Thursday, March 27, 2014

Reporting verbs

Apart from say and tell, there are other verbs that can introduce sentences in reported speech, as we saw in another blog entry. These reporting verbs are more specific: they tell us more about the intention of the speaker. Let's see an example:
Bart said: "I won't do it again, dad".
This sentence can be reported as:
1. Bart told his dad that he wouldn't do it again.
2. Bart promised his dad not to do it again.
Both reported speech sentences are correct, but the second one is better because the verb "promise" tells us a lot about the intention of the speaker, whereas "tell" is more neutral.
Bart promised his dad not to do it again.
There are many reporting verbs, which are difficult to master even for native speakers, but when used, they undoubtedly give a greater quality to their writing.
In order to make them easier to learn for foreign speakers of English, we are going to classify them in five different groups according to the structure or pattern they follow. Bear in mind that some of them can be found in two or even three groups:

Verb + to-infinitive
"I'll bring some refreshments", she said.
She offered to bring some refreshments.
These are some of the verbs that have this pattern
agree decide offer
promise refuse threaten
claim swear demand

Verb + object + to-infinitive
"Please, stay!", she said.
She begged me to stay. Note that there is no need to repeat the word "please", because its meaning is given by the reporting verb "beg".
Some verbs that follow this pattern are:
advise ask convince
encourage invite beg
forbid instruct order
request remind urge
persuade warn

Verb + V-ing / noun
"I didn't steal the money", he said
He denied stealing the money.
Some verbs that require a gerund are:
admit confess acknowledge
advise deny recommend
regret suggest

Verb + Preposition + V-ing / noun
Prepositions are always followed by nouns or gerunds, so it's easy to remember that these verbs with prepositions will be followed by the -ing form. Note that you can have an object either between verb and preposition or right after the preposition.
"Yes, you stole the money" she said.
She accused him of stealing the money.
"I'm sorry I'm late!", she said.
She apologised for being late.

Verb + Prep. + V-ing Verb + Object + Prep. + V-ing
apologise for accuse s.o. of
insist on blame s.o. for
confess to congratulate s.o. on
complain about forgive s.o. for
warn s.o. against / about
disuade s.o. from

Verb + that + Subject + Verb
This structure is more formal, so it is more commonly used in written English. The verb in the subordinate clause is in the subjunctive, but in British English it is more usual to use should and the infinitive instead of the subjunctive. Examples:
"Let's go shopping", he said.
He suggested that they go shopping.
He suggested that they should go shopping
He suggested going shopping. (This is less formal, as we have already seen, but much more common.)
These are some of the reporting verbs followed by a subordinate clause:
agree ask claim
demand decide guarantee
promise propose recommend
request swear suggest

One example of one of the above patterns can be found in the following song by KWS, in which we can hear the expression "I'm begging you to stay", which is another way of saying "Please, don't go". Enjoy!


Thursday, March 20, 2014

As, like, as if, as though

Let's compare these two sentences:
Helen works as a teacher in a local school.
Helen works like a dog all day.
The first sentence tells us that Mary is a teacher. The second one compares her to a dog, but she is not a dog! So, we use as to say what the job, function or role of a person is, whereas like is used for comparison.
As can also be used for comparison, but it must be followed by:
  • A clause (Subject+Verb): She makes the cakes as her mother used to make them.
  • A prepositional phrase: In London, as in New York, there is too much traffic.
Like is used for comparison but it's always followed by a noun or noun phrase, not by a clause. However, in colloquial English you can hear it in cases in which as should be used. Although not considered correct, it seems that this trend is getting more and more common these days, and might become the rule in the future. Who knows?
This usage of like is very common in songs, which use colloquial expressions and even slang. This song by RIO titled "Like I love you" is a good example.

As must be used after the expressions the same and such:
When I arrived at the party, another woman was wearing the same dress as me!
We can do many things to help the environment, such as recycling, saving energy and using public transport.

As is also used in expressions such as as expected, as requested, as you know, as we agreed, as suggested,... Again, like can be heard in some of these expressions, but bear in mind that it's colloquial English.
Finally, as is used in the comparative of equality, as we saw in a previous blog post. Let's remember some of the idioms we saw in this presentation:

With the verbs of the senses (look, feel, taste, smell and sound) we can use like and as if or as though. (The last two are the same). You only have to take into account that like is followed by a noun or noun phrase and as if, as though are followed by a clause.
  • Your brother looks like a rugby player. (noun phrase)
  • You look as if you haven't slept for ages! (clause: Subject + Verb)
  • You are so pale! You look as though you had seen a ghost! (clause: Subject + Verb).
When the verb in the clause is in the past, the comparison is unreal or improbable. In the last example above, it's clear that the person has not seen a ghost, it's just a comparison. However, in the second sentence (with a present tense verb) there's a strong probability that the person has not slept for a very long time. 

Please, note that the verbs of the senses can also be followed directly by an adjective:
These shoes feel comfortable.
What are you cooking? It smells delicious!
You look tired.
It sounds familiar to me.

It smells delicious!

And now, some exercises:
As or like?
As, like or as if / as though?
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