admit, to deny, to insist on, to apologise for, to complain about, to mention, to suggest etc. are followed by an -ing form.
“I broke the vase.” - She admitted breaking the vase.
“Let's have a nap.” - She suggested having a nap.
“Excuse me, but there aren't any clean towels in the room.” - They complained about not having any clean towels in the room.
There are also several other pattens that must be taken into consideration:
1) reporting verb + -ing form (e.g. to suggest, to report, to deny, to admit, to apologize for, to mention, to propose, to regret, to decide on, to recommend)
2) reporting verb + object + preposition + -ing form (e.g. to thank (sb) for, to accuse (sb) for, to congratulate (sb) on, to blame (sb) for)
3. It is important to remember that, when we report a negative statement, we usually make the verb within the reported statement negative:
“I haven’t finished the project yet.” - He said that he hadn’t finished the project yet.
However, with the verbs to think, to plan, to intent, to expect etc., the reporting verbs become negative:
“They won’t help you.” - They didn’t expect that they would help us.
4. We can use the reporting verbs to think, to imagine, to dream, to decide, etc., to report our thoughts:
I have never imagined that a war would start in this century.
I have always dreamt about living abroad.