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.


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.


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


A picture is worth a thousand words – mannequin

May 23, 2010

mannequin /ˈmæn.ə.kIn/

Vancouver Olympics 2010 – Closing Ceremony

April 18, 2010

My recent neglect of my blog was due to the fact that I had paid a visit to Vancouver to witness the Olympics in action!  Coming back from the trip required a lot of catching up with work so my sincerest apologies for the delay. 

Although I was only there for the latter half of the Games, it was probably the more exhilarating half as all Canadians were ecstatic when they won gold in hockey and ended the Games with a bit of seemingly magic in the air!  If you are a devoted fan like me, I’m sure you’ve watched every bit of the Games.  Therefore, instead of talking about what may have already been shown on television, I’ll share one personal behind-the-scene experience.

I attended the Figure Skating Gala and the Closing Ceremony.  The Closing Ceremony was a bittersweet experience as while I was excited about the show, it signified that the Olympics have finally come to a closure.  While watching the Closing Ceremony, you may have noticed that the audience members were wearing light-colored paper ponchos and that there were occasional flashing lights in the sea of darkness out in the audience. In fact, each audience member was given an “Audience Participation Kit”.  This was accompanied by a “rehearsal” and training session prior to the start of the show and all throughout the entire show an “audience leader” gave us instructions about which props were needed for a particular segment.  Therefore, besides the actual performers, the audience was also involved!  In fact, we were constantly “busy” switching props and juggling them with our cameras. We were first asked to put on a light-colored poncho made from paper, which served as a canvas onto which an extensive display of lights were shown with messages and flags of the participating countries during the parade of athletes and entrance of the flag bearers on stage.


The culture of the host city, Vancouver, was exhibited with larger-than-life-sized hockey players, Canadian Mounties, and a distinctive array of animals like the beaver, bear, and the moose. The audience was asked to wear a moose antler hat during this period. In fact, despite its silliness, the audience was excited about wearing them as everyone was jubilant about the Games and Canadians were especially proud of their country after their hockey win. We also clipped on a red or white blinker onto the antlers, which explains the continuous flashing of lights in the audience.  At the end of this portion of the show, the entire stadium was then showered with red, orange, and yellow maple leaves made from tissue paper.  It was a very pretty scene!


During the handover of the Winter Olympic Games to Sochi, Russia, the audience turned on a snow globe with a miniature replica of the mountains of Sochi with words which say “See You in Sochi” and lit up BC Place Stadium in red, blue or white, or the colors of the Russian flag. 


The amount of time spent and the amount of people whom were involved with the Closing Ceremony are impressive.  It must have taken a lot of effort to make sure the kits were placed appropriately to create the desired effect.  Some digging into this matter unveiled that there were a total of 289 different possible combinations in the 60,000 kits in the audience!  Amazing!  Therefore, the organizing committee took time to thank the many volunteers who helped put together the event and made the Olympics possible with a flower tribute and gave them freebies like a set of postcards with the words “Thank you”.  Each kit contained a colored card in pink, purple, or yellow which formed one of the many petals in the one of many possible flower formations in the audience.  Known as Smurfs, as they were dressed in blue, there were a total of 18,500 volunteers at these Olympic Games. 


As a keepsake and for ease of transport, the props fit nicely in a suitcase-like cardboard box decorated with graphics from the various Canadian provinces


Word list

(International Phonetic Alphabet included, following the pronunciation of American English)

accompany (verb) /əˈkʌm.pə.ni/ – to go with someone or something

antler (noun) /ˈænt.lər/ – a horn that looks like tree branches which grows on the head of a moose

array (noun) /əˈreI/ – a large group of things or people

bittersweet (adj) /‘bIt.ər.swit/ – to describe feeling sad and happy at the same time

blinker (noun) /ˈblIŋ.kər/ – a light that turns on and off quickly

Canadian Mountie (noun) /kæ’ney.diən/ /ˈmaʊn.ti/- slang for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police dressed in a full red serge outfit, boots, and a hat

canvas (noun) /ˈkæn.vəs/ – a piece of clothing, board, or other display area

catch up (phrasal verb) /kætʃ//ʌp/ – to do something that one should have already done earlier

closure (noun) /ˈkloʊ.ʒər/ – an end or stop in something

desired (adj) /dIˈzaIrd/ – something that is wanted

devoted (adj) /dIˈvoʊ.tId/ -to describe someone who is loyal and passionate about something

ease (verb) /iz/ – to make or become less difficult or unpleasant

ecstatic (adj) /Ikˈstæt.Ik/– extremely happy

exhilarating (adj) /IgˈzIl.ə.reI.tIŋ/ – very exciting

extensive (adj) /Ikˈsten.sIv/ – covering a large area or having a great range

flag bearer (noun) /flæg//ˈbeə.rər/ – someone who holds a nation’s flag

freebie (noun) /ˈ – something given with no cost to it for promotional purposes

host (noun) /hoʊst/ – someone who has guests

impressive (adj) /Imˈpres.Iv/ – special, admirable

jubilant (adj) /ˈdʒu.bI.lənt/ adj– feeling or expressing great happiness

juggle (verb) /ˈdʒʌg.l ̩/ – to handle two or more things or jobs at the same time

keepsake (noun) /ˈkip.seIk/ – a souvenir or present to remember something or some event

moose (noun) /mus/- a large deer with antlers which live in the forests of North America, northern Europe, and Asia

neglect (noun) /nIˈglekt/ – state of not giving enough care or attention to someone or something

poncho (noun) /ˈpɑn.tʃoʊ/ – a piece of clothing made from one piece of material with a hole in the middle for the head

prop (noun) /prɑp/ n- an object used to support something

province (noun) /ˈprɑ.vIns/ n– an area which is governed as part of a country or an empire.  Just like America has states, Canada has provinces.

put on (phrasal verb) /pʊt//ɑn/ – to wear

replica (noun) /ˈrep.lI.kə/ – a copy of an object

segment (noun) /ˈseg.mənt/– a part of something

silliness (noun) /ˈsIl.I.nəs/ n– the act of being silly or funny

Smurf (noun) /smərf/ – a small blue cartoon character with a white stocking cap and pants from the cartoon “The Smurfs”

stadium (noun) /ˈsteI.di.əm/ – a large closed area of land with rows of seats around the sides used for sports events or musical performances

tribute (noun) /ˈtrI.byut/  – something that you say, write or give which shows respect and admiration for someone  

unveil (verb) /ʌnˈveIl/ – to reveal or show something

A picture is worth a thousand words – lionize

February 13, 2010

lionize /’laI.ə.naΙz/

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/

Phrase of the day: To let down (Part II)

August 30, 2009

to let down


In the last post, I mentioned that the more obvious definition of “to let down” is to bring something down.  

The less obvious meaning is the more abstract meaning of to disappoint.  It is a transitive verb requiring both a subject and object.  The noun form is letdown.

The movie was a letdown. (Equivalent meaning: The movie was a disappointment.) 


To talk about who has been disappointed, the object must be inserted between let down. If the object is a personal pronoun, it will be in the objective case.  

The movie let me down. (Equivalent meaning: The movie disappointed me.)


Besides the progressive form, the verb let down does not inflect for tense or change for subject-verb agreement. 

His son was afraid of letting him down. (Equivalent meaning: His son was afraid of disappointing him.)

The movie let him down.

The two movies let him down.


To talk about a habitual disappointment, just add “has/have/had” in front:

 He has let me down every time. (Equivalent meaning: He has disappointed me every time.)

They have let me down every time. (Equivalent meaning: They have disappointed me every time.)


You could use let down to talk about the future also:

 I hope you could attend the conference with me this Saturday.  You won’t/will not let me down, right? (Equivalent meaning: You will not disappoint me, right?)

 At this point, you might ask why English speakers use to let down instead of to disappoint or letdown instead of disappointment.  Like all phrasal verbs, to let down is used in informal settings.  Learning how to use it properly will make your speech more personable.  Being able to comprehend it will allow you to communicate with native speakers, who use them all the time!  Besides, letdown only has two syllables while disappointment has four!