Reporting Speech with Noun Clauses (Intermediate)

June 24, 2010

 

A few posts back, we had talked about reporting what someone says using noun clauses.  The focus was mainly on reporting what someone says about a present action or an action that is presently happening.  You could review the post “Reporting Speech with Noun Clauses (Basic)” from January 26, 2010.

This time, we will find out how to report what someone says about a past event.

Before we talk about how to do this, recall how to talk about something that took place in the past.  If we do not have a point of reference but merely want to express that an event is complete, we use the simple past tense.

Ex.       My family celebrated Father’s Day by taking Dad out to dinner.

On a different note, both the present perfect and past perfect are used when talking about a past action in relation to another point in time.  The present perfect is used retrospectively to refer to a time prior to now.  The past perfect is used retrospectively to refer to some past time. 

Present perfect

Ex.       My dad has finished the bottle of wine he received. 

Past perfect

Ex.       My dad had wished for the wine for months before Father’s Day.

OK, so then, if someone we are talking to expresses a past action using the simple past, present perfect, or past perfect, how can we report his or her speech?  Read the following dialogue.

Ex.      

Joy says, “My family celebrated Father’s Day by taking Dad out to dinner.”

John replies, “Oh, then, did you and your family buy your dad a gift?”

Joy answers, “Well, my dad had wished for a bottle of wine for many months.”

John predicts, “OK, so then you guys must have bought him a bottle, right?!  How does he like it?”

Joy exclaims, “Oh, he loves it!  He has finished the entire bottle already!”

That wasn’t too hard, was it?  OK, so if John goes and tells another friend, Tom, what Joy had told him about how she celebrated Father’s Day, how should John do this?  He could simply use the past perfect tense in the noun clause!  Below is what John would say to Tom about the three things that Joy mentioned.

Ex.      

Joy said that her family had celebrated Father’s Day by taking her dad out to dinner.

Joy said that her dad had wished for a bottle of wine for many months.

Joy said that her dad had finished the bottle of wine. 

Remember that besides using “to say”, we could use other similar verbs (e.g. to tell, to state, to declare, to claim, to announce, to exclaim, to comment, to blurt out, to whisper, to point out, to reply). 

Also, the verb in the “that” clause (even though the “that” is eliminated in informal situations) will change for subject-verb agreement and tense agreement. 

Verb in the “that” clause to express Past tense

Direct speech Reported speech

Simple past

Past perfect

Present perfect

‘’

Past perfect

‘’

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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

                  (noun)

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? 

Formal: 

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!


Difference between ‘used to’, ‘get + used to’, and ‘be + used to’

July 30, 2009

drinking_coffee

These three phrases could be quite confusing as they all contain ‘used to’ but have different meanings and usage.

‘Used to’ conveys ‘past habit’ but does not mention when this habit happened or when it stopped.  Here, a bare infinitive (verb without the ‘to’ with no change in tense and no need for agreement with the noun) follows ‘used to’. 

For example-

            I used to drink coffee every morning. (This means that I had a habit of drinking coffee in the morning in the past but do not do this anymore.)

In ‘get + used to’ and ‘be + used to’, ‘used’ means accustomed.  The get form and be form would change to the appropriate tense and change to agree with the noun. 

Similar to ‘used to’, ‘be + used to’ conveys being accustomed to doing something in the past with the use of the past tense of be (i.e. was, were).  Usually, it conveys that this does not happen anymore.

            I was used to drinking coffee every morning when I worked at an office.

The ‘get + used to’ form shows the change of habit in the past with using the past form of get.  Usually, it conveys that this is still happening.

            I got used to drinking coffee every morning when I worked at an office.

A future but fairly certain conditional action could be conveyed by using ‘get + used to’ and a ‘will’ in front of it.  The present form of get is used. 

            I will get used to drinking coffee if I move to Europe as they have the best coffees in the world. 

On the other hand, when using the present tense of be (i.e. is, am, are), ‘be + used to’ conveys being accustomed to doing something in the past which one still does now.

            I am used to drinking coffee every morning.

            She is used to drinking coffee every morning.

            They are used to drinking coffee every morning. 

Notice that a gerund (verb which acts as a noun and ends in –ing) follows ‘get + used to’ and ‘be + used to’. 


Order of Descriptive Adjectives

July 28, 2009

red_balloon

A big red balloon?  A red big balloon?  Why is the former correct and the latter wrong?

English allows for an indefinite number of adjectives to occur before a noun, although normally no more than three are used.   For descriptive adjectives which appear before nouns, there is a rather fixed ordering although this is not absolute. 

Here is the order based on category:

Opinion-Size-Shape-Condition-Age-Color-Origin/Material (Noun)

Here are some of the common adjectives under each category:

Opinion- ugly, pretty, beautiful, poor, attractive, nice, sweet, precious, smart, childish, mature, charming, boring, athletic

Size- large, big, small, huge, little, tiny, short, tall, fat, skinny, thin, long

Shape- round, triangular, rectangular, irregular

Condition- broken, old, new, rare, clean, messy, expensive, cheap

Age- young, old, middle-aged, eighteen-year-old

Color- blue, white, black, red, etc.

Origin- English, French, Chinese, American, Spanish, Italian, Korean, Japanese, German

Material- wooden, plastic, metal, glass, paper, cotton

Examples:

            the smart skinny teacher

            the tall Chinese boy

            the eighteen-year-old Chinese boy

            the tall, eighteen-year-old Chinese boy

Notice that adjectives which describe origin and material may be interchangeable. For example, both ‘a wooden French door’ and ‘a French wooden door’ are acceptable.

Related to adjective ordering there are two frequently asked questions.  First, when is and used?  Second, when is a comma needed and where?

For the first question, when there are two adjectives that are vastly different but from the same category which describe the same noun, then an ‘and’ is used in between these two adjectives.  Example-

            red and white scarf

            white and red scarf

Indeed, this seems to be most applicable for adjectives in the color category.

For the second question, there are three situations when a comma is needed.  First, when an adjective is repeated for the purpose of intensification, a commas is needed, like ‘tiny, tiny stars’ and ‘huge, huge elephant’. 

Second, when there are two adjectives in the same category which are similar in meaning or not incompatible with each other, so that either one could be omitted without a lost of the overall meaning, a comma is needed between them.  For example, ‘tiny, little stars’ and ‘charming, attractive waitress’.

Third, a comma is needed when there are three adjectives in sequence.  Usually the comma would be placed after the first adjective. An example would be ‘huge, grey African elephant’.  Besides this, when there are three adjectives, the above rules are still followed, for example ‘huge, grey and white elephant’. 


Participles used as Adjectives

July 23, 2009

emotions

 

Do the sentences below have a difference in meaning?

I am bored.

I am boring.

The answer is ‘yes’!  While ‘bored’ and ‘boring’ are both used as adjectives in these two sentences, there is a difference in meaning.

The adjective ending in ‘ed’ is called a –en or past participle, while the one ending in ‘ing’ is called a –ing or present participle.  Usually, these adjectives are derived from verbs which convey emotions. 

Some of the common verbs with such a function include alarm, amuse, annoy, bore, calm, comfort, concern, convince, defeat, disappoint, disturb, embarrass, encourage, excite, interest, love, please, satisfy, surprise, tire, and worry.

When the past participle (-en form) is used, it refers to the person experiencing the emotion.  Here the person is the object of the emotion or experience.

I am bored. (I feel bored. An outside factor that is not given caused me to feel bored.)

She is disappointed that she failed the test. (She experienced disappointment because she did not do well on the test. The test caused the disappointment.)

He is frightened by the ghost. (He experienced fear. The ghost caused the fear.)

When the present participle (-ing form) is used, it refers to the cause of the experience.  This cause is the subject of the experience. 

I am boring. (I caused boredom meaning ‘I am a boring person’.)

She is disappointing.  (She disappointed someone. She caused the disappointment.)

He is frightening. (He frightened someone. He caused the fright.)


Difference between ‘Why’ and ‘How come’

July 20, 2009

 

 

                                      question_marks2

Questions using ‘Why’ and ‘How come’ have different forms and are used differently.  With the verb form ‘be’ (i.e. is, am, are, was, were), when used with ‘how come’ there is no inversion of the noun and the verb and the structure is maintained like a sentence (noun-verb form).

How come she is at the party?

How come she was at the party?

How come they are angry?

How come she is writing the letter?

 

When ‘be’ is used with ‘why’, there is inversion of the noun and the verb.

Why is she at the party?

Why was she at the party?

Why are they angry?

Why is she writing the letter?

 

If the verb is a form of ‘have’ or another verb (i.e. write, talk), the form also changes.  With ‘how come’ the form is like the above, with no inversion.

How come she went?

How come she has to go?

 

With ‘why’, an insertion of a form of ‘do’ before the noun is required.

Why did she go?

Why does she have to go?

 

As for usage, although both ‘why’ and ‘how come’ is eliciting a reason, they are used in different situations. A speaker would use ‘how come’ if what he/she thinks is not the situation.

How come she is at the party? (I thought she wasn’t going to come.)

 

A speaker would use ‘why’ if he/she wants to know the reason but does not have a presupposition.

Why is she at the party? (I want to know the reason.)