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Reporting Verbs in English: List with Examples & Exercises

Reporting verbs are used when you want to tell someone about another conversation. We also call this reported speech or indirect speech. Two examples of reporting verbs are say and tell. There are many others and these have different meanings and grammar structures. In this study guide, we’ll look at examples of these verbs and show you how to use them correctly. We’ll also look at reporting verbs to improve your academic writing. Let’s go!

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What you will learn: 

 

What are reporting verbs?

Reporting verbs (or referring verbs) are words used to report about (or refer to) what another person has said, written or done. These verbs are used in reported speech, which can be direct or indirect.

The first reporting verbs that English students learn are usually say and tell. For example compare i) and ii) below:

  1. “It’s my birthday next weekend. Please, make a birthday cake for me!” Charlotte said to her mum (direct speech)
  2. Charlotte told her mum to make a birthday cake for her. (indirect speech)

There are many other reporting verbs in English. These can be particularly useful in formal and academic writing.

 

Reporting verbs list

General reporting verbs

In this table, we have listed out some common reporting verbs that are used in everyday English. To help you understand how to correctly place them in a sentence, we have put them into approximate categories based on their most common usage. However, you should remember that some of these reporting verbs can be used in difference contexts and sometimes with different grammar structures.

+ infinitive
(to + vb)
+ somebody + infinitive + verb + ing + particle + vb + ing
Refuse
Decide
Promise
Demand
Agree
Threaten
Hope
Remind
Ask
Beg
Warn
Order
Encourage
Persuade
Advise
Urge
Deny
Suggest
Recommend
Admit
Insist (on)
Think (about)
Blame (smbd for)
Accuse (smbd of)
Apologise (to smbd for)
Complain (to smbd about)
Confess (to)
Forbid (smbd from)
Academic reporting verbs

In the table below, we’ve listed out the reporting verbs in groups based on their general meanings. We have also indicated the relative “strength” of each verb. For example, if I imply (suggest/hint, weak) that you are wrong, this is very different from if I assert (state/say, strong) that you are wrong. Remember that English is seldom “black vs. white” – there are often several degrees of meaning.

 General meaning Strong verbs  Neutral verbs  Weak verbs
Say Assert that Mention smth/that
State that
Point out smth/that
Add smth/that
Outline smth/that
Describe smth/how
Note smth/that
Comment on smth/that
Suggest Warn that
Affirm that
Propose smth/that
Hypothesise that
Theorise that
Imply that
Put forward  smth
 

Show

Prove smth/that
Reveal smth/that
Show smth/that
Demonstrate smth/that
Establish smth/that
Hint at smth
Allude to smth
Persuade Convince smbd
Explain Identify smth
Illustrate smth/how
Clarify smth
Examine Scrutinise smth Investigate smth
Study smth
Inquire into smth/whether
 

Agree

Support smth
Concur that
Acknowledge smth/that
Recognise smth/that
Echo smth
Concede smth
Disagree Challenge smth
Refute smth
Reject smth
Oppose smth
Object to smth
Deny smth
Rebuff smth
Doubt smth/whether Question smth/whether
Believe Insist on smth/that
Maintain that
Hold smth/that
Profess that
Subscribe to smth
Assume that

 

How do I use reporting verbs?

General reporting verbs

Understanding what the verbs mean is generally the easiest step. You see a new word, you learn what the word means in your own language and you learn how to pronounce it in English. In actual fact, you can only really say you’ve learnt a word when you also know how to accurately use it in a sentence.

Let’s return to our example with Charlotte’s birthday cake:

 “It’s my birthday next weekend. Make a birthday cake for me,” Charlotte said to her mum (direct speech)

Charlotte told her mum to make a birthday cake for her. (indirect speech)

Easy, right? Now let’s consider that there are many other ways that Charlotte could say this in English. Depending on what she said and how she said it, you might need to use a different reporting verb, not just say or tell. For example:

  1. If you want to express the idea of “Don’t forget
    Don’t forget to make a birthday cake for me.”
    Charlotte reminded her mum to make a cake.
  2. If you want to express the idea of “No, I don’t want to do something
    (i) “I’m not going to make my own birthday cake!”
    Charlotte said that she wouldn’t make her own cake.(ii) “I’m not going to make my birthday cake. You can do it!”
    Charlotte refused to make a cake.

    (iii) “I’ve got lots of work to do this weekend and I might be too busy for other things”Charlotte hinted that she wouldn’t make the cake. 

In these sentences, there are three different verbs (say, hint, refuse). They all mean “no” but say is a neutral verb, hint is a weak verb, and refuse is much stronger.

  1. If you want to express the idea of “Please do this!”
    Can you make a birthday cake for me, please?”
    Charlotte asked her mum to make a cake.Please, please, please, can you make a cake for my birthday?”
    Charlotte begged her mum to make a cake
    (or)
    Charlotte pleaded with her mum to make a birthday cake.

    Ask, plead and beg all have a similar meaning, but plead and beg are much stronger than ask.

Learning words in English is like collecting bricks to build a house. It’s not enough just to get the bricks. You also need to learn how to arrange them correctly so that your house is solid! You can’t build a good house from just a couple of bricks (e.g. say and tell). That’s why you need to learn more vocabulary – like reporting verbs. We don’t want the Big Bad Wolf to blow your house down!

Let’s take a look at HOW to use reporting verbs in real sentences. Below, we have divided the verbs into their different grammar structures so they are easier for you to learn.

1. Reporting verb + infinitive

Verbs: Refuse, decide, promise, demand, agree, threaten, plead with
Examples:

  • Charlotte refused to make a cake. (NOT: Charlotte refused making a cake)
  • My boss decided to give me a promotion.
  • The teacher demanded to know who was responsible for the mess.
  • We agreed to keep quiet and not tell anyone the news.
    (or)
    We agreed that we would keep quiet.
  • We threatened to go to the police.
  • They pleaded with the man to release the hostage.
2. Reporting verb + somebody + (not) infinitive

Verbs: remind, ask, beg, warn , order, encourage, persuade, advise, urge, agree
Examples:

  • Charlotte reminded her mum to make a cake.
  • They asked me to cook
  • He begged his friend not to tell
  • They warned me not to go there by myself.
  • The government has ordered everybody to stay at home.
  • Her parents always encourage her to work
  • They persuaded me to stay for another drink.
  • The doctor advised me to stop
  • Our new neighbours have invited us to have dinner with them tomorrow.
3. Reporting verb + verb +ing

Verbs: Deny, suggest, recommend, report, propose, admit

These verbs can be used with +ing or with that, but it’s generally better to be concise and use the +ing verb. Short and sweet!
Examples:

  • They denied taking the last biscuit. (short)
    (or)
    They denied that they had taken the last biscuit. (long)
  • She admitted stealing the money.
    (or)
    She admitted that she had stolen the money. / She admitted to me that she had stolen the money.
  • She suggested taking a taxi because it would be quicker.
    (or)
    She suggested that we took a taxi.
  • I recommend going in the morning when the weather isn’t so hot.
    (or)
    I recommend (that) we go in the morning.
  • I propose cancelling the next meeting until we have made a decision.
    (or)
    I propose that we cancel the next meeting.
4. Reporting verb + preposition + verb + ing

Verbs: Blame smbd for, accuse smbd of, insist on, apologise for, complain about, confess to, forbid smbd from, agree to, think about
Examples:

  • They blamed me for missing the train.
  • She accused her friend of
  • He apologised for breaking the window.
  • She is thinking about moving to France.
  • He insisted on paying for everybody. / He insisted that he paid for everybody.
  • They complained about not having a small hotel room. / They complained that they didn’t have a bigger room.
Academic reporting verbs

The reporting verbs we use in academic writing also follow specific grammatical patterns. Again, it is important to know whether the verb needs +ing, the infinitive, or that after it.

5. Academic reporting verb + that

Verbs: Point out, find, observe, state, agree, believe, assert, claim, contend, explain, guess, assert, imply, reason, prove, note, report, reveal.


Examples:

  • Bosley (2017) found that elderly patients experience fewer symptoms of pain when they have regular access to some form of nature.
    (or)
    Bosley (2017) found a link between symptoms and access to nature. (find smth)
  • Martinez (2008) and Zhang (2009) agree that
    (or)
    Martinez (2008) and Zhang (2009) agree with this theory. (agree with + smth/smbd)
  • Persson (2003) claims that a community is impossible without a shared aim.
  • Research conducted by Bradwell in 2017 revealed that there was a considerable difference in the amount of time UK and US teenagers spent with their families.
    (or)
    Research conducted by Bradwell in 2017 revealed a considerable difference in the amount of time UK and US teenagers spent with their families.
6. Academic reporting verb + smth

Verbs: Develop, study, focus on, acknowledge, doubt, contribute to, echo, subscribe to, question, disapprove of, dispute, reject, discuss, investigate, illustrate, present, outline, put forward, consider, support, emphasise, challenge, analyse, discard, identify, explore, propose, highlight, stress.
Examples:

  • Wang (2016) supports the idea that there is a significant link between play and child development.
    NOT : Wang (2016) supports that there is a significant link between play and child development. 
  • Roberts (2018) identifies three possible factors in early diagnosis.
  • Solara (2015) questions the importance of this approach.
    (or)
    Solara (2015)  questions whether this approach is important.
  • Barboza (2018) rejects the three factors presented by Solara.
  • Miller (2016) discusses this theory in detail.
    NOT: Miller (2016) discusses about this theory in detail

 

Reporting verbs in academic writing

In academic writing, reporting verbs are used when you want to refer to what another person has said. You do this to strengthen your own argument and to show that other academics think the same as you.

It would be easy to just learn the verb “to state”, and use this all the time. However, using a range of other verbs can allow you to express your opinion about the author’s idea more precisely. For example, “to state” is quite neutral, but “to claim” implies that there is no proof behind what the author is saying.

Past or present tense?

You can use both the past and the present tense in academic writing.

If you are talking about recent research, use the present. This makes a connection between past research and now, which adds weight to your argument.

  • Wang (2016) supports the idea that there is a significant link between play and child development. (present simple)

If you are talking about how research was conducted, you will need to use the past simple (either active or passive voice).

  • Wang (2016) examined fifty groups of siblings. (past simple) The siblings were asked the following questions. (passive voice)

 

Avoid these common mistakes!

  • It’s possible to express someone’s opinion using “According to…”. This does not need a reporting verb. “According to” does the job of a reporting verb already.
    e.g. “According to Covey (2017)…”
    (Not: “According to Covey (2017) states that…”)
  • A source written by one author will need a singular verb with “-s” at the end
    e.g. “Liu (2016) suggests that…”
    (Not: “Liu (2016) suggest that…”)
  • A source written by more than one author will need a plural verb.
    e.g. “Liu and Helzer (2016) suggest that…”
    (Not: “Liu and Helzer (2016) suggests that…”)
  • If you use “et al.” to indicate multiple authors, this will also require a plural verb as it means “they”.
    e.g. “Rosenberg et al. (2018) argue that…”
    (Not: “Rosenberg et al. (2018) argues that…”)

 

Reporting verbs: Exercises

Exercise 1

Choose between say vs. tell to fill the gap in each sentence.

  1. Why didn’t you _____________ me that you don’t eat meat?
    a) say.  b) tell
  2. I didn’t ____________ anything to you, because I was too worried.
    a) tell.   b) say
  3. We __________ them to meet us in the main square at half past eleven.
    a) told.  b) said
  4. You should ________ her that you don’t want to go on holiday.
    a) say.  b) tell
  5. Are you going to ___________ anything to Sue about your good news?
    a) say.  b) tell
  6. They have ________ that we will need to bring our own bed linen and towels.
    a) told.   b) said

Exercise 2

Which of these sentences are right and which are wrong? Choose correct or incorrect.

  1. She suggested to study together for the exam.
    a. Correct   b. Incorrect
  2. I said you not to do that.
    a. Correct   b. Incorrect
  3. I didn’t tell anyone anything.
    a. Correct.  b. Incorrect
  4. We have decided live in the countryside.
    a. Correct   b. Incorrect
  5. My grandmother always encouraged to learn to cook.
    a. Correct   b. Incorrect

Exercise 3

Choose the correct verb to complete the sentences.

  1. She invited me ________ to her house for a drink after work.
    a. go    b. going  c. to go
  2. She asked me _________ some money.
    a. lending    b. to lend    c. to lend her
  3. They persuaded me _________ to London with them.
    a. go    b. to go    c. of going
  4. He advised _______ more exercise.
    a. I do    b. me to do   c. me doing
  5. He begged me not _______ anybody about the accident.
    a. of telling    b. tell    c. to tell
  6. He reminded ________ to renew the car insurance.
    a. to me   b. me    c. of me
  7. She refused _______ the washing-up again!
    a. me to do   b. to do.  c. doing
  8. She apologised _________ me an angry text message.
    a. of sending. b. for sending   c. sending
  9. He admitted ________ the red wine on the sofa.
    a. spilling   b. to spill   c. spill of
  10. He suggested _________ on a cycling holiday next year.
    a. go   b. going c. we going
  11. He denied _________ my car.
    a. taking   b. to take   c. taking of
  12. She decided __________ the risotto.
    a. having.  b. to have   c. to having
Answers:

Exercise 1:

  1. b
  2. b
  3. a
  4. b
  5. a
  6. b

Exercise 2:

  1. b. Incorrect (She suggested studying together for the exam.)
  2. b. Incorrect (I told you not to do that.)
  3. a. Correct
  4. b. Incorrect (We have decided to live in the countryside.)
  5. b. Incorrect (My grandmother always encouraged me to learn to cook.)

Exercise 3:

  1. c
  2. c
  3. b
  4. b
  5. c
  6. b
  7. b
  8. b
  9. a
  10. b
  11. a
  12. b
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Holly N. — Academic English Tutor
Holly N.
— Academic English Tutor
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