Unit 77 Other report structures

Main points

* When reporting an order, a request, or a piece of advice, the reported clause is a `to’-infinitive clause, used after an object.

* When reporting a question, the reported clause is an `if’-clause or a `wh’-word clause.

* Many reporting verbs refer to people’s thoughts and feelings.

1 If you want to report an order, a request, or a piece of advice, you use a `to’-infinitive clause after a reporting verb such as `tell’, `ask’, or `advise’. You mention the hearer as the object of the verb, before the `to’-infinitive clause.

advise, ask, beg, command, forbid, instruct, invite, order, persuade, remind, tell, warn

Johnson told her to wake him up.
He ordered me to fetch the books.
He asked her to marry him.
He advised me to buy it.

If the order, request, or advice is negative, you put `not’ before the `to’-infinitive.
He had ordered his officers not to use weapons.
She asked her staff not to discuss it publicly.
Doctors advised him not to play for three weeks.

If the subject of the `to’-infinitive clause is the same as the subject of the main verb, you can use `ask’ or `beg’ to report a request without mentioning the hearer.
I asked to see the manager.
Both men begged not to be named.

2 If you want to report a question, you use a verb such as `ask’ followed by an `if’-clause or a `wh’-word clause.
I asked if I could stay with them.
They wondered whether the time was right.
He asked me where I was going.
She inquired how Ibrahim was getting on.

Note that in reported questions, the subject of the question comes before the verb, just as it does in affirmative sentences.
See Unit 75.

3 Many reporting verbs refer to people’s thoughts and feelings but are often used to report what people say. For example, if someone says `I must go’, you might report this as `She wanted to go’ or `She thought she should go’.

Some of these verbs are followed by:

* a `that’-clause

accept, believe, consider, fear, feel, guess, imagine, know, suppose, think, understand, worry

We both knew that the town was cut off.
I had always believed that I would see him again.

* a `to’-infinitive clause


He doesn’t want to get up.

* a `that’-clause or a `to’-infinitive clause

agree, decide, expect, forget, hope, prefer, regret, remember, wish

She hoped she wasn’t going to cry.
They are in love and wish to marry.

`Expect’ and `prefer’ can also be followed by an object and a `to’-infinitive.
I’m sure she doesn’t expect you to take the plane.
The headmaster prefers them to act plays they have written themselves.

4 A speaker’s exact words are more often used in stories than in ordinary conversation.
`I knew I’d seen you,’ I said.
`Only one,’ replied the Englishman.
`Let’s go and have a look at the swimming pool,’ she suggested.

In ordinary conversation, it is normal to use a report structure rather than to repeat someone’s exact words.