How can I most effectively use reporting verbs?

This is the third and final lesson about Reporting Verbs. To complete this course, read each lesson carefully and then unlock and complete our materials to check your understanding.   

– Discuss how to use reporting language most effectively

– Highlight the five key areas of reporting language use

– Provide examples of each area to improve language use

Lesson 3

After discussing why reporting verbs are used and which reporting verbs and phrases are most common in academic writing, the final lesson in this topic deals with the issue of using such language most effectively. It’s not enough to simply remember and use a variety of reporting verbs; these verbs need to be employed accurately by the writer, which means understanding their meaning, how to manipulate their syntax and tense, how to premodify or collocate these verbs correctly, and how to avoid informal reporting language in your formal academic writing. All five of these concepts are dealt with in turn below, with examples provided to guide you in selecting appropriate reporting verbs.


1. Meaning

As was explained in Lesson 2, reporting verbs may be categorised into their neutrality or argumentative strength. Whether the reporting verb is neutral, weak or strong in how it presents an argument all affects the meaning of the claim that’s reported in the source voice. However, it’s not only the argumentative strength of the reporting verb that must be considered, but also the meaning of the very verb itself. Remember to research each verb carefully, perhaps through dictionary or corpus investigations, before using that verb with confidence in your writing. Whether the author of the source you wish to use ‘confirms’, ‘doubts’ or ‘criticises’ can only be determined by (a) understanding the meaning of those reporting verbs, and (b) understanding the authors opinion (stance) about their research findings.


2. Syntax

In addition to meaning, it’s also important to carefully consider a verb’s grammar if you wish to use that verb accurately in your writing. Verb transitivity plays an active role here, determining how many objects that verb requires. Additionally, paying attention to whether the verb necessitates a finite or non-finite clause to be grammatical is quite important too. We’ve therefore provided some example constructions and their associated reporting verbs to help you with this below.

Reporting Verbs 3.1 Reporting Verbs with That Clauses
Reporting Verbs 3.2 Reporting Verbs with To Clauses
Reporting Verbs 3.3 Reporting Verbs with To Clauses
Reporting Verbs 3.4 Reporting Verbs with To Clauses
Reporting Verbs 3.5 Reporting Verbs with Whether Clauses
Reporting Verbs 3.6 Reporting Verbs with For Clauses

3. Tense, Aspect and Agreement

There are three aspects of morphology that must also be considered with reporting verbs, as with any verb. The first two are tense and aspect, such as whether to use the reporting verb in the present or past tense or simple, progressive or perfect aspect. Generally here, the following quick rules for the three most common tense/aspect combinations can be followed:


a) Use the simple present to describe a generally accepted truth, whether in the past, present or future: “Smith (2010) discusses how air pollution is bad for a person’s health”.

b) Use the simple past to describe a finding or piece of research that was completed at a specific point in the past, and for evidence that’s quite old or has perhaps already been refuted by other research: “Hofman (1966) argued that air pollution had little effect on a person’s health.”

c) Use the present perfect to include a finding that occurred at an uncertain time in the past and which is still relevant today: Lee and Lee’s (2016) research has highlighted to many scholars that air pollution is a bigger threat than first assumed.”


In addition to tense and aspect, don’t forget to correctly inflect a reporting verb for correct subject-verb agreement. For example, while it might be correct to say ‘Lee (2016) states’, for ‘Lee and Lee (2016)’ the verb would need to be ‘state’.


4. Premodification and Collocation

To further alter the argumentative strength of a reporting verb, you can also premodify that verb with a number of adverbs such as ‘clearly’, ‘strongly’ or ‘somewhat’, as in the following examples:

Reporting Verbs 3.7 Premodification
Reporting Verbs 3.8 Premodification
Reporting Verbs 3.9 Premodification

In addition to altering the words that precede the reporting verb, don’t forget to consider also the words that immediately follow, and are required by, that verb. Such words are called collocations, and we’ve provided four of the most common collocates for you below with their associated reporting verbs:

Reporting Verbs 3.10 Collocates
Reporting Verbs 3.11 Collocates

5. Informal Reporting Verbs

Finally, remember to avoid using informal reporting verbs in your academic work, such as ‘guess’, ‘mention’, ‘reckon’, ‘say’ and any phrasal verbs such as ‘point out’. Should you remember this and every other rule that’s been mentioned over the last three lessons, and perhaps even download and complete our worksheets on this topic, you’ll soon be using reporting verbs with confidence and ease.

3 of 3 Lessons Completed


Once you’ve completed all three lessons about reporting verbs, you might also wish to download our beginner, intermediate and advanced worksheets to test your progress or print for your students. These professional PDF worksheets can be easily accessed for only a few Academic Marks.

Our reporting verbs guidance sheet (including all four lessons about this topic) can be accessed here at the click of a button.

Gain unlimited access to our reporting verbs beginner worksheet, with activities and answer keys designed to check a basic understanding of this topic’s lessons.

To check a confident understanding of this topic’s lessons, click on the button below to download our reporting verbs intermediate worksheet with activities and answer keys.

Our reporting verbs advanced worksheet with activities and answer keys has been created to check a sophisticated understanding of this topic’s lessons. 

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