1. Whether is obligatory when the subordinate clause it introduces is the object of a prepositional verb.

John talked about whether it was wise to send children to study away from home.

2. Whether is also obligatory if it introduces an infinitive.

John wondered whether to go to college or to university.

3. Whether is recommended if the indirect question contains a conditional clause. In this case the repetition of if is avoided.

John asked whether Peter would be late for work if he had a helicopter.

Special questions begin with a question word: how, what, when, where, which, who, whom, whose, why. We must distinguish between two kinds of special question.

1. The special question of the first kind has the subject as its target. In this case there is no inversion of the subject and the auxiliary verb. Thus this kind of special question has the same word order as the statement, the only difference between them being the use of a question word at the beginning of the question.

Statement: John broke the window.

Question: Who broke the window?

When converting a question of this type into indirect speech, we retain the original (i.e. normal) word order. The resultant reported question has two parts: the main clause with a reporting verb in it and the subordinate clause representing the question proper.

Who broke the window? → John asked who had broken the window.

What caused the accident? → John inquired what had caused the accident.

2. The special question of the second kind has as its target any other sentence element except the subject. In this case the normal word order is inverted and a question word is placed at the beginning of the sentence.

Statement: John saw Peter yesterday.

Question: When did John see Peter?

To put this type of special question into indirect speech, we must change the inverted word order to the normal, retain the original question word and add a clause containing a reporting verb.

When did John see Peter? → Mary asked when John had seen Peter.

There is, however, one exception to the above rule. If the target of the question is a subject complement, the normal word order in indirect speech is not always observed.

1. The inverted word order is practically always retained in indirect speech if the question contains a fixed phrase.

Whats the time? → John asked what was the time.

Whats the matter? → John inquired what was the matter.

2. The inverted word order is preferred in indirect speech if the subject is somewhat complex.

Whats the name of the man sitting in the chair by the window? → John asked what was the name of the man sitting in the chair by the window.

3. There are speakers of English who indiscriminately use either normal or inverted word order in this case.

Who is the man? → John asked who the man was. | John asked who was the man.

There is also a kind of indirect question in which, instead of a subordinate clause, an infinitive construction is used.

John asked him what to do/where to go.

John wondered whether to leave.

In real life conversations there are plenty of elliptical questions and answers to them, i.e. sentences with some parts omitted. Ellipsis is generally used to avoid repetition. But when such fragments of conversation are reported, these parts are introduced to make the sentences in indirect speech structurally and semantically complete.

John: Ever been to China?

Peter: No, never. Had a chance, though. Cant understand how I let it slip by.

John asked Peter if he had ever been to China. Peter replied that he had never been to that country, though once he had had a chance to visit it. He still couldnt understand why he had missed it.


Indirect imperatives

There are different ways of reporting imperatives. The most widespread way is to use a reporting verb followed by a noun phrase (indicating the person addressed) and an infinitive (conveying the command itself).

John said, Peter, bring me the book, please. → John asked Peter to bring him the book.

A negative indirect imperative is usually reported by not + infinitive construction.

John said, Dont do it, Peter! → John told Peter not to do it.

If the person addressed is not mentioned in the direct imperative he or she nevertheless must be referred to in indirect speech. In this case the context is to be searched for the addressee.

John said, Come here! → John told the boy/the man/ him/the girl/her/the people/them to come to him.

There are also other ways of expressing indirect imperatives.

1. After certain reporting verbs a gerund is or may be used, but not an infinitive.

John said, Lets go there by air. → John suggested going there by air.

2. After certain reporting verbs a subordinate clause is or may be used.

John said, Lets go there by air. → John suggested that they (should) go there by air.

John said, Take this report to the boss. → John told them/said that they were to take the report to the boss.

The latter construction is particularly useful in the following two cases:

(2) when the imperative is introduced by a verb in the present tense

The chairman says, Brief me on the most recent developments. → The chairman says that we are to brief him on the most recent developments.

(The chairman tells us to brief him is far less likely.)

(3)when the imperative is preceded by a clause (usually by a clause of time or condition)

John said, If he resists, shoot him. → John said that if the man resisted they were to shoot him.

(John told them to shoot the man if he resisted is also possible.)

John said, If you see Anne tell her to get in touch with me. → John said that if they saw Anne they were to tell her to get in touch with him.

(John told them to tell Anne to get in touch with him if they saw her sounds confusing.)

3. After some reporting verbs an infinitive construction is used with no noun phrase preceding it.

John said, Could I have a better look at the picture? → John asked to have a better look at the picture.

(John asked permission to have and John asked that he might have are also possible.)

4. After some reporting verbs the noun phrase may refer not to the person addressed but to another person or a thing. In this case the infinitive is put into the passive.

The pirate chief commanded/ordered the prisoners to be shot.

The officer ordered the enemy bridge to be blown up.

(The pirate chief commanded/ordered that the prisoners should be/be shot and The officer ordered that the bridge should be/be blown up are alternative constructions.)

Note that when an indirect command is expressed by the structure reporting verb + noun phrase (=addressee) + infinitive construction it is implied that the person who is to carry out the command is addressed directly. But when an indirect command is expressed by the structure reporting verb + subordinate clause, the recipient of the command need not necessarily be addressed directly. The command may be conveyed to him or her by a third person.

Note also that not all reporting verbs can be used in all the above structures. For details of which verbs enter into which kinds of constructions see the relevant sections of the book.


Free indirect speech

Free indirect speech is halfway between direct and indirect speech and is widely used in fiction, newspaper reports, reports of conferences, minutes of meetings, etc. It is similar to direct speech in that it has no reporting clause and may have direct question forms, vocatives, etc. It is similar to indirect speech in that there are characteristic shifts of tense, pronouns, expressions of time and place, etc.

When reporting a conversation, it is advisable to use both indirect and free indirect speech in combination as this will make the reported version neater: there will be no monotonous repetition of reporting verbs and identical sentence structures. Here is an example.

Mr Stock gave a lecture to some technical representatives. He began by introducing the topic, which was concerned with the technical problems his listeners would face when they started promoting the companys new machine. Mr Stock pointed out that the plastic packaging used was a rather revolutionary process and he expected that the companys technical representatives would have to overcome a lot of sales resistance and prejudice on its account. So his main purpose was to provide all those present with as much technical background as they would need so as to enable them to answer with confidence any questions that might be put to them.



When we speak, we not only refer to a particular situation but also show why we talk about it. So, in addition to the description of a situation, the words we say have a purpose or function. For example, the sentence Would you like a cup of tea? performs the function of an offer, the sentence Would you like to join us? is an invitation, the sentence How about a drink? is a suggestion, the sentence If I were you, Id go to the doctor is a piece of advice. While reporting a conversation, it is very important to make out the function of every utterance, i.e. to answer the question why this particular utterance is spoken or what communicative purpose it serves. Only in this case will it be possible to choose the right reporting verb to introduce an indirect utterance.

Sometimes it is no easy matter because the surface structure of a sentence may be misleading as to its communicative content. For instance, the first three examples are phrased as questions, i.e. their surface structures are identical. In spite of this they perform three distinctly different functions. The fourth sentence, judging by the look of it, seems to be an expression of ones opinion, but in reality it is a useful bit of advice, which, however, is not as straightforward as the sentence Go to the doctor would be.

Thus to work out the function of an utterance, we must thoroughly analyse its communicative content. Once we have got through with this, we can go on to select the reporting verb that signals this function and then put the sentence into indirect speech.

Functions are numerous. The subsequent sections of the book are concerned with a number of them. Listed there are sets of reporting verbs and phrases that are used to represent different functions in speech.




Dialogue 1

An immigration officer (O) is questioning a student (S) on his arrival in Britain.

O: May I see your passport please? Thank you. Health Certificate? Right. How long do you intend to stay in England?
S: I dont know yet. It depends on my situation.
O: Have you got a visa?
S: No, but Ive got a Home Office Letter of Consent.
O: May I see that please? (he inspects it) Yes, this is all right. Where will you be studying?
S: At the London College of Commerce.
O: Is it a full-time course of study?
S: Yes, it is. Ive already been accepted. Heres the letter.
O: Have you sufficient funds for your maintenance in London?
S: I have an account at Barclays Bank. Heres the letter.
O: (reads the letter) Thank you. Im giving you a six months student visa. (stamps the passport) If you want to stay longer, you can apply to the Home Office in four months time. Heres your passport.
S: Thank you.

(From Survival English)


Reported version 1

An immigration officer is questioning a student on his arrival in Britain.

The immigration officer asks to see the students passport and a minute later his health certificate. After having scrutinised them, the officer inquires how long the student intends to stay in England. The latter answers that he does not know yet, adding that it will depend on his situation. Then the immigration officer asks the new arrival to show him his visa. It turns out that the student has none. Instead he produces a Home Office Letter of Consent. The officer inspects it and says that it is all right. After that the immigration officer inquires where the young man is going to study. The latter replies that he will take a course of study at the London College of Commerce and then, in proof of it, presents a letter from the college. Finally the immigration officer asks if the new arrival has enough money to pay for his stay in London. In reply to this the young man says that he has an account at Barclays Bank and shows the officer a letter from the bank. The immigration officer reads the letter and then stamps the students passport, informing him that he is giving him a six months student visa. After that the officer adds that if the new arrival wishes to stay longer he can apply to the Home Office in four months time. The young man thanks the immigration officer and passes on to the customs official.



Dialogue 2

A training manager (T) is talking to a marketing manager (M) about one of their employees.


T: Hello, Malcolm. This is Derek. Im ringing about your assistant Bill Hurley.
M: Uh huh.
T: Its time for his annual interview. What do you think of his performance?
M: Not a lot really. I dont think hes very good. He just doesnt have the necessary skills. Knowledge but no skills, thats him.
T: Why do you say that? Surely its not as bad as that.
M: It is. Hes supposed to prepare my reports. I want one or two pages setting out the principal ideas. He prepares fifty pages and doesnt even reach a conclusion.
T: What about his contact with the Production Department?
M: They hate him. He spends all his time telling them how to organise their production better. Ive told him to speak less and listen more but he continues just the same.
T: Anything else?
M: Hes supposed to simplify my life by reading the trade press and finding articles of interest for me to read. He finds so many that Im doing more reading, not less. And as for leaving him in charge of the office the last time he made my secretary cry and upset everybody else. Hes got no inter-personal skills at all.
T: Can you think of no good points?
M: No. A business school education might train you to be a good marketing director but it certainly doesnt make you a good marketing assistant.

(from Business Partners)


Reported version 2

A training manager is/was having a phone conversation with a marketing manager about one of their employees.

The Training Manager, Derek, greeted the Marketing Manager, Malcolm, and told his colleague that he would like to talk about his assistant Bill Hurley. As it was time for that employees annual interview he wanted to know what his boss thought of his performance. It turned out that Malcolm took a dim view of Bill Hurleys contribution to the companys activities. He believed that his assistant had knowledge but no skills. Derek took his colleagues statement with a pinch of salt, supposing that he was exaggerating (things). But Malcolm kept to his point of view and illustrated it with an example of his assistants poor performance. Then Derek asked Malcolm about Bill Hurleys contact with the Production Department. The latter replied that they hated him because he was in the habit of advising them how to organise their production better. After that Malcolm went on to tell his colleague that, in addition, Bill Hurley could not make summaries of the trade press for him and, furthermore, he completely lacked inter-personal skills. A little puzzled by such an unfavourable characterisation, Derek inquired whether his colleagues assistant had any good points. But Malcolm answered in the negative. He concluded by saying jokingly that a business school education might train a person to be a good managing director but it did not make him or her a good marketing assistant.


Dialogue 3

A customer (A) is talking with a clerk (B) at the dry cleaners.

A: No, Im sorry your laundry hasnt come back yet.
B: But I brought it in a fortnight ago.
A: I know, but theres been a go-slow at the factory and everythings delayed.
B: Well, Im sorry, but I really dont think thats good enough. I trust my suit is back. Heres the ticket.
A: Thank you. Ill go and check for you. (after a few minutes) Yes, your suits ready. Here it is.
B: Oh good. (inspects the suit carefully) But look, that big stain I told you about is still there. They havent cleaned it properly.
A: (looks at the stain) Well, yes, but I dont think they can remove that kind of stain. Its embedded in the material.
B: Oh no, thats no excuse. Why didnt you tell me that before?
A: Im sorry, sir. You can send it back if you like. But itll take a week.
B: A week? But I need it for Saturday evening. No, Ill take it as it is. How much is it?
A: £ 1.50.
B: £ 1.50? For that job? Oh no, you cant expect me to pay that much.
A: Im sorry, sir, but business is business.

(from Survival English)


Reported version 3

A customer is talking with a clerk at the dry cleaners.

The clerk informs the customer that his laundry hasnt come back yet. The customer is disappointed to hear this and protests that he brought it in a fortnight before. Trying to calm him down, the clerk explains the reason for the delay. But the customer brushes aside her explanation and, producing a ticket, asks her to see if at least his suit is back. She takes the ticket and goes to check for him. After a few minutes she returns and hands him his suit. The man inspects it carefully, finds a big stain on it and complains about it to the girl. The clerk has a look at the stain and makes the supposition that a stain like this cannot be removed as it is embedded in the material. The customer flares up. Seeing his reaction, the clerk hastens to apologise and advises him to send his suit back to be cleaned again, warning him, however, that it will take a week. But the customer refuses because he needs it for Saturday evening and decides to take his suit as it is. He wants to know how much he is to pay. When he is told the charge, which seems to him exorbitant, he completely loses his temper and has a good mind not to pay at all, but in the end has to do so.

Dialogue 4

Susan (S) is talking to her friend Julie (J) about a trip to Canada.

S: Are you looking forward to your trip to Canada, Julie?
J: I cant wait to see Canada, Susan, but Im scared stiff of the journey. My husband insists on flying, but I want to sail. Planes make me nervous.
S: Theres nothing to be frightened of. How many planes fly across the Atlantic every day?
J: Ive no idea. Hundreds I suppose.
S: And how often do you hear of a crash? Once or twice a year?
J: Yes, but aeroplanes fly so high and fast that once is enough.
S: Look, there are more road casualties per day than air deaths pear year. Air transport is really safe compared with road transport.
J: Id still prefer to go by sea. Ships may not travel fast but at least you can relax. Id love a trip on a luxury liner like the Queen Elizabeth II.
S: Its fine if youre a good sailor, but have you ever travelled far in a rough sea?
J: No. Ive only been in a boat once. I sailed down the River Thames on a sightseeing tour But in any case Id rather be seasick than dead.

(from Intermediate English Course)


Reported version 4

Susan is/was having a talk with her friend Julie about a trip to Canada.

Susan wanted to know if Julie was looking forward to her trip to Canada. The latter answered enthusiastically that she could not wait to see Canada but then she added that she was scared stiff of the journey. She went on to explain that her husband insisted on flying, whereas she wished to sail because planes made her nervous. Susan tried to reassure her friend that there was nothing to be frightened of. She was certain that air transport was safe compared with road transport. However, Julie still felt uneasy about her coming trip and expressed a preference for a sea journey on a luxury liner like the Queen Elizabeth II. At that point Susan wondered (out loud) if her friend had ever travelled far in a rough sea because, she thought, in order to be able to enjoy a sea trip one was supposed to be a good sailor. Julie replied that she had been in a boat only once when she sailed down the River Thames on a sightseeing tour, but then she added in a joking tone that she would prefer to be seasick rather than dead.



Dialogue 5

Mr Lawson (L), the owner of a language school, talks to his bank manager (M) and later to his colleague (C), Mr Marston.


M: Well, Mr Lawson, its not very good, you know. Your school has been overdrawn for the last six months.
L: Yes, but that was in winter. Now that summer is coming, things will be much better. I think that student numbers will be up by 20% and Im sure well be able to clear our overdraft by the middle of next month.
M: Next month. I see. Could I see your cash flow forecast for the next three months?
L: My what?
M: Your cash flow forecast. Ill explain. You write down the income you think youll receive not the sales, just the money youll get and then you anticipate your expenses for the same period. Look, take a copy of this booklet. It will explain everything more clearly than I can.
L: Thank you very much. Ill read it tonight.
M: Good, then prepare a forecast. Come back in on Wednesday and well talk about it.
L: Thank you very much. Ill see you on Wednesday.
C: (outside) Well, Paul. How did it go?
L: Not too bad. Im going back on Wednesday with a cash flow forecast. Shes given me this booklet. Im going to read it tonight.
C: Tonight? You cant. You wont have time. Youre taking the students to the theatre.
L: Oh yes. Silly me. Then Ill stay at home tomorrow morning and read it. Could you look after the office?
C: Of course, I will.

(from Business Partners)

Reported version 5

Mr Lawson, the owner of a language school, talks/talked to his bank manager about some money matters and later has/had a conversation with his colleague, Mr Marston.

The bank manager informed Mr Lawson that his school had been overdrawn for the previous six months. Mr Lawson tried to explain that it had been in winter, but as summer was coming he hoped that student numbers would be up by 20% and, as a result, they would be able to clear their overdraft by the middle of the following month. The bank manager felt doubtful and asked to see his cash flow forecast for the next three months. Mr Lawson happened to know nothing about a thing such as that. So the manager started to explain what it meant but a minute later gave him a booklet about it. Mr Lawson thanked her and promised to read it that night. In conclusion, the bank manager reminded him that she expected him to prepare a cash flow forecast and invited him to come back on Wednesday to discuss it. When the conversation was over, Mr Lawson left the bank and outside met his colleague, Mr Marston. The latter wanted to know how Mr Lawson had got on at the bank. Mr Lawson answered in a self-assured manner that he had done pretty well there and added that he was to see his bank manager again on Wednesday. Then he showed Mr Marston the booklet he had been given at the bank and said that he was going to read it that night. But Mr Marston reminded Mr Lawson that the latter was taking his students to the theatre that very night and therefore would have no time to read it. Mr Lawson recalled everything and right on the spot decided to stay at home the following morning to read the booklet. Then he asked Mr Marston to fill in for him in his absence and the latter readily agreed.



Functions of communication


Speaking and informing


  = John: Peter, Im going away on business for a few days.
  = John told/informed Peter (that) he was going away on business for a few days.
  = John: We went to a concert of classical music yesterday. The musicians performed marvellously. I dont remember hearing anything of the kind.
  Peter: Oh, I also enjoy listening to this sort of music.
  = John told Peter (that) they had gone to a concert of classical music the day before. He thought (that) the musicians had performed marvellously. He did not remember hearing anything of the kind. Peter remarked that he also enjoyed listening to that sort of music.
  = John (to his class): The exam is going to be put off till a later date.
  = John announced that the exam was going to be put off till a later date.




1. John said a few words about the matter. a few words to Peter. (to Peter) (that) he would return the next day.  
2. John didnt say when he would come back. how he would do it.  
3. John stated his views (to them). (to them) (that) he had never seen the man.  
4. John didnt state how he was going to win the game. whether he was married or not.  
5. John was asked to state how he was going to win the game. whether he was married or not.      
6. John exclaimed in delight when he saw the presents. at the size of the bill. that he was innocent. what weather it was.  
7. John remarked (to Peter) that he would go away for two days.  
8. John added that he would never apply for the job.  
9. John blurted out/blundered out the news/story/secret.  
10. John spoke talked with/to Peter (about/of the matter).  
11. John and Peter spoke talked about/of the matter.  
12. John chatted with/to Peter (about the matter).  
13. John and Peter chatted about the matter.  
14. John had a talk/conversation/chat with Peter (about the matter).  
15. John and Peter had a talk/conversation/chat about the matter.  
16. The children chattered (away) in class. about the coming holidays.  
17. John and Peter had little in common and it was difficult for them to make conversation/small talk.    
18. John spoke/talked on the evils of excessive drinking.  
19. John gave made delivered a speech about/on moral values. to a receptive audience.  
20. John gave delivered a lecture about/on moral values. to a receptive audience.  
21. John gave a talk about/on moral values. to a receptive audience.  


: 2015-09-04; : 242.


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