Reporting verbs

From English Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search

Second language learners of English often have difficulty with reporting verbs and verbs of communication, in terms of using those with appropriate meanings, as well as the kinds of grammatical structures that they occur in. These are the more common verbs of reporting or communication in English writing, classified by the grammatical structures that they occur with. (Note: this is not intended as a complete list.)

1 Verb + object and/or gerund

A gerund is an -ing verb form that acts like a noun (e.g., "We enjoy bungee jumping").

1.1 Verb + object / gerund

These verbs can take either a direct object noun or a gerund serving as a direct object.

acknowledge
admit
address
advise
argue
ascertain
assert
claim

contradict
describe
demand
deny
determine
doubt
emphasize
establish

examine
find
forget
imply
indicate
investigate
mention
note

observe
point out
prefer
present
promise
propose
question

recognize
recommend
refute
request
research
reveal
state

suggest
summarize
support
tell


Note: The verb find out is colloquial; in formal English, ascertain, find, determine are better. The verb support needs an object, and cannot take a complement clause (e.g, “...the findings support that the drug can contribute toward liver damage” is ungrammatical).

Our study examined the effects of cell phone use and nighttime driving concentration.
They proposed doing away with the current speed limits.
We recommend increasing the required number of days in school.
The findings supported the claim that excessive consumption of the drug could lead to liver damage. [Here, that... is a relative clause modifying ‘consumption’, not a complement clause.]


1.2 Verb + preposition + object / gerund

apologize for
comment on / about
complain about

 
disagree with
insist on
refer to

 
speak about / on...
warn about


The verb speak can take the prepositions of, about, on, to, regarding, for, and others. The verb mention takes a direct object, (not mention about - this is ungrammatical).

The speaker commented at length on the negative influence of excessive corporate funding.


1.3 Verb + object + preposition + object / gerund

accuse + of
argue for
blame + for
congratulate + on/for

 
define + as
inform + of
tell + about / of...
warn + about


They defined language anxiety as a complex set of perceptions, beliefs and behaviors in the language classroom.


2 Verb + infinitive

2.1 Verb + infinitive (simple)

agree
decide

expect
forget

hope
offer

promise
propose

refuse
threaten

E.g.:

They agreed to stop exporting toys made with cadmium in any part of the manufacturing process.


2.2 Verb + object + infinitive

advise
ask

beg
command

encourage
expect

forbid
instruct

invite
persuade

remind
teach

tell
warn

E.g.:

We persuaded the committee to grant an extension.


3 Verb + that (complement clause)

add
acknowledge
admit
agree
allege
announce
answer
argue
assert
assume
believe

boast
claim
comment
complain
conclude
confirm
consider
decide
demonstrate
deny
disagree

doubt
emphasize
estimate
expect
explain
fear
feel
find
guarantee
hope
imply

indicate
insist
insist
mean
mention
note
observe
persuade
point out
promise
propose

prove
recognize
recommend
remark
remember
repeat
reply
report
reveal
say
show

state
stress
swear
suggest
suppose
tell
threaten
think
understand
warn


Sometimes the complement clause marker that is omitted, especially in more informal writing, or when the complement clause is short. The verbs stress or emphasize are not used like describe or mention, but are used to actually put emphasis on an important point. The verb mention (with that or with an embedded question, below) is not used like describe, but for referring to or briefly explaining a minor point.

We assumed that the replication experiment controlling for gender would yield similar results.
We believe (that) similar results would follow.
His study only mentions a few ideas for connecting the concepts together, but does not develop these ideas in any detail.


3.1 Verb + object + that (complement clause)

inform promise tell


These verbs require a direct object, and are not grammatical with just a that-clause

We informed them that the procedure would be risky.


3.2 Verb + (that) + subjunctive verb or that...should

advise
beg

command
demand

insist
instruct

order
prefer

  
recommend
request

 
rule
suggest


These verbs take an older verb form known as the subjunctive (for contrary-to-fact, hypothetical, and other such situations). These look different from other verbs in the third person singular, where the verb has no -s ending like other verbs. This is older and more former style, and increasingly in contemporary English this is being replaced with (that) ... should.

The arbiter recommended that the company pay $100 million in restitution / that the company should pay $100 million in restitution.
The judge ruled that bail be lowered / that bail should be lowered.


4 Verb + other complement clause

Complement clauses include that-clauses, as well as if/whether clauses, and clauses with what, when, where, why.


4.1 Verb + if / whether clause

ask
doubt
know
question

remember
say
see


Note that whether or not is colloquial; for formal writing, simply whether will suffice.

We question whether the government’s commitment to funding science education is sincere.


4.2 Verb + embedded question

decide
describe
discover
discuss
doubt

explain
forget
guess
illustrate
imagine

know
learn
question
realize
remember

reveal
say
see
show
suggest

teach
tell
think
understand
wonder


An embedded question is a phrase beginning with what, when, where, etc., that is part of a more complex sentence (much like verbs plus if/whether phrases or verbs plus that complement clauses above). Many other verbs (besides those listed directly above) that can take direct objects or that-clause can also take embedded questions as objects.

The study described how African-American children in the Appalachians view reading and stories differently than White children.
We didn’t realize how often that happens.
She suggested how we might accomplish that.


5 Problematic verbs for English learners

5.1 Say, speak, tell

Second language learners often have difficulty with the verbs say, speak, tell. Functionally, say and tell are true reporting verbs – “X said such-and-such,” “X told her such-and-such,” with direct or indirect quotations, while speak is not so much a reporting verb for quotations, but simply a verb of uttering (speaking words or sentences). The verbs say and speak can take direct objects, or with a preposition like to (“don’t speak to me,” “say it to him”), while tell can take an indirect object, with the sense of conveying information rather than just vocally articulating (“tell me what it is”).

verb definition type of direct obj. examples
say to utter words; to express in words, state, indicate words, a statement / utterance, a whole text or discourse; indirect discourse or that-clause say a few words, say what’s on your mind, say something, say that you’ll go, my watch says [indicates] (that) it’s time to go, say “cheese”
speak to utter words, to articulate sounds words, a statement, an utterance, a language speak a language, speak German,

speak nonsense, speak to someone (about something)

tell to give an account, relate, inform, announce, reveal a story, a narrative, a statement, a piece of information
also + INDIRECT OBJECT
tell me your name, tell a story, tell me what you said, tell me the truth


5.2 Blame, criticize

Koreans also confuse blame and criticize, using the word blame when criticize would be more suitable, as criticize is more general in meaning. Here are their dictionary definition:

blame: hold someone responsible; find fault with someone; assigning fault for a specific action,

behavior, error or failure;

criticize: to find fault with someone, judge negatively, negatively evaluate, censure

Thus, criticize is more like pointing out faults (including general faults or failures) or negatively judging someone, while blame has more to to with assigning fault, cause, or liability for a specific error. E.g.:

The researchers criticized the previous study for its erroneous assumptions.
Stop blaming me just because I accidentally infected your computer.


6 See also

  1. Reporting verbs (introduction)
  2. Reporting verbs: PDF version of this page
  3. Writing literature reviews

6.1 Other pages on referencing / citation systems: