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My English exercise book has a question related to reported speech like this:

Choose the sentence which is closest in meaning to be printed one

“Shall I help you with the washing-up, Jane?” John said.
A. John told Jane to help him with the washing-up.
B. John asked if Jane should help him with the washing-up.
C. John suggested helping Jane with the washing-up.
D. John offered to help Jane with the washing-up.

Even though the given answer key is D, I still think C can be another choice. If you don't think so, could you kindly explain what makes D is the only choice in this case?

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    Did you find a dictionary definition of suggest that would fit the intent of the key sentence? You should add that info. to your question. – user3169 Jul 18 '15 at 17:16
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    C is awkward. He suggested helping Jane, to whom? – Damkerng T. Jul 18 '15 at 17:34
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    I agree with @DamkerngT. Answer C does a good job of capturing the meaning of the original quote, but it's not written in good English. It should say something like, "John suggested that he could help Jane with the washing-up." – J.R. Jul 18 '15 at 17:45
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    Really they're all awkward. "The washing-up" sounds strange to me. – James Jul 18 '15 at 17:48
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    C could also be interpreted as "John suggested that James helped Jane with ..." – AdrianHHH Jul 18 '15 at 18:03
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C. John suggested helping Jane with the washing-up.

Consider some contexts in which this sentence might occur.

Julie asked John what she could do to speed things up. John suggested helping Jane with the washing-up.

Jane pointed out that Julie was old enough now to have some regular chores, and asked John if he had any ideas. John suggested helping Jane with the washing-up.

suggest VERBing does not imply that VERB has any particular subject; specifically, it does not imply that the subject suggests that he should VERB. Consequently, this sentence does not, as the quotation does, imply that John made an offer to help; it at most puts helping Jane forward as a good idea.

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It's one of those English niggles in that it comes down to a distinction between "shall" and "should".

"Shall" is a modal auxiliary verb, the first-person version of "will", and indicates the future tense. Frankly, I see your point in wondering about the validity of C, because shall is used as a suggestion in other contexts, but this is an offer to help, and not him suggesting it as an exciting night out. :)

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C is awkward. He suggested helping Jane, to whom? – Damkerng T. 4 hours ago

I agree with @DamkerngT. Answer C does a good job of capturing the meaning of> >the original quote, but it's not written in good English. It should say >something like, "John suggested that he could help Jane with the washing-up." – >J.R.♦ 4 hours ago"

Actually, it's perfectly correct English, although the use of the past tense verb with a present participle is less common in modern use; also, there need not be a person to whom he needs to suggest anything - sentences do not require an object, only a subject.

suggest VERBing does not imply any particular subject to VERB; it merely puts >VERBing forward as a good idea. Consequently, this sentence does not, as the >quotation does, imply that John made an offer to help.

It doesn't need to imply anything, because it states it pretty explicitly in that sentence, by using the pronoun, "Jane".

He VERBED Jane. ahem Not what I meant. And you don't "verb" a subject, anyway, subjects verb objects, but - as mentioned above - you don't need to explicitly state the object - a sentence need only have a subject and a finite verb in order to be complete.

Importantly, "helping" isn't the finite verb in that sentence - "suggested" is.

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    Thank you so much for your detailed explanation. Do you imply that the choice C & D have the same meaning in this context? – doquan0 Jul 19 '15 at 1:15
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    I see that I confused you by my slovenly editing - I've corrected "imply to VERB" to "imply that VERB has a particular subject" and added some examples to clarify my meaning. – StoneyB on hiatus Jul 19 '15 at 7:12
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    Neither of videoartifex's answers is even slightly useful. Stick with StoneyB. He's not being very concise this time, but he knows his stuff. – Brian Hitchcock Jul 19 '15 at 7:49

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