Often we report what people said or thought in the past using reporting verbs. When we do this, what the other person actually thought or said usually changes one tense further back:
|Is doing||Was doing|
|Will do||Would do|
|Has done||Had done|
|Simple present||Simple past|
|Present continuous||Past continuous|
|Future||Would + infinitive|
|Simple past||Past perfect|
|Present perfect||Past perfect|
Most frequently used reporting verbs:
1. Say: it is not followed by an object
e.g.: He said he was French. (he said me – is incorrect)
2. Tell: it is followed by an indirect object
e.g.: He told me he was French. (he told he was – is incorrect)
In certain cases ( e.g.: when reporting general facts or very recent speech) no tense change is necessary:
Our teacher told us that penguins live in Antarctica.
He said he will be there by 10 o’clock tonight.
If the reporting verb is in a past tense, modals change where there is a “past” equivalent.
Will -> Would, Can-> Could, May-> Might
Could, would, might do not change.
Must can be reported as either had to or remain as must.
Most useful categories of reporting verbs:
1. Verbs followed by THAT + CLAUSE (with * can be followed by a person):
add, admit, agree, announce, argue, believe, claim, complain, confirm, consider, decide, deny, doubt, estimate, expect *, explain, feel, hope, imply, insist, mean, mention, object, persuade, predict, promise *, reassure *, reckon, remark, repeat, reply, report *, say, state, suggest, suppose, tell *, think, threaten *, warn *
2. Verbs followed by PERSON + TO
advise, ask, forbid, instruct, invite, order, persuade, remind, tell, warn
Verbs which can be impersonal with IT
The speaker may not want to take personal responsibility for a statement, or may be reporting the views of a group of people. These verbs can be used in the passive, introduced by IT.
E.g.: It has been agreed to close most of the coal mines.
Agree, announce, believe, claim, confirm, consider, decide, estimate, expect, fear, feel, hope, imply, know, predict, reckon, recommend, report, rumour, say, state, suggest, suppose, think
Many verbs describe a function, rather than report words
e.g.: Look, if I were you, I’d leave early. ->She advised me to leave early.
Admit, advise, agree, complain, invite, persuade, request, remind, threaten, suggest, warn
Some verbs describe actions
e.g.: Hi Dave, how are you? ->He greeted me.
Accept, congratulate, decide, greet, interrupt, introduce
Changes of time, place and person reference
In a report, there is no longer a clear reference which can be understood by two people in the same place.
I left the parcel on this chair. ->A report would have to specify which chair: He said ha had left the parcel on the chair by the window.
I love this town. ->The reference may be replaced by a more general one: She said that she loved the town.