Complex sentences

Unique meanings

Describing the world indirectly—Reported speech

One suuuuuuuper common way we use complex sentences in daily life is when we report other people's speech.

For example, what’s the difference between these two snippets?

I was born with natural track-and-field talent because of my mom.

Brook always said I was born with natural track-and-field talent because of my mom.

Mango DelightFracaswell HymanSource

The first describes the world directly. The narrator tells us something which we accept as fact.

The second describes the world indirectly. The narrator summarises what someone else said.

When we talk about the world in terms of what characters say, it’s called reported speech, and reported speech is always a complex sentence.

In reported speech, we have:

  • The reporter—the person who is communicating something.
  • Their method of delivery—such as saying, telling, implying, hinting, plus any helper words required to indicate how the reporter gets their message across
  • The message—what they are saying about the world.

Taken together the reporter and the method of delivery form a sort of wrapper around the core meaning (the message).

Can you spot these elements of reported speech in each of the following snippets?

Brook always said I was born with natural track-and-field talent because of my mom.

Mango DelightFracaswell HymanSource

She had told him not to leave the room.

Forged by FireSharon M. DraperSource

Mom made it seem like this move was no big deal because we’d be back when her new job contract expired.

The First Rule of PunkCelia C PérezSource
Is 'made it seem like' really an example of reported speech?
Some example ‘speech-related’ verbs
Your turn

But speech (and, more broadly, communication) is only one way to indirectly describe the world. Let’s take a look at some other ways!

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