Reporting verbs (introduction)

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Introduction to verbs for reporting, citing and communicating information

Paraphrasing, summarizing and citing information and ideas from other sources generally involves reporting or communicative verbs for framing the information, and often for critiquing or evaluating the cited material. These verbs are used when citing ideas or information from other writers – for reporting, commenting on, or critiquing such information.

“The author __________ that this disease is now out of control.”
(stated / noted / observed / etc.)

When you use these verbs you are indicating something about the author's statement that follows the verb. Note: some verbs (indicated with an asterisk (*), require making other changes to the sentence structure or grammar. See also the full list of reporting verbs and their grammar patterns.

1 Simple non-evaluation verbs

Simply stating, not evaluating an author’s statement.

  1. state: for quoting but not making a comment on the author's statement.
  2. report: for quoting but not making a comment on the author's statement.
  3. observe: The author (of the source) reports what s/he has noticed.
  4. relate: The author tells about an event or situation.
  5. recount, narrate: The author tells an event, a story, or a process.

2 Simple evaluation verbs

The verb communicates your simple evaluation of the writer's statement.

  1. claim: What the author (of the original source) says is true, but this implies that you might or might not agree.
  2. allege: This is what the author says is true, but s/he offers little or no proof.
  3. assert: This is what the author says, but imply you might not agree.
  4. propose: This is what the author says, but you are not convinced.
  5. think: This is the opinion of the author, but you may not share this opinion.
  6. believe: This is what the author thinks is true, but you may not be as certain.

3 More specific evaluation

3.1 Evaluation of importance

The verb tells the reader the importance the writer gives to the statement in his/her writing.

  1. stress or emphasize: The author gives a sense of importance to this idea in his/her writing.
  2. note (formal), point out (informal): The author gives some importance to this idea or fact(s) in his/her writing.
  3. mention: The author makes this statement, but that it is not an important part of his/her main idea; the author stated it briefly with little or no explanation or detail.
  4. enumerate: The author provides and/or explains a list (of reasons, examples, or such) for a statement.
  5. specify: The author provides a specific or detailed identification, definition, or description of characteristics.

3.2 Evaluative of writer’s purpose

The verb tells indicates something to reader about the writer’s purpose regarding the statement.

  1. explain: The author makes this statement clear through his/her writing, by providing explanation or some details.
  2. express: The author sets forth his/her opinions or feelings.
  3. describe: The author provides a sufficient description in his/her words.
  4. argue: The author presents reasons for his/her statement, but you may agree or disagree.
  5. show: The author clearly shows facts or reasons for his/her statement.
  6. illustrate: The author provides (an) example(s) or stories to provide reasons for his/her statement.
  7. reveal: The author provides noteworthy information, or provides noteworthy facts or reasons for his/her statement, which were perhaps unknown before.
  8. present*:The author shows facts or reasons for his/her statement.
  9. indicate: The author gives reasons or facts for his or her statement, but this may not be the author's primary purpose.
  10. expound: The author explains or interprets something in detail.
  11. propose: The author presents an idea for the reader to consider or accept.
  12. propound: The author offers and explains an idea for the reader to consider or accept.
  13. set forth (more informal): The author presents and/or explains an idea for the reader to consider.
  14. posit: The author lays down a fact or principle.
  15. elucidate: The author provides a clear explanation or clarification of something that is unclear, complex, or difficult to understand.

3.3 Evaluation – writer’s intent

The verb indicates that this is your understanding of what the writer means, although he/she does not directly say this.

  1. suggest: The author wants his/her readers to consider the possibility of this statement being true.
  2. imply: The author did not make this statement, but what he/she has written gives you this idea.

3.4 Evaluative – writer’s doubt

The verb indicates the writer’s uncertainty regarding the statement.

  1. question: The author is not sure he agrees with this statement.
  2. doubt: The author is not sure he agrees with this statement.

3.5 Evaluative – writer’s disagreement

The verb indicates that the writer disagrees with the statement.

  1. disagree*: The author does not agree with this statement.
  2. dispute: The author does not agree with this statement.
  3. contradict: The author disagrees with the statement.
  4. refute: The author proves this statement is inaccurate.
  5. denies: The author believes this statement is incorrect.

* Other changes in the sentence are needed for using such verbs, especially those indicated with asterisks; e.g., some verbs need to be followed by prepositions (disagree with), direct objects (presented X), how-clauses (showed how to), or the conjunction that (suggest that, show that).

4 Easily confused verbs

The following are often confusing to second language learners.

Verb Comments Examples
Say For reported speech, i.e., reporting what someone said, either direct reported speech (X said, "...") or indirect reported speech (X said [that] ...), or for what someone says in general.
  • She said, "I don't know" and left.
  • They said they were coming.
  • He always silly things.
  • Could you say that again? I couldn't hear you.
Tell An utterance that is directed to/at someone, that is, there is a direct object or implied direct object, which is what someone said, and an indirect object or implied indirect object, the person to whom it is told. Thus, this is also used for indirect commands ("I told you to do it").
  • Tell me that you love me.
  • I told you already. I told you ten minutes ago, "I love you."
Talk This refers to having a conversation, or discourse.
  • We were just talking.
  • Oh, I need to talk to you about something.
  • Don't worry--he talks to himself all the time.
Speak This refers to:
(1) speaking a language,
(2) giving a speech,
(3) speaking and holding the floor, or
(4) talking in a position of authority.
If a person is giving a speech in a context where multiple speakers take turns and get permission to speak from a person in charge, like in parliament or business meetings, then the person speaking "has the floor" or is "holding the floor" because s/he has the authority to speak as others listing. In a more formal way, someone might say "I need to speak to you," which sounds serious, because the person is asserting authority to initiate a conversation and hold the floor in talking to you.
  • The MP from Glasgow is speaking now.
  • The representative from Chicago has been speaking for fifteen minutes about farm policy.
  • Yes, I speak French.
  • When you have a minute, I need to speak to you about something.

5 See also

  1. For more on the grammatical patterns of such verbs, see the longer reporting verbs handout.
  2. Writing literature reviews

5.1 Other pages on referencing / citation systems: