‘Mary, I want to take you out to dinner,’ he had lied, to break the frost.

I would like to know what is the syntactic relation between the direct and indirect speech - whether there is any kind of dependency and what we call the reporting clause.

  • Your question doesn't make sense. You have given an example of direct speech. Indirect speech is another way of describing the same thing, but there is no dependency involved, aside from reporting what was said by paraphrasing it. I also don't know what you mean by reporting clause. Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 19:44
  • "Mary, I desperately want to take you out to dinner" he had lied only moments before telling her to get lost. The tense of he had lied is independent of the tense in the quoted speech.
    – TimR
    Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 19:50
  • Only moments before telling Mary to get lost he had lied, saying he desperately wanted to take her out to dinner. There, he ...wanted is the backshift of direct speech I ...want.
    – TimR
    Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 19:54
  • Before asking this question, you have to transform that sentence into indirect speech. Do you know how to do that?
    – Lambie
    Commented Jul 7, 2021 at 21:14

1 Answer 1


Judging from the example, it seems to me that OP wants to know how a direct speech sentence (or one in reported or indirect speech) is related to the main clause that contains the reporting verb.

Let's start with a simpler reporting verb:

‘Mary, I want to take you out to dinner,’ he had said.


He had told Mary he wanted to take her out to dinner.

In both cases, the sentence in direct or reported speech can be considered to be the direct object of the main verb "had said" or "had told": What had he said? -> He had said: Mary, I want to take you out to dinner / What had he told Mary? -> He had told Mary he wanted to take her out to dinner.

In modern grammar, "that he wanted to take her out to dinner" is called a content clause.

The verb-object relationship is clear with simple reporting verbs like say, tell, reply, answer, ask.

With semantically richer verbs like "lie", the verb-object relationship is not so clear or straightforward because, as Tᴚoɯɐuo suggested, he lied by saying that to Mary, or he lied when he said that to Mary. In these cases, what was said tends to form part of the concept expressed by the verb. We thus have reporting verbs like deny, apologize, beg, order, suggest, etc. which fully or partially include in themselves what the speaker said.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .