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Grammar Challenge


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Have you spoken to one of your relatives recently? Who did you talk to and what did you talk about? Did you ask each other any questions? Use reported questions to tell us about your conversation.

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Patricia, Spain
My younger brother is 11 and he's paying me a visit next Saturday. I talked to my mum today and she asked me what I wanted him to bring me, things such my heardryer, or clothes. She also wanted to know whether I had the flight details clear, and demanded me to call her the moment I saw him. Albert is very anxious and excited about this trip, and as we're going to Schotland he was wondering if we were going to see Nessie and whether he could buy a quilt. I'm really looking forward to seeing him... can't wait!

Catherine says:
Hi Patricia! Scotland is a beautiful country - I'm sure you'll have a lovely time! I do hope you see Nessie (the monster that is supposed lo live in Loch Ness, the largest lake in Scotland) - do send us a photograph of her!!!

Your reported questions are really lovely, Patricia: they are very well constructed! However, I'd like to focus on your use of the reporting verb 'demand'. You wrote:

'She also wanted to know whether I had the flight details clear, and demanded me to call her the moment I saw him.

the verb demand takes the pattern 'verb + to + infinitive', - with no object - so your sentence seems a bit odd. Instead, you could use the verb 'order' which takes the pattern 'verb + object + to + infinitive' so you could write she ordered me to call. Or you could use the subjunctive like this: She demanded that I call her .

Click here to find out more about reporting verbs and the subjunctive.

And finally, Patricia, here are a few spelling corrections for you:

'heardryer' should be hairdryer
'Schotland' should be Scotland
'quilt' should be kilt (traditional Scottish men's clothing, rather like a skirt)

Have a lovely holiday, Patricia!

Quetzall, Mexico
This evening I spoke with my cousin and asked her how she was doing because she is pregnant and she's been having some problems with high blood pressure and she told me her blood pressure is still high and she might deliver earlier because of that. I ask her if she was prepare for it and she said she was preparing the suitcase with all the baby's stuff and hers, I also asked her if she was having some medicine for the pressure she said no that the doctor only send some medicine for the baby's lungs. She told me that the doctor said if next wednesday when she has her appointment the pressure is too high then doctor will process with the deliver of the baby. I asked my cousin if she was relax or anxious and she said she was fine that she wants her baby to born anytime. I also asked who was driving her to the doctor she said she wasn't sure if her sister doesn't work maybe she will drive her or maybe her mom. I told her I hope everything will be fine and to call me when she has news and we say goodbye.

Catherine says:
Hi Quetzall! What an exciting time for you and your family!

You've written a very clear account of your conversation with your cousin, Quetzall, with only minor errors here and there. Let's have a look at one or two of them.

Firstly, because your phone conversation was in the past, all your reporting verbs should be in the past tense. So instead of saying 'I ask her...' you need to say 'I asked her...'

You need to work on your participles and adjectives a little, Quetzall. Instead of 'she was prepare', you should write 'she was prepared'. And 'she was relax' should be 'she was relaxed'

I'd also like to suggest a couple of vocabulary corrections to another of your sentences. You wrote ' will process with the deliver of the baby'. You can improve this by writing '... the doctor will proceed with the delivery of the baby'

Thanks for your comment, and please give my very best regards to your cousin, Quetzall!

Paolo, Italy
Yesterday I 'Skyped' my mum. She said she was really happy to hear me because I don't call her frequently. Besides the usual stuff, asking about work, friends and the weather she couldn't stop asking whether I had an haircut. She asked me if I could turn on my web cam and after that I did that she could not stop complaining about the dreadlocks. An true episode of 'conditional' mother love...

Catherine says:
Hi Paolo! Thanks for your story - it made me smile! Mothers always want their children to look lovely...

Lets have a look at this sentence: 'she couldn't stop asking whether I had an haircut'. Since the haircut happened in the past, it would probably sound more natural to use the past perfect in the reported question, like this: 'she couldn't stop asking whether I'd had a haircut' - and notice that we say 'a haircut' (not 'an')

Nice to hear from you, Paolo!

Mom., Tehran
My mother asked if I studied properly. She wanted to know when I go to my friend's party. She asked weather I could write a letter for her. She wanted to know if I had gone shopping.

Catherine says:
Hi Mom. (is your name Mohammed?) and thanks for getting in touch! You've constructed your reported questions very well - but we need to check your tenses in a couple of them.

This reported question: 'My mother asked if I studied properly.' would probably sound more natural if you used a continuous tense to talk about study that is happening around now, like this:

My mother asked if I was studying properly.

And this one: 'She wanted to know when I go to my friend's party.' could be re-written in one of several ways:

Past: She wanted to know when I had been to my friend's party. OR
She wanted to know when I went to my friend's party.

Future: She wanted to know when I was going to my friend's party.
She wanted to know when I would be going to my friend's party.

And let's just check your spelling: in reported questions we write whether (not 'weather')

You can find out a bit more about tenses in reported speech by going to our Ask about English area.

That's all from me!

Carolina, Spain
I spoke to my aunt last week, and I asked her if she was coming to visit me next month. She said yes, and then I asked her if she had checked her car because it is too old. She asked me whether I has passed all my exams, and I told her I didnĀ“t know yet. Finally, she wanted to know if I had visited my grandmother recently, and I told her I would go next weekend.

Catherine says:
Hi Carolina! Thanks for sending us this lovely paragraph. You've got a very good knowledge of reported questions, and I particularly like the way you have livened up your writing by using a variety of reporting verbs.

We need to take a look at this sentence though: 'She asked me whether I has passed'

To correct this sentence, you need to think about subject-verb agreement and also tense. Then you can write:

She asked me whether I have passed
She asked me whether I had passed

Thanks again for your comment, Carolina!

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