Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Reported Speech: Reporting a Question

ESL learners often find it difficult to report a question correctly . There are several pitfalls awaiting them when they try to put an interrogative sentence into reported speech . Here are a few sure-fire methods to help you avoid errors .

1 The first step is to choose a suitable Reporting Verb .The usual reporting verbs are asked or inquired . Note that these reporting verbs are in the past tense!

2 A question is reported at a different place and time . It , therefore ,stands to reason that there should be changes in certain items relating to time and place in the original interrogative sentence . This involves a change of tense from present tense to past tense and from past tense to past perfect . As the reporting verb is in the past tense, the person reporting views present things as taking place at a pont of time in the past and past events as taking place at a remoter point of time in the past . The following changes are consistent with the reporter's changed perspective :


This becomes that
here --------there
ago---------before

these ---------those
today---------that day
tomorrow---- -following day
yesterday------the previous day
now-----------then


3 please remember that once a question is reported it ceases to be a question ! It is a statement . The peculiar structure of a question is gone . It has the structure of a typical English declarative sentence . The basic structure of a question is :

auxiliary +subject +verb +object/complement/adverbial

What happens when simple present and simple past are used ? They have no auxiliaries . Well, the dummy auxiliaries are used to fill the place of regular auxiliaries . But they are needed only in direct questions . In reported questions they are dispensed with . Examples:

" Did John marry Jane? " Sarah asked

Sarah asked whether John had married Jane . (past tense becomes past perfect)

"Does she play tennis " The teacher asked her father .

Her teacher asked her father whether she played tennis .

"Have you had your lunch?", she asked him ,

She asked him whether he had had his lunch.

4 When a Wh-question is reported , the conjunction whether is avoided and the reported question begins with the question-word what , how when , where etc . Example:

The teacher, ""Where do you come from? "

The teacher asked her where she came from. (no conjunction)

From the examples given it is clear that reported questions have the same structure as statements .


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