Lesson Transcript

Hi, everybody. My name is Alisha. In this lesson, we're going to talk about reporting speech in English. I'm going to talk about the verbs we use and a couple of grammar points that you can think about. Let's get started.
The first type of speech reporting I want to introduce is reporting statements. Statements are just simple things, simple sentences that people said. This can be direct dialogue, exactly the things someone said, or it can be a summary of something someone said. Keep in mind, these are not questions. I'm going to talk about questions later. Let's look at the verbs and the other expressions we use to report simple statements. The first one is the very, very neutral "said, I said." "Said" is the past tense form of "say." We use "say" and past tense "said" as the most basic way to share something, someone else said. We can use this for direct reports, meaning, exactly the things someone said. We do these. We use quotes to indicate direct speech, or we can just use it as I have here to introduce a summary of something.
In this example sentence, "I said I had to work." This is just a simple summary. I said something similar in the past, perhaps, but this is maybe not a direct report of my speech. We can use "said" in most cases just to report information. "This was said by someone." The speaker is here, the subject, "I." In this case, "I said I had to work." We could change it to "He said he had to work" is fine. "They said they had to work." This is the most basic verb we can use to report speech.
Let's move on to a couple other ones. Let's look at this "told." Here, I'm using the verb "tell," but I'm using past tense "told." Here, the speaker is indicated at the beginning of the sentence, "he," and then the person receiving the information, in this case, "me," follows the verb. "He told me," in this case, "the train was late." "He told me the train was late." This is a past situation. "I received information from him. The information was this. He told me the train was late." You can change the person speaking and the person receiving by changing these two parts on either side of the verb. "My mother told my brother to clean his room," for example.
Keep in mind, when you use the verb "tell," or in this case, past tense "told," the idea is that it's more one-way communication. It's not really a conversation. In this case, "he told me," meaning, information is coming this way only. "I'm not sharing information with him really. He's just sharing something with me." It's one way. We use "told" to communicate that. Of course we could use "said" here. "He said the train was late." Using "tell," or in this case, past tense "told" just makes the feeling of one-way communication stronger. "He told me."
Okay. Now, I want to go on to some very casual expressions that you see for reporting direct speech, especially in American English. The first one is this "was all." I've used this in past tense here. You may hear this in present tense. "She's all," as in this example. But "was all" is quite common, too. "Was all" is a very casual way of using a verb like "said." However, we use this to report direct speech. These quotes show this is exactly the thing someone said, these little quotation marks. In this case, "She was all, 'You're not going to believe this.'" This is the exact statement the speaker, she said in the past. She said exactly this. We know this because we've used this reporting expression. And in this case, in the written words, we see the quotation marks here.
When you're speaking or when you're listening for this, you won't hear "she was all," you'll hear, "she was all." "She was all, 'You're not going to believe this.'" It's quite fast. "She was all." Sometimes this W sound is very difficult to hear. You might just hear "she's all." In which case, it sounds like present tense, but in both cases, the basic meaning of just communicating speech remains. So, don't worry too much about catching this W sound. This "she's all" is fine to understand what's going on.
Another one that uses the same "was" pattern is using "like," another very casual way to report direct speech. In this case, who is speaking? My mom. "My mom was like, 'You can't go out this weekend.'" In this sentence too, these words here are exactly the words my mother said, but we used "was like" here. You'll notice that these two expressions, "was all" and "was like," well, they're very, very casual. They're used to kind of report something that's maybe shocking or surprising or maybe a little bit gossipy. In this case, maybe the speaker is complaining. It's very, very casual situations that we use these expressions. "My mom was like." Again, this W sound. "My mom was like." This kind of disappears a little bit. We can also use it in present tense, "My mom is like," but "My mom was like" is good for a clear past tense report.
Okay. We use the next pair, "went" and "go," to report speech very casually. You can see here there is past tense "went," present tense "go." We use them in the same way. Again, just as with "was all" and "was like," we use these to communicate direct quotes. These are exact quotes, things people actually said. "They went, 'We're leaving.'" Again, we could say, "They said, 'We're leaving.'" But using "went" again has this sort of very casual, maybe gossipy, like there's a little bit of exciting information there perhaps. Same thing with "go." "So I go, 'Fine, I'm leaving too.'" We use these two together in very casual situations that have a quick conversational feel about them. We can say these things very quickly in a pair. "They went, 'We're leaving.'" "So I go, 'Fine, I'm leaving too.'"
Having this "went" and "go" match together feels very natural, I think, to native speakers. Same thing here, "She was all" and "My mom was like." Using these together in the same dialogue report sounds quite natural, I think. But generally, using a mix of all of these to report statements is a really good idea. If you use the exact same expression to report, report, report all the time, it sounds a little bit unnatural, kind of stiff.
Okay. These are all four statements. Let's look at two patterns for questions now. Here, I have the past tense "asked" and "inquired" used here. I chose these two just because "asked" is kind of the casual or the everyday verb we can use for questions. "Inquired" just sounds more formal. It's a more formal way of saying "asked." Some examples of this are, "I asked about the menu," and, "I asked if there were any vacancies." These are two common patterns. "I asked about some topic," or, "I asked if." And then there's some kind of inquiry point here. "I asked if there were any vacancies here." Same thing we can do with "inquired." "He inquired about the company." We see this same about plus a topic point. We can also, with the verb "asked," use a direct quote, too. For example, "I asked, 'What are you doing?'" That's also okay. We can use "asked" with a direct quote. You can also use it with "inquired" as well if you like. But perhaps, this one is a little bit more useful for everyday conversations and everyday questions.
Throughout this lesson, I've talked about using the past tense and the present tense for reporting, but what's the difference? I want to talk a little bit about that here to finish that. Past tense and present tense, both used to report speech, both find report speech. Here, I've used simple past and simple present tense. You might also hear progressive tense in the past or in the present tense. But the difference between them, present tense, if you use present tense, it feels like the story is happening now. If I'm using present tense to report speech and maybe to share the points in the story as well, it sounds like the story is happening now. It's present. It's present tense. It's happening in the present. If I want my story to feel lively and more exciting, I can use present tense to tell my story. If, however, past tense is used, it sounds more like just a simple report. It's like you're just telling facts, what happened. There's not really like a feeling of excitement necessarily. It's just simple reporting.
We see past tense and simple past tense story reporting in the news, for example. In the news, it's simple reports of fact, what happened on that day. You'll see simple past tense used in English news reports. This is kind of a key difference that you can think about when you're telling stories and you're reporting information as well.
All right. That's everything for this lesson. I hope that it was useful for you. Of course, please feel free to drop us a message in the comments as well. Thanks very much for watching this episode and I will see you again next time. Bye!


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Tuesday at 06:30 PM
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EnglishClass101.com Verified
Wednesday at 07:41 PM
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Hi there Ralf,

Thanks for taking the time to write to ask us your question. ๐Ÿ˜„

"He/she was all...." is a reporting statement. It is a replacement for saying 'said.' It is very casual and slang. I would suggest using 'said.'

Hope youโ€™ve had a great week so far!



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Ralf Wussler
Monday at 04:37 PM
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I've got the following question:

Is "he was all ..." similar to "he was totally convinced ..." ?