Can I use scold in reported speech? For example,

Mother scolded her children that they were too noisy.


1 Answer 1


You can certainly use past tense X scolded Y to report what X did to Y.

But scold doesn't work the same as, for example, tell, inform, convince, all of which can be followed by a subordinate clause giving more details of the action...

X told Y [that] it was raining
X informed Y [that] he was leaving
X convinced Y [that] it was true

Note that the word that is effectively "optional" in all those examples, but that kind of that- clause doesn't work well with scold, where the normal syntax for OP's context is...

Mother scolded her children for being too noisy

As is so often the case in English, there's no real shortcut to learning which prepositions and subordinate clauses can be used with specific verbs. You really just have to learn them by rote.

  • To me, told/informed/convinced define to some extent the information being communicated, therefore being applicable to reported speech. However, scold defines a mannerism, the tone of the communication rather than the content needed for reported speech.
    – user3169
    Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 16:16
  • Lots of verbs don't normally take that- clauses, including most or all "synonyms" of scold, such as rebuke, reprimand, reproach, reprove, admonish, chastise, chide, upbraid, berate (to a greater or lesser degree). But there are many more transitive verbs with totally different meanings where the same syntactic constraint on "idiomacy" applies (I don't really think OP's usage is "ungrammatical"; it's just "non-idiomatic"). For some verbs, if the statement A verbed B can't be followed by A verbed B what? as a request for clarification, they fall into that category. Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 16:37
  • @FumbleFingers as a native speaker of (American) English, scold that complement sounds completely wrong to me. Moreover, a quick search of Google Books seems to show it never being used in this way. Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 22:01
  • @errantlinguist: You wouldn't often encounter scold [direct object] that in contemporary English, but it certainly does still occur (though my impression is it's less common than it was a century or two ago). But your quick search of Google Books would never have found much if anything - you'd need to include a direct object such as she scolded us that young ladies did not climb trees. That's from 2015 - it might be a bit "unusual/dated/formal", but imho (and in the opinion of the publishers) at least it's "valid". Commented Sep 6, 2017 at 14:37

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