(A) I am safe.
(B) He is safe.
How do I distinguish the meanings above in sentences with the verb "to report"? For example:
"I reported him to be safe."
Who is safe?
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In the case of "I reported him to be safe", he is safe. "To be safe" is an adjectival phrase which modifies 'him'. You could say the same thing like this:
"I reported him safe."
That might look a little more ambiguous at first, but note that 'safe' is just an adjective--it is performing the exact same grammatical function as 'to be safe' in the original sentence. Another way of saying the sentence is
"I reported that he is safe."
In this case you're using two independent clauses joined by the conjunction 'that'.
If you wanted to say 'I am safe', you could say
"I reported myself safe."
which is a construction that is more commonly used in day-to-day speech, or
"I reported that I am safe."
which sounds clunky in day-to-day speech, but probably makes more sense when you're trying to understand the meaning for the first time.
I reported him to be safe.
means that the speaker has reported some other person (presumably identified in previous content) to be safe. It corresponds with example B in the question. A similar statement corresponding with example A would be:
- I reported myself to be safe
- I reported myself as safe
This could be shorten to "I reported myself safe." as the previous sentence could be shortened to "I reported him safe."
I assume you may be confusing this with the indirect object in sentences such as
I ordered him to get me a drink.
I taught him to read Chinese
The verb "to report" does not take an indirect object like this. Instead "him" is the direct object, meaning the thing being reported. You have to use the preposition "to" to indicate the other party:
I reported the error to him
Obviously it's easy to get mixed up when you combine this structure with an phrase like "to be safe" which also uses the preposition "to". In your example, however, recognize that this is an infinitive phrase that modifies "him", and not the direct object of the verb "report". You could rephrase this as:
I reported (to someone) that he was safe.
Either way, he is the one who is safe. If instead you want to say that you are safe, you have to make that the direct object, and use the preposition to indicate you are talking to him:
I reported to him that I was safe.
or, less clearly:
I reported I was safe to him.