Said and told
Thanks for the link to Paulo Coelho’s blog Marcos. Very interesting!
Any plans for the weekend? The weather forecast here is good, so I should make the most of it and do something outside. On my way home from work today, I noticed a mackerel sky, which you can see in this very short video:
The clouds look a bit like fish scales and mackerel is a kind of fish. The traditional saying is:
Mackerel sky, mackerel sky, not long wet and not long dry.
I think it means that the weather is likely to be changeable (some rain, followed by some sunny spells*, or vice versa*). So perhaps I should have some indoor activities planned for the weekend too……
In this post I’m going to say something more about the representation of speech in writing. Speech reports can be of what people might say, or of what they intend to say (Next time she asks for my help, I should say that I’m too busy. I’ll just say, “Sorry, I….”). Here we won’t focus on this type of speech report; instead we will look at reports of real, past speech using the conversation about the Easter cake I posted on April 14. Today we will think about reporting verbs (the most frequent reporting verbs and speech acts).
Most frequent reporting verbs
As you know, the most frequent reporting verb (in British English) in direct reports is said:
Vicky said, “There should be twelve!”
In indirect reports, the most common reporting verbs are said and told:
Mum said that there should be eleven marzipan balls on the cake.
Dad told us that they are traditional.
Told is not (usually) used to introduce direct reports:
Vicky told her, “There should be twelve!”
Said focuses on the words that someone says, told focuses on the content of what someone says, the message.
Said is used with an optional prepositional complement and an object (which is the reported clause):
Vicky said [to her: optional prepositional complement], [“There should be twelve!”: object]
Told usually has an indirect object and a direct object:
Dad told [us: indirect object] [that they are traditional: direct object]
Other verbs add detail or help to emphasise the communicative function of direct or indirect speech:
“They’re traditional,” Dad suggested.
Mum pointed out that there were eleven balls of marzipan.
Mum claimed to have weighed all the balls.
“I would never have thought of that,” confessed Dad.
Mum protested that it wasn’t easy to make the cake.
Although there are two examples of reporting verbs indicating a speech act used with direct speech (both involving Dad), these verbs are most frequently used to introduce indirect reports (like the ones involving Mum).
OK, I’ll stop there for now. In the next post, I’ll look at tense and aspect in the reporting verbs (so far I have only used said and told – so I still need to talk about say/tell and is saying/is telling…).
If I haven’t sent you to sleep yet……here is an interactive exercise to practise said/told and speech act verbs:
Take the challenge
Enjoy your weekend!!
* (sunny) spell = a short period of a specific kind of weather: a dry spell, a hot spell etc.
* vice versa = also in reverse order, the other way around.
Comments on the comments:
Marianna (from Slovakia) – thank you for your interesting story about your career!
Filippo (from Italy) – On Easter day my Mum cooked roast chicken and Yorkshire Puddings. More about Yorkshire Puddings another time!
Rabail (from the UK) – The online dictionary I am using at the moment is one suggested by Marcos recently. It’s www.dictionary.com
My Dad mainly uses a website called www.ancestry.com for his family history research. It has census results going back to the 1800’s and lots of suggestions for how to go back further.
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