The Fluency of reporting

Students I work with frequently attend English lessons to improve their speaking and general fluency of the language. They have the foundations for communication but fluency is elusive. One area I mention that can help them achieve their goal is reporting verbs. This is because more often than not my students only use  ‘Say, tell and ask’ the basic reporting verbs they learned in their intermediate classes in High school. It’s comfortable because they know them and the verb pattern that follows. However, they are limiting themselves! There are so many reporting verbs available to use to be concise and more precise with your speech. Let’s have a look.

The Basics: verb patterns

This lesson idea post is strictly an activity. It means we don’t cover the verb patterns or reporting verbs here but practice them. Students need to have some knowledge of the verb patterns in order to do the activity. If they don’t you’ll have to first cover these and then move on to the activity. Alternatively you can do the activity with the whole class(needs to be less than 8 students ideally), and cover each pattern that comes up. Then practice it again in future lessons.

The Reporting verbs

Here are the reporting verbs you can practice in the activity:

Complain, Remind, Warn, Admit, Deny, Confess, Regret, Insist, Request, Recommend, Agree, Offer, Discuss, Refuse, Comment, Notice, Remark, Suggest, Urge, Persuade, Object, Apologize, Blame, Explain, Argue, Promise, Mention, Invite, Claim, Answer

As you can see all these words are common enough, and incredibly useful when reporting a conversation. My students who are very communicative don’t use these, so you can imagine how limiting it would be. There’s more but the ones above are enough to get them started. The reality is that my students know all these words, but don’t use them because they aren’t as confident with the verb patterns for all of them. That’s the point of the activity. So here we go.

The Activity

Here are what people said:

  1. ‘ I’m sorry for forgetting your birthday.’
  2. ‘I reckon it was Tim who stole the money.’
  3. ‘Don’t forget to call me as soon as you get your results.’
  4. ‘I wish I hadn’t shouted at Kim.’
  5. ‘It’s true. I’ve failed my driving test three times.’
  6. ‘The reason why I started swimming was to get fit.’
  7. ‘The steak is overcooked and far too chewy.’
  8. ‘I didn’t break the remote control.’
  9. ‘If I were you, I wouldn’t drive anywhere alone.’
  10. ‘Ok, I admit it. I broke the window.’
  11. ‘You must come to ours. I won’t take no for an answer.’
  12. ‘There’s a great new Greek restaurant in town. You should try it.’
  13. ‘Thank you, but I couldn’t possibly accept your offer.’
  14. ‘Of course, I’d love to go on holiday with you.’
  15. ‘Would you like some help with your bags?’
  16. ‘Do you know where the Post Office is, please?’
  17. ‘Well done on completing your training course.’

And here are the corresponding verbs: Admit, Agree, Advise, Apologize, Ask, Blame, Complain, Confess, Congratulate, Deny, Explain, Insist, Notice, Offer, Recommend, Refuse, Regret, Remind


There are a couple of variations for the activity. You need to choose which is the most suitable for you based on the size of the class and the difficulty they have with these verb patterns.

  • Quick class review: Read the direct speech out to the class and ask  what the reporting verb is and the reporting sentence.
  • Put sentences on pieces of paper and give them a another piece of paper with the reporting verbs as a reference. Each student takes a turn in reading the direct speech and the other has to give the reporting verb and reporting sentence. (can be done in pairs or small groups)
  • Put sentence on piece of paper and don’t include reporting verbs or you can write reporting verbs on board (depending on difficulty).
  • Quick class review: You can pass out the sentences to individuals in the whole class and have them report to you the sentence.

Additionally, you can put the sentences on square cards with the reporting verb below that sentence on each card as well. Students take a face down card,  read the direct speech to a partner, who then has to give the reporting verb and reported sentence in response. The student with the card must agree and confirm this answer.

Here are some more sentences for this activity:

I wouldn’t take a taxi, if I were you. hint: warn

If I were you, I’d leave early. hint: recommend

I think I’ll have fish for lunch. hint: decide

I’ll definitely do my homework for tomorrow. hint: promise

If you’re going out at night, you should be careful. hint: warn

I’ll always love you. hint: promise

Would you like to come with me? hint: invite

Why don’t you hire a car? hint: suggest

No! I won’t eat my broccoli. hint: refuse

Black shoes or blue shoes? I know, I’ll wear the black ones. hint: decide

You want a lift home? Of course it’s no problem! hint: agree

You can adapt these sentences to fit the context of your  lessons, if they are business English lessons for instance. Put these sentences on paper and you have a practical activity to practice reported speech and reporting verbs.

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