Reporting Signals

Reported Speech is…

information or ideas that come from someone else.  Sometimes, this appears as a direct quote.  In stories and summaries, though, we usually use sentence structures that quote or paraphrase the information and indicate the source.

Using sources - Reporting Signals for ESL students

Casual Phrases

X says/said that [SENTENCE].

X tells/told [somebody] to [VERB].

X tells/told [ somebody] that [SENTENCE].

X wants/wanted [somebody] to  [VERB].

X thinks/thought that [SENTENCE].

Academic Phrases

According to X, [SENTENCE].

X states/writes that [SENTENCE].

X describes/ accepts + [NOUN PHRASE].

In the article “ …”, X claims that [SENTENCE].

When talking about events in the past, write the whole sentence in the past.  Also, change pronouns to match the original speaker’s gender and number.

  • Jaime told me, “I’m going to call Mom.”
  • My friend told me that he was going to call his mother.

When writing about what’s written in an article, book, or other written material, use present tense.

  • Shakespeare wrote 38 famous plays.
  • In As You Like It, he compares life to a stage play.

For academic papers, introduce the source and show where ideas come from clearly.  Follow citation rules (APA, MLA, or others). Different reporting signals carry positive or negative connotations.   For example, “states,” “reports,” or “argues” are neutral, but “assumes” “insists” or “complains” can be negative.  Be aware of how your statement will seem to the reader.


The author argues/claims/believes/suggests

They complain/deny/doubt

The researcher asserts/acknowledges/insists/concedes

The authors question whether [   ] or [  ]

In Hirvella’s view/opinion,

Hacker recommends/emphasizes

 Facts and Statistics

The researcher reports/observes

The study discusses/analyzes

Research shows/suggests

Scientists have recently discovered

In the most recent surveys, it was found

Common knowledge

It’s widely known/commonly believed / often said

Westerners today generally agree / tend to think

Many people assume

Pay attention to the grammar of your reporting signal.

Some of them require a noun phrase, gerund, or infinitive.

  • The study analyzes the effect of direct instruction.  (noun phrase)
  • Hirvela and Du discuss student attitudes about paragraphsing. (noun phrase)
  • He recommends starting instruction early. (gerund)
  • Smoking is widely known to cause cancer. (infinitive)

Many reporting verbs can use a that-clause, which basically adds a sentence after the verb.

  • Nearly all research agrees that too much sugar can cause health problems.
  • The study suggests children do not understand the effect of sugar.
  • They write that heart disease is a growing problem in the world.

Don’t forget to check for singular and plural verb endings.

Research is a non-count noun.

There are additional grammatical tools that writers can use with reporting signals:

  • The results support the idea/fact/claim/theory that [SENTENCE]. (noun clause)
  • This explains how/when/why/where [SENTENCE]. (noun clause)

Hacker, D., & Sommers, N. (2011). A Writer’s Reference with Writing in the Disciplines. Boston: Macmillan.

Hirvela, A., & Du, Q. (2013). “Why am I paraphrasing?”: Undergraduate ESL writers’ engagement with source-based academic writing and reading. Journal of English for Academic Purposes12(2), 87-98.

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