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!