Reporting Speech with Noun Clauses (Basic)

January 26, 2010

There are many ways to improve our writing. One of them is using clauses in our sentences, which not only enhances our writing but increases its readability.  It makes a piece of writing “flow” better, as we like to say.  Often times, in writing, we report what someone else has reported to us from an informal conversation or a formal interview. These two things are achieved by the use of noun clauses.

Before we go into this topic further, what is a clause?  A clause is a group of words that contains a subject and a verb.  A sentence is considered an independent clause as it could stand alone even though it is usually just called a sentence.  A dependent clause cannot stand alone.   

Jill made a New Year’s resolution.

        (independent clause)

Because she had made a New Year’s resolution, she vowed to stick to it. 

         (dependent clause)                                     (independent clause)

A noun clause is a clause which acts like a noun in the sentence. Compare the two sentences below.

We knew that she was not going to keep her resolution for long.

                                                (noun clause)

We knew English


OK, for today’s lesson, we are going to look at how we could report what someone else said by using a noun clause.  Let’s pretend that our friend Jill tells us the following. 

Jill said, “My New Year’s resolution is to lose twenty pounds!”

If we are to tell someone else what Jill told us, how can we say this? 


Jill told me that her New Year’s resolution was to lose twenty pounds.

Informal:  Jill told me her New Year’s resolution was to lose twenty pounds.

The difference is the elimination of “that” in the informal case.  Also, notice that the possessive pronoun was changed from “my” to “her” in the reported speech as we are referring to Jill and not talking about ourselves.

Another example:

Jill said, “She is also planning to lose some weight.” 

 Formal:            Jill said that she was also planning to lose some weight.

Informal:           Jill said she was also planning to lose some weight.

Besides using the verbs “to tell” and “to say”, we could also use other synonymous verbs (e.g. to state, to declare, to claim, to announce, to exclaim, to comment, to blurt out, to whisper, to point out, to reply).  Just remember that this verb will be in the past tense as you are expressing what someone else had told you earlier.  The verb in the “that” clause (even though the “that” is eliminated in informal situations) will change for subject-verb agreement and tense agreement.  The tense of this second verb will depend on how it relates to the first verb and the intended meaning. 

Verb tense in the “that” clause
Direct speech Reported speech
Simple present Simple past
Present progressive Past progressive




Happy New Year!  Hope you fulfill all your New Year’s resolutions!

A picture is worth a thousand words – copious

January 12, 2010

As you may know, learning new words is always difficult.  Often times resorting to memorization is not effective as we just cannot seem to be able to commit the word to our memory.  Considering this, it is hoped that this new series could provide you with a visual of those challenging words that are difficult to remember since “a picture is worth a thousand words.” 

Our first word is “copious”.  For those who do not know, American English speakers call police officers informally as “cops”.  Now, is this more understandable? 

The pronunciation of the word will not be included into the picture as a word may be pronounced differently by native English speakers from different parts of the world.  However, since I am a native speaker of American English, I will give the standard American English pronunciation in IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) format.

copious /’ko·pi·əs/