ielts-yasi.englishlab.net

Updated June 19, 2008

 

 

Reporting Verbs

[This topic is rather complex just try to understand the main points if you can't understand everything.]

 

When we talk (or write) about what someone said or thought, we use what are called, "reporting verbs".

 

1. The Formal Use of the Passive Voice of Some Reporting Verbs

The verbs in Table 1 can always be followed by the word, "something" or, "to something". For example, "accept something", "agree to something", "say something" etc.

These verbs can also be used in the passive with "it" as their subject, usually followed by "that". For example: "It is said that people from cold climates have cold personalities." There is no indication of who says this and no indication of who it is said to. This makes the sentence very impersonal, and as a result, very formal sounding.

Using the impersonal "it" is a way to express a generalization , that is, a way to say that "everybody", "most people" or "some people" have a certain opinion but it is not specified who these people are. When speaking, it is more suitable to avoid using "it" as the subject and, instead, use "everybody", "many people", "most people" (or some other more specific indication of who has this opinion) as the subject.

Table 1

accept

acknowledge

admit

agree

allege

announce

argue

assert

assume

believe

claim

comment

concede

conclude

confirm

consider

decide

decree

discover

estimate

expect

explain

fear

feel

find

foresee

guarantee

hold

hope

imply

know

mention

note

notice

object

observe

predict

propose

realize

recall

reckon

recommend

record

request

reveal

rule

rumour

say

state

stipulate

suggest

suppose

think

understand

 

Examples:

(The blue shows a suitable way to say the sentence in a less formal way. The overly formal phrases are highlighted in yellow.)

 

"It is said that people from cold climates have cold personalities."

"Some people say that people from cold climates have cold personalities."

 

"It is well known that smoking can cause lung cancer."

"Most people know that smoking can cause lung cancer."

 

"It cannot be denied that students need to do some homework."

"No-one denies that students need to do some homework."

"Most people agree that students need to do some homework."

 

"It is now believed that intelligence is largely a product of one's childhood environment."

"Many people now believe that intelligence is largely a product of a person's childhood environment."

 

 

Some of these verbs can have other words as the subject, besides, "it". These are also too formal for everyday speech.

 

Examples:

"Social status is assumed to be important."

"Many people assume (that) social status is important."

 

"He is said to have been married three times."

"People say (that) he's been married three times."



"She is thought to have moved to Shanghai."

"Some people think (that) she's  moved to Shanghai."

 

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Exception: the verb "suppose" in the passive form.

"be supposed to" = "be expected to" = should, (or = "must")

"It is supposed" is rarely used but, "I am supposed to ..." or "You are supposed to ..." are often used in everyday speech and are not considered to be formal.

 

Examples:

"I'm supposed to be studying right now" (but I'm not studying)

"You're not supposed to smoke in here." (but you are smoking here)

"I'm supposed to be back home before midnight." (= I have to be home before midnight, so I must leave now.)

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

2. The Non-Formal Passive Voice of Some Reporting Verbs

The reporting verbs in Table 2 can always be followed by the word, "someone" or, the actual person such as "me", "him", "us", "John" etc. For example, "advise me", "assure them", "encourage her" etc.

These verbs shown in Table 2 can be used in the passive voice in everyday speech, without sounding too formal. They are not used with the impersonal, "it" the actual 'hearer' of what someone said or thought is always expressed, as the subject of the passive verb.

Lets' look at the first example, "He was advised to change my job." (The subject is "He".) This sentence is not too formal if it is unnecessary to say who, or we don't know who told him to change his job. 

However, when the subject is "I" (which is the usual case in the Speaking test), it is better to say who the speaker was: "My father advised me to change my job." (In this sentence, "my father" is the subject and "me" is the direct object. The 'hearer' is "me", which is changed to become the subject, "I" when the passive is used.) 

Similarly, the following two examples are not too formal: "I'm convinced that his story is true." and  "I was reassured by the good news."  These two are not too formal because it is clear what convinced me, and what reassured me.

In these examples, we see that the passive voice can be used when it is not important who spoke the words that are reported, or it not known who spoke the words, or it is obvious who spoke the original words. For example, in the last example, "She was told that the road was closed" the important things are that she (the 'hearer') was told this information and what the information was. Who told her is not important here. In these cases, the impersonality of the passive voice does not seem too formal.

 

Table 2

Reporting Verb

Example

advise

 He was advised to change his job.

assure

 They were assured that help was on the way.

command

 They were commanded to attack the city.

convince

 I'm convinced that his story is true.

encourage

 She was encouraged to keep trying.

inform

 The public was informed that a typhoon was approaching.

instruct

 He was instructed to deliver the parcel before 5 o'clock.

invite

 We were invited to dinner.

notify

 She was notified that her phone bill was overdue.

persuade

 He was persuaded to return the money.

reassure

 I was reassured by the good news.

remind

 We were reminded to put on our seat belts.

tell

 She was told that the road was closed.

 

 

 

***********************************************************************************