Indirect Speech (Advanced)

Today I was presenting Indirect Speech in my Intermediate group. Although we focused on reporting verbs in the past, I explained that reporting can happen in the same chunk of time where we find the message we wish to report.

Reporting verbs used in the present time can be in the following tenses: in the present simple (What does it say here? Consider the present simple is for routines/habits or general truths, and what things put up on announcement boards, for instance, say works kind of in that way), in the present continuous (on the phone, What is your grandma saying?), in the present perfect (in class, What has the teacher [just] said?*).

If you think about it, you will see that we don’t only get to report what people say, we can also report on what a piece of paper says! 😀 (Yes, I know, papers are written by people! But this is more fun!) This is where we use the present simple. It’s a strange case because announcements, signs, do not word the message fully or with the language we use to construct full sentences! So what you learn at first, that reported sentences are about quoting the exact words of what people said can be expanded.

  • —  A no-smoking sign. Reporting on it: It says you/we are not allowed to smoke here.
  • —  A timetable. Reporting: It says French is at 14.00 in Room 101.
  • —  A letter from a friend in London. It says she’s doing fine in London.
  • —  A dictionary. It says “Globalization” means…
  • —  Instructions. It says we need to plug this there and then…

*OK, here I can hear some students protest! “Didn’t you say that…?” Hahaha… Consider these sentences and explain them in class:

In the same room in the same lesson where the saying takes place:

  • What has the teacher said? / She has said we should hand in our work by next day (UK, US Englishes)
  • What has the teacher just said? / She has just said… (UK)
  • What did the teacher say? (US) / She said…
  • What did the teacher just say? (US) / She just said (impossible in British English)

Compare to…

You walk into class when people have already finished something they had (ate). 10 minutes have passed. An hour has passed… Does this matter? Where’s your mind?:

What would you say?

  • What have you had?
  • What did you have?

Any of those? Both? Why is it different or similar to the previous set of examples?

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