Speakspeak

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How to use “whether” and “if”

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Munnazah Nadeem. - November 19, 2015, 6:05 pm Reply

It really quenched my thirst for having the use if whether and if clause…

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Prabha - January 21, 2017, 12:53 pm Reply

Thanks for clarifying the difference .in the use of whether and if

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Kusum - March 12, 2018, 6:53 am Reply

Thanks for clearing difference between if and whether

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Cambridge Dictionary

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Reported speech: indirect speech

Indirect speech focuses more on the content of what someone said rather than their exact words. In indirect speech , the structure of the reported clause depends on whether the speaker is reporting a statement, a question or a command.

Indirect speech: reporting statements

Indirect reports of statements consist of a reporting clause and a that -clause. We often omit that , especially in informal situations:

The pilot commented that the weather had been extremely bad as the plane came in to land. (The pilot’s words were: ‘The weather was extremely bad as the plane came in to land.’ )
I told my wife I didn’t want a party on my 50th birthday. ( that -clause without that ) (or I told my wife that I didn’t want a party on my 50th birthday .)

Indirect speech: reporting questions

Reporting yes-no questions and alternative questions.

Indirect reports of yes-no questions and questions with or consist of a reporting clause and a reported clause introduced by if or whether . If is more common than whether . The reported clause is in statement form (subject + verb), not question form:

She asked if [S] [V] I was Scottish. (original yes-no question: ‘Are you Scottish?’ )
The waiter asked whether [S] we [V] wanted a table near the window. (original yes-no question: ‘Do you want a table near the window? )
He asked me if [S] [V] I had come by train or by bus. (original alternative question: ‘Did you come by train or by bus?’ )

Questions: yes-no questions ( Are you feeling cold? )

Reporting wh -questions

Indirect reports of wh -questions consist of a reporting clause, and a reported clause beginning with a wh -word ( who, what, when, where, why, how ). We don’t use a question mark:

He asked me what I wanted.
Not: He asked me what I wanted?

The reported clause is in statement form (subject + verb), not question form:

She wanted to know who [S] we [V] had invited to the party.
Not: … who had we invited …

Who , whom and what

In indirect questions with who, whom and what , the wh- word may be the subject or the object of the reported clause:

I asked them who came to meet them at the airport. ( who is the subject of came ; original question: ‘Who came to meet you at the airport?’ )
He wondered what the repairs would cost. ( what is the object of cost ; original question: ‘What will the repairs cost?’ )
She asked us what [S] we [V] were doing . (original question: ‘What are you doing?’ )
Not: She asked us what were we doing?

When , where , why and how

We also use statement word order (subject + verb) with when , where, why and how :

I asked her when [S] it [V] had happened (original question: ‘When did it happen?’ ).
Not: I asked her when had it happened?
I asked her where [S] the bus station [V] was . (original question: ‘Where is the bus station?’ )
Not: I asked her where was the bus station?
The teacher asked them how [S] they [V] wanted to do the activity . (original question: ‘How do you want to do the activity?’ )
Not: The teacher asked them how did they want to do the activity?

Questions: wh- questions

Indirect speech: reporting commands

Indirect reports of commands consist of a reporting clause, and a reported clause beginning with a to -infinitive:

The General ordered the troops to advance . (original command: ‘Advance!’ )
The chairperson told him to sit down and to stop interrupting . (original command: ‘Sit down and stop interrupting!’ )

We also use a to -infinitive clause in indirect reports with other verbs that mean wanting or getting people to do something, for example, advise, encourage, warn :

They advised me to wait till the following day. (original statement: ‘You should wait till the following day.’ )
The guard warned us not to enter the area. (original statement: ‘You must not enter the area.’ )

Verbs followed by a to -infinitive

Indirect speech: present simple reporting verb

We can use the reporting verb in the present simple in indirect speech if the original words are still true or relevant at the time of reporting, or if the report is of something someone often says or repeats:

Sheila says they’re closing the motorway tomorrow for repairs.
Henry tells me he’s thinking of getting married next year.
Rupert says dogs shouldn’t be allowed on the beach. (Rupert probably often repeats this statement.)

Newspaper headlines

We often use the present simple in newspaper headlines. It makes the reported speech more dramatic:

JUDGE TELLS REPORTER TO LEAVE COURTROOM
PRIME MINISTER SAYS FAMILIES ARE TOP PRIORITY IN TAX REFORM

Present simple ( I work )

Reported speech

Reported speech: direct speech

Indirect speech: past continuous reporting verb

In indirect speech, we can use the past continuous form of the reporting verb (usually say or tell ). This happens mostly in conversation, when the speaker wants to focus on the content of the report, usually because it is interesting news or important information, or because it is a new topic in the conversation:

Rory was telling me the big cinema in James Street is going to close down. Is that true?
Alex was saying that book sales have gone up a lot this year thanks to the Internet.

‘Backshift’ refers to the changes we make to the original verbs in indirect speech because time has passed between the moment of speaking and the time of the report.

In these examples, the present ( am ) has become the past ( was ), the future ( will ) has become the future-in-the-past ( would ) and the past ( happened ) has become the past perfect ( had happened ). The tenses have ‘shifted’ or ‘moved back’ in time.

The past perfect does not shift back; it stays the same:

Modal verbs

Some, but not all, modal verbs ‘shift back’ in time and change in indirect speech.

We can use a perfect form with have + - ed form after modal verbs, especially where the report looks back to a hypothetical event in the past:

He said the noise might have been the postman delivering letters. (original statement: ‘The noise might be the postman delivering letters.’ )
He said he would have helped us if we’d needed a volunteer. (original statement: ‘I’ll help you if you need a volunteer’ or ‘I’d help you if you needed a volunteer.’ )

Used to and ought to do not change in indirect speech:

She said she used to live in Oxford. (original statement: ‘I used to live in Oxford.’ )
The guard warned us that we ought to leave immediately. (original statement: ‘You ought to leave immediately.’ )

No backshift

We don’t need to change the tense in indirect speech if what a person said is still true or relevant or has not happened yet. This often happens when someone talks about the future, or when someone uses the present simple, present continuous or present perfect in their original words:

He told me his brother works for an Italian company. (It is still true that his brother works for an Italian company.)
She said she ’s getting married next year. (For the speakers, the time at the moment of speaking is ‘this year’.)
He said he ’s finished painting the door. (He probably said it just a short time ago.)
She promised she ’ll help us. (The promise applies to the future.)

Indirect speech: changes to pronouns

Changes to personal pronouns in indirect reports depend on whether the person reporting the speech and the person(s) who said the original words are the same or different.

Indirect speech: changes to adverbs and demonstratives

We often change demonstratives ( this, that ) and adverbs of time and place ( now, here, today , etc.) because indirect speech happens at a later time than the original speech, and perhaps in a different place.

Typical changes to demonstratives, adverbs and adverbial expressions

Indirect speech: typical errors.

The word order in indirect reports of wh- questions is the same as statement word order (subject + verb), not question word order:

She always asks me where [S] [V] I am going .
Not: She always asks me where am I going .

We don’t use a question mark when reporting wh- questions:

I asked him what he was doing.
Not: I asked him what he was doing?

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What is Reported Speech and how to use it? with Examples

Reported speech and indirect speech are two terms that refer to the same concept, which is the act of expressing what someone else has said. Reported speech is different from direct speech because it does not use the speaker's exact words. Instead, the reporting verb is used to introduce the reported speech, and the tense and pronouns are changed to reflect the shift in perspective. There are two main types of reported speech: statements and questions. 1. Reported Statements: In reported statements, the reporting verb is usually "said." The tense in the reported speech changes from the present simple to the past simple, and any pronouns referring to the speaker or listener are changed to reflect the shift in perspective. For example, "I am going to the store," becomes "He said that he was going to the store." 2. Reported Questions: In reported questions, the reporting verb is usually "asked." The tense in the reported speech changes from the present simple to the past simple, and the word order changes from a question to a statement. For example, "What time is it?" becomes "She asked what time it was." It's important to note that the tense shift in reported speech depends on the context and the time of the reported speech. Here are a few more examples: ●  Direct speech: "I will call you later." Reported speech: He said that he would call me later. ●  Direct speech: "Did you finish your homework?" Reported speech: She asked if I had finished my homework. ●  Direct speech: "I love pizza." Reported speech: They said that they loved pizza.

When do we use reported speech?

Reported speech is used to report what someone else has said, thought, or written. It is often used in situations where you want to relate what someone else has said without quoting them directly. Reported speech can be used in a variety of contexts, such as in news reports, academic writing, and everyday conversation. Some common situations where reported speech is used include: News reports: Journalists often use reported speech to quote what someone said in an interview or press conference. Business and professional communication: In professional settings, reported speech can be used to summarize what was discussed in a meeting or to report feedback from a customer. Conversational English: In everyday conversations, reported speech is used to relate what someone else said. For example, "She told me that she was running late." Narration: In written narratives or storytelling, reported speech can be used to convey what a character said or thought.

How to make reported speech?

1. Change the pronouns and adverbs of time and place: In reported speech, you need to change the pronouns, adverbs of time and place to reflect the new speaker or point of view. Here's an example: Direct speech: "I'm going to the store now," she said. Reported speech: She said she was going to the store then. In this example, the pronoun "I" is changed to "she" and the adverb "now" is changed to "then." 2. Change the tense: In reported speech, you usually need to change the tense of the verb to reflect the change from direct to indirect speech. Here's an example: Direct speech: "I will meet you at the park tomorrow," he said. Reported speech: He said he would meet me at the park the next day. In this example, the present tense "will" is changed to the past tense "would." 3. Change reporting verbs: In reported speech, you can use different reporting verbs such as "say," "tell," "ask," or "inquire" depending on the context of the speech. Here's an example: Direct speech: "Did you finish your homework?" she asked. Reported speech: She asked if I had finished my homework. In this example, the reporting verb "asked" is changed to "said" and "did" is changed to "had." Overall, when making reported speech, it's important to pay attention to the verb tense and the changes in pronouns, adverbs, and reporting verbs to convey the original speaker's message accurately.

How do I change the pronouns and adverbs in reported speech?

1. Changing Pronouns: In reported speech, the pronouns in the original statement must be changed to reflect the perspective of the new speaker. Generally, the first person pronouns (I, me, my, mine, we, us, our, ours) are changed according to the subject of the reporting verb, while the second and third person pronouns (you, your, yours, he, him, his, she, her, hers, it, its, they, them, their, theirs) are changed according to the object of the reporting verb. For example: Direct speech: "I love chocolate." Reported speech: She said she loved chocolate. Direct speech: "You should study harder." Reported speech: He advised me to study harder. Direct speech: "She is reading a book." Reported speech: They noticed that she was reading a book. 2. Changing Adverbs: In reported speech, the adverbs and adverbial phrases that indicate time or place may need to be changed to reflect the perspective of the new speaker. For example: Direct speech: "I'm going to the cinema tonight." Reported speech: She said she was going to the cinema that night. Direct speech: "He is here." Reported speech: She said he was there. Note that the adverb "now" usually changes to "then" or is omitted altogether in reported speech, depending on the context. It's important to keep in mind that the changes made to pronouns and adverbs in reported speech depend on the context and the perspective of the new speaker. With practice, you can become more comfortable with making these changes in reported speech.

How do I change the tense in reported speech?

In reported speech, the tense of the reported verb usually changes to reflect the change from direct to indirect speech. Here are some guidelines on how to change the tense in reported speech: Present simple in direct speech changes to past simple in reported speech. For example: Direct speech: "I like pizza." Reported speech: She said she liked pizza. Present continuous in direct speech changes to past continuous in reported speech. For example: Direct speech: "I am studying for my exam." Reported speech: He said he was studying for his exam. Present perfect in direct speech changes to past perfect in reported speech. For example: Direct speech: "I have finished my work." Reported speech: She said she had finished her work. Past simple in direct speech changes to past perfect in reported speech. For example: Direct speech: "I visited my grandparents last weekend." Reported speech: She said she had visited her grandparents the previous weekend. Will in direct speech changes to would in reported speech. For example: Direct speech: "I will help you with your project." Reported speech: He said he would help me with my project. Can in direct speech changes to could in reported speech. For example: Direct speech: "I can speak French." Reported speech: She said she could speak French. Remember that the tense changes in reported speech depend on the tense of the verb in the direct speech, and the tense you use in reported speech should match the time frame of the new speaker's perspective. With practice, you can become more comfortable with changing the tense in reported speech.

Do I always need to use a reporting verb in reported speech?

No, you do not always need to use a reporting verb in reported speech. However, using a reporting verb can help to clarify who is speaking and add more context to the reported speech. In some cases, the reported speech can be introduced by phrases such as "I heard that" or "It seems that" without using a reporting verb. For example: Direct speech: "I'm going to the cinema tonight." Reported speech with a reporting verb: She said she was going to the cinema tonight. Reported speech without a reporting verb: It seems that she's going to the cinema tonight. However, it's important to note that using a reporting verb can help to make the reported speech more formal and accurate. When using reported speech in academic writing or journalism, it's generally recommended to use a reporting verb to make the reporting more clear and credible. Some common reporting verbs include say, tell, explain, ask, suggest, and advise. For example: Direct speech: "I think we should invest in renewable energy." Reported speech with a reporting verb: She suggested that they invest in renewable energy. Overall, while using a reporting verb is not always required, it can be helpful to make the reported speech more clear and accurate.

How to use reported speech to report questions and commands?

1. Reporting Questions: When reporting questions, you need to use an introductory phrase such as "asked" or "wondered" followed by the question word (if applicable), subject, and verb. You also need to change the word order to make it a statement. Here's an example: Direct speech: "What time is the meeting?" Reported speech: She asked what time the meeting was. Note that the question mark is not used in reported speech. 2. Reporting Commands: When reporting commands, you need to use an introductory phrase such as "ordered" or "told" followed by the person, to + infinitive, and any additional information. Here's an example: Direct speech: "Clean your room!" Reported speech: She ordered me to clean my room. Note that the exclamation mark is not used in reported speech. In both cases, the tense of the reported verb should be changed accordingly. For example, present simple changes to past simple, and future changes to conditional. Here are some examples: Direct speech: "Will you go to the party with me?" Reported speech: She asked if I would go to the party with her. Direct speech: "Please bring me a glass of water." Reported speech: She requested that I bring her a glass of water. Remember that when using reported speech to report questions and commands, the introductory phrases and verb tenses are important to convey the intended meaning accurately.

How to make questions in reported speech?

To make questions in reported speech, you need to use an introductory phrase such as "asked" or "wondered" followed by the question word (if applicable), subject, and verb. You also need to change the word order to make it a statement. Here are the steps to make questions in reported speech: Identify the reporting verb: The first step is to identify the reporting verb in the sentence. Common reporting verbs used to report questions include "asked," "inquired," "wondered," and "wanted to know." Change the tense and pronouns: Next, you need to change the tense and pronouns in the sentence to reflect the shift from direct to reported speech. The tense of the verb is usually shifted back one tense (e.g. from present simple to past simple) in reported speech. The pronouns should also be changed as necessary to reflect the shift in perspective from the original speaker to the reporting speaker. Use an appropriate question word: If the original question contained a question word (e.g. who, what, where, when, why, how), you should use the same question word in the reported question. If the original question did not contain a question word, you can use "if" or "whether" to introduce the reported question. Change the word order: In reported speech, the word order of the question changes from the inverted form to a normal statement form. The subject usually comes before the verb, unless the original question started with a question word. Here are some examples of reported questions: Direct speech: "What time is the meeting?" Reported speech: She asked what time the meeting was. Direct speech: "Did you finish your homework?" Reported speech: He wanted to know if I had finished my homework. Direct speech: "Where are you going?" Reported speech: She wondered where I was going. Remember that when making questions in reported speech, the introductory phrases and verb tenses are important to convey the intended meaning accurately. Here you can find more examples of direct and indirect questions

What is the difference between reported speech an indirect speech?

In reported or indirect speech, you are retelling or reporting what someone said using your own words. The tense of the reported speech is usually shifted back one tense from the tense used in the original statement. For example, if someone said, "I am going to the store," in reported speech you would say, "He/she said that he/she was going to the store." The main difference between reported speech and indirect speech is that reported speech usually refers to spoken language, while indirect speech can refer to both spoken and written language. Additionally, indirect speech is a broader term that includes reported speech as well as other ways of expressing what someone else has said, such as paraphrasing or summarizing.

Examples of direct speech to reported

1. Direct speech: "I am hungry," she said. Reported speech: She said she was hungry. 2. Direct speech: "Can you pass the salt, please?" he asked. Reported speech: He asked her to pass the salt. 3. Direct speech: "I will meet you at the cinema," he said. Reported speech: He said he would meet her at the cinema. 4. Direct speech: "I have been working on this project for hours," she said. Reported speech: She said she had been working on the project for hours. 5. Direct speech: "What time does the train leave?" he asked. Reported speech: He asked what time the train left. 6. Direct speech: "I love playing the piano," she said. Reported speech: She said she loved playing the piano. 7. Direct speech: "I am going to the grocery store," he said. Reported speech: He said he was going to the grocery store. 8. Direct speech: "Did you finish your homework?" the teacher asked. Reported speech: The teacher asked if he had finished his homework. 9. Direct speech: "I want to go to the beach," she said. Reported speech: She said she wanted to go to the beach. 10. Direct speech: "Do you need help with that?" he asked. Reported speech: He asked if she needed help with that. 11. Direct speech: "I can't come to the party," he said. Reported speech: He said he couldn't come to the party. 12. Direct speech: "Please don't leave me," she said. Reported speech: She begged him not to leave her. 13. Direct speech: "I have never been to London before," he said. Reported speech: He said he had never been to London before. 14. Direct speech: "Where did you put my phone?" she asked. Reported speech: She asked where she had put her phone. 15. Direct speech: "I'm sorry for being late," he said. Reported speech: He apologized for being late. 16. Direct speech: "I need some help with this math problem," she said. Reported speech: She said she needed some help with the math problem. 17. Direct speech: "I am going to study abroad next year," he said. Reported speech: He said he was going to study abroad the following year. 18. Direct speech: "Can you give me a ride to the airport?" she asked. Reported speech: She asked him to give her a ride to the airport. 19. Direct speech: "I don't know how to fix this," he said. Reported speech: He said he didn't know how to fix it. 20. Direct speech: "I hate it when it rains," she said. Reported speech: She said she hated it when it rained.

What is Direct and Indirect Speech?

Direct and indirect speech are two different ways of reporting spoken or written language. Let's delve into the details and provide some examples. Click here to read more

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Reported Questions

Reported questions are one form of reported speech .

We usually introduce reported questions with the verb "ask":

  • He asked (me) if / whether ... (YES/NO questions)
  • He asked (me) why / when / where / what / how ... (question-word questions)

As with reported statements , we may need to change pronouns and tense (backshift) as well as time and place in reported questions.

But we also need to change the word order . After we report a question, it is no longer a question (and in writing there is no question mark). The word order is like that of a normal statement (subject-verb-object).

Reported YES/NO questions

We introduce reported YES/NO questions with ask + if :

Note that in the above example the reported question has no auxiliary "do". But there is pronoun change and backshift.

Note that we sometimes use "whether" instead of "if". The meaning is the same. "Whether" is a little more formal and more usual in writing:

  • They asked us if we wanted lunch.
  • They asked us whether we wanted lunch.

Reported question-word questions

We introduce reported question-word questions with ask + question word :

Note that in the above example the reported question has no auxiliary "do". But there is pronoun change and backshift.

  • YES/NO questions: Do you want tea?
  • Question Word questions: Where did you drink tea?
  • Choice questions: Do you prefer tea or coffee?

Look at these example sentences:

Contributor: Josef Essberger

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  • B1-B2 grammar

Reported speech

Daisy has just had an interview for a summer job. 

Instructions

As you watch the video, look at the examples of reported speech. They are in  red  in the subtitles. Then read the conversation below to learn more. Finally, do the grammar exercises to check you understand, and can use, reported speech correctly.

Sophie:  Mmm, it’s so nice to be chilling out at home after all that running around.

Ollie: Oh, yeah, travelling to glamorous places for a living must be such a drag!

Ollie: Mum, you can be so childish sometimes. Hey, I wonder how Daisy’s getting on in her job interview.

Sophie: Oh, yes, she said she was having it at four o’clock, so it’ll have finished by now. That’ll be her ... yes. Hi, love. How did it go?

Daisy: Well, good I think, but I don’t really know. They said they’d phone later and let me know.

Sophie: What kind of thing did they ask you?

Daisy: They asked if I had any experience with people, so I told them about helping at the school fair and visiting old people at the home, that sort of stuff. But I think they meant work experience.

Sophie: I’m sure what you said was impressive. They can’t expect you to have had much work experience at your age.

Daisy:  And then they asked me what acting I had done, so I told them that I’d had a main part in the school play, and I showed them a bit of the video, so that was cool.

Sophie:  Great!

Daisy: Oh, and they also asked if I spoke any foreign languages.

Sophie: Languages?

Daisy: Yeah, because I might have to talk to tourists, you know.

Sophie: Oh, right, of course.

Daisy: So that was it really. They showed me the costume I’ll be wearing if I get the job. Sending it over ...

Ollie: Hey, sis, I heard that Brad Pitt started out as a giant chicken too! This could be your big break!

Daisy: Ha, ha, very funny.

Sophie: Take no notice, darling. I’m sure you’ll be a marvellous chicken.

We use reported speech when we want to tell someone what someone said. We usually use a reporting verb (e.g. say, tell, ask, etc.) and then change the tense of what was actually said in direct speech.

So, direct speech is what someone actually says? Like 'I want to know about reported speech'?

Yes, and you report it with a reporting verb.

He said he wanted to know about reported speech.

I said, I want and you changed it to he wanted .

Exactly. Verbs in the present simple change to the past simple; the present continuous changes to the past continuous; the present perfect changes to the past perfect; can changes to could ; will changes to would ; etc.

She said she was having the interview at four o’clock. (Direct speech: ' I’m having the interview at four o’clock.') They said they’d phone later and let me know. (Direct speech: ' We’ll phone later and let you know.')

OK, in that last example, you changed you to me too.

Yes, apart from changing the tense of the verb, you also have to think about changing other things, like pronouns and adverbs of time and place.

'We went yesterday.'  > She said they had been the day before. 'I’ll come tomorrow.' >  He said he’d come the next day.

I see, but what if you’re reporting something on the same day, like 'We went yesterday'?

Well, then you would leave the time reference as 'yesterday'. You have to use your common sense. For example, if someone is saying something which is true now or always, you wouldn’t change the tense.

'Dogs can’t eat chocolate.' > She said that dogs can’t eat chocolate. 'My hair grows really slowly.' >  He told me that his hair grows really slowly.

What about reporting questions?

We often use ask + if/whether , then change the tenses as with statements. In reported questions we don’t use question forms after the reporting verb.

'Do you have any experience working with people?' They asked if I had any experience working with people. 'What acting have you done?' They asked me what acting I had done .

Is there anything else I need to know about reported speech?

One thing that sometimes causes problems is imperative sentences.

You mean like 'Sit down, please' or 'Don’t go!'?

Exactly. Sentences that start with a verb in direct speech need a to + infinitive in reported speech.

She told him to be good. (Direct speech: 'Be good!') He told them not to forget. (Direct speech: 'Please don’t forget.')

OK. Can I also say 'He asked me to sit down'?

Yes. You could say 'He told me to …' or 'He asked me to …' depending on how it was said.

OK, I see. Are there any more reporting verbs?

Yes, there are lots of other reporting verbs like promise , remind , warn , advise , recommend , encourage which you can choose, depending on the situation. But say , tell and ask are the most common.

Great. I understand! My teacher said reported speech was difficult.

And I told you not to worry!

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If and Whether Use in Indirect Reported Speech

In this confused words guide we are going to look at how to use if and whether in Indirect speech sentences. We will further look at differences with the help of examples.

Are you still waiting for an intro para that would tell you the significance of English? Not anymore. We at EnglishBix are quite sure by now, that if you are reading our this post then you have definitely gone through the rest of them. English is really very essential not just as a medium of communication but it has also become a status symbol to prove that you are well educated.

We will move ahead with today’s session, working out when to use If and when to use whether.

Check When To Use If & Whether

You might have observed that in an informal or Indirect speech the words ‘If’ and ‘whether’ can be used interchangeably but while in the case of formal writing such as technical writing, or documentation at work you need to be very careful as to when to use ‘if’ and ‘whether’. It is always a good idea to make a distinction between the two because they have different meanings.

If you go for the formal guidelines of English Grammar, you would notice that when you are using any conditional statement or sentence then you need to use ‘if’. Whereas ‘whether’ can be used when you wish to show alternative possibilities. You will be able to understand this by a few examples.

  • Mary didn’t know whether Aardvark would arrive on Friday.
  • Mary didn’t know if Aardvark would arrive on Friday.

This is the example that shows the two words cannot be used interchangeably.

It is because the sentences bring out different meaning when two different words are used. Here you would feel like using ‘whether’ would be more suitable than using ‘if’.

Examples of Final Pair ‘if-whether’

  • Call Martha if you are going to arrive on Friday.
  • Call Martha whether or not you are going to arrive on Friday.

In the first, you can see that a condition is raised.

Call Martha if you are going to arrive on Friday which means Aardvark only needs to call if he is coming. But in the next sentence, you can see that ‘whether’ is used.

Call Martha whether or not you are going to arrive on Friday which means Aardvark needs to call either way.

So to summarize it all, use whether when you have two discrete choices or mean “regardless of whether,” and use if for conditional sentences.

Now let’s see some examples which will help you know the difference and application of both the words.

  • She is not sure whether she will be attending the party.
  • He is not sure if I will be attending the party.
  • (Here, in the example, the yes/no question is “Am I attending the party?”)Janice wondered whether she had unplugged the iron.
  • Mona wondered if she had unplugged the iron.

Conclusion:

With this blog post, you will be able to make out what is the basic difference between the two words and they should be used to make the sentence meaningful. A slight change in the words can change the entire meaning of the sentence. If you have any doubts regarding the topic and usage of the words you can directly comment us and we will get back to you with perfect answers.

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Reported Speech in English Grammar

Direct speech, changing the tense (backshift), no change of tenses, question sentences, demands/requests, expressions with who/what/how + infinitive, typical changes of time and place.

  • Lingolia Plus English

Introduction

In English grammar, we use reported speech to say what another person has said. We can use their exact words with quotation marks , this is known as direct speech , or we can use indirect speech . In indirect speech , we change the tense and pronouns to show that some time has passed. Indirect speech is often introduced by a reporting verb or phrase such as ones below.

Learn the rules for writing indirect speech in English with Lingolia’s simple explanation. In the exercises, you can test your grammar skills.

When turning direct speech into indirect speech, we need to pay attention to the following points:

  • changing the pronouns Example: He said, “ I saw a famous TV presenter.” He said (that) he had seen a famous TV presenter.
  • changing the information about time and place (see the table at the end of this page) Example: He said, “I saw a famous TV presenter here yesterday .” He said (that) he had seen a famous TV presenter there the day before .
  • changing the tense (backshift) Example: He said, “She was eating an ice-cream at the table where you are sitting .” He said (that) she had been eating an ice-cream at the table where I was sitting .

If the introductory clause is in the simple past (e.g. He said ), the tense has to be set back by one degree (see the table). The term for this in English is backshift .

The verbs could, should, would, might, must, needn’t, ought to, used to normally do not change.

If the introductory clause is in the simple present , however (e.g. He says ), then the tense remains unchanged, because the introductory clause already indicates that the statement is being immediately repeated (and not at a later point in time).

In some cases, however, we have to change the verb form.

When turning questions into indirect speech, we have to pay attention to the following points:

  • As in a declarative sentence, we have to change the pronouns, the time and place information, and set the tense back ( backshift ).
  • Instead of that , we use a question word. If there is no question word, we use whether / if instead. Example: She asked him, “ How often do you work?” → She asked him how often he worked. He asked me, “Do you know any famous people?” → He asked me if/whether I knew any famous people.
  • We put the subject before the verb in question sentences. (The subject goes after the auxiliary verb in normal questions.) Example: I asked him, “ Have you met any famous people before?” → I asked him if/whether he had met any famous people before.
  • We don’t use the auxiliary verb do for questions in indirect speech. Therefore, we sometimes have to conjugate the main verb (for third person singular or in the simple past ). Example: I asked him, “What do you want to tell me?” → I asked him what he wanted to tell me.
  • We put the verb directly after who or what in subject questions. Example: I asked him, “ Who is sitting here?” → I asked him who was sitting there.

We don’t just use indirect questions to report what another person has asked. We also use them to ask questions in a very polite manner.

When turning demands and requests into indirect speech, we only need to change the pronouns and the time and place information. We don’t have to pay attention to the tenses – we simply use an infinitive .

If it is a negative demand, then in indirect speech we use not + infinitive .

To express what someone should or can do in reported speech, we leave out the subject and the modal verb and instead we use the construction who/what/where/how + infinitive.

Say or Tell?

The words say and tell are not interchangeable. say = say something tell = say something to someone

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How to use Reported Speech

reported speech using whether

We use reported speech when we want to repeat what someone had previously said.

Let's look at the difference between direct speech and reported speech:

Direct Tomie said = ' I am tired.'

Reported Speech = 'Tomie said (that) she was tired.'

In reported speech we need to use the past tense form of the verb. In direct speech the present tense is used. As you can see, in the above sentence 'am' changes to 'was' when we use reported speech.

changing to the past tense to make reported speech

Here are some of the important verb changes we use when making reported speech:

am becomes was

Direct John: 'I am going.' Reported : 'John said that he was going.'

is becomes was

Direct John: 'She is tall.' Reported : 'John said that she was tall.'

do becomes did

Direct John: 'I always do my homework.' Reported : 'John said that he always did his homework.'

does becomes did

Direct John: 'My mother does the cleaning.' Reported : 'John said that his mother did the cleaning.'

have becomes had

Direct John: 'I have your number.' Reported : 'John said that he had my number.'

has becomes had

Direct John: 'He has caught a cold.' Reported : 'John said that he had caught a cold.'

go becomes went

Direct John: 'I go shopping on Sunday.' Reported : 'John said that he went shopping on Sunday.'

will becomes would

Direct John: 'I will call Frank.' Reported : 'John said that he would call Frank.'

can becomes could

Direct John: 'I can ride a horse.' Reported : 'John said that he could ride a horse.'

want becomes wanted

Direct John: 'I want a girlfriend.' Reported : 'John said that he wanted a girlfriend.'

When not to change the verb tense

When direct speech uses the past tense we do not need to make a change:

Direct John: 'I broke my arm.' Reported : 'John said that he broke his arm.'

It is also OK to change the past tense to the past perfect :

Direct John: 'I broke my arm.' Reported : 'John said that he had broken his arm.'

using reported speech for questions

So far we have looked at using 'said' in reported speech . When a question is asked we do not use 'said'. Instead we use 'asked'. We also need to use an interrogative (wh- word) or if / whether. Take a look at the examples:

questions using interrogatives

Direct John: 'What is your name?' Reported : 'John asked me what my name was.'

Direct John: ' Where does she live?' Reported : 'John asked me where she lived.'

questions using if / whether

Direct John: 'Does he play golf?' Reported : 'John asked if he played golf.' Reported : 'John asked whether he played golf.'

using reported speech for requests

As we have seen, 'said' is used for statements and 'asked' is used for requests. We use 'told' for requests and 'to' before the clause:

Direct John: 'Go home' Reported : 'John told me to go.'

Direct John: 'Stop crying' Reported : 'John told me to stop crying.'

using suggestions in reported speech

When someone gives us advice in direct speech we use 'suggested' or 'recommended' in reported speech:

Direct John: 'You should take a holiday' Reported : 'John suggested that I took a holiday.'

Direct John: 'You should take a holiday' Reported : 'John recommended that I took a holiday.'

For stronger language we can use 'insist' or 'demand':

Direct John: 'You must see a doctor.' Reported : 'John insisted that I saw a doctor.' Reported : 'John demanded that I saw a doctor.'

  • 'My brothers are taller than me.' He said that brothers are taller than him. He said that his brothers were taller than him. He said me his brothers were taller than him. He told me that his brothers are tall than him.
  • 'I will see you soon.' He said would see me soon. He said I will see me soon. He said he would see me soon. He asked if he would see me soon.
  • 'I have a cold.' She asked if I had a cold. She said had a cold. She said has a cold. She said that she had a cold.
  • 'I know the way.' He told me he know the way. He asked me the way. He said that he knew the way. He said he know the way.
  • 'He lost his phone.' He said he losts his phone. He said that lost his phone. He said that he had lost his phone. He said he has loses his phone.
  • 'Do you want a coffee?' He said if I wanted a coffee. He asked if I wants a coffee. He asked if I wanted a coffee. He asked I wanted a coffee.
  • 'Are you Simon?' She asked whether I Simon. She asked whether am simon. She asked whether I was Simon. She asked whether if I was Simon.
  • 'Why do you like Jazz?' She ask why I like Jazz. She asked if I like Jazz. She asked why I likes Jazz. She asked why I liked Jazz.
  • 'Bring your ball.' He told me bring a ball. He told me to bring my ball. He tells me to bring my ball. He asked me if I brought my ball.
  • 'You must come to my party.' She asked me to come her party. She recommended that I come to her party. She insisted that I came to her party. She said that I come to her party.

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He Said, She Said: Mastering Reported Speech in English (Both Direct and Indirect)

“Reported speech” might sound fancy, but it isn’t that complicated.

It’s just how you talk about what someone said.

Luckily, it’s pretty simple to learn the basics in English, beginning with the two types of reported speech: direct (reporting the exact words someone said) and indirect (reporting what someone said without using their exact words ).

Read this post to learn how to report speech, with tips and tricks for each, plenty of examples and a resources section that tells you about real world resources you can use to practice reporting speech.

How to Report Direct Speech

How to report indirect speech, reporting questions in indirect speech, verb tenses in indirect reported speech, simple present, present continuous, present perfect, present perfect continuous, simple past, past continuous, past perfect, past perfect continuous, simple future, future continuous, future perfect, future perfect continuous, authentic resources for practicing reported speech, novels and short stories, native english videos, celebrity profiles.

Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)

Direct speech refers to the exact words that a person says. You can “report” direct speech in a few different ways.

To see how this works, let’s pretend that I (Elisabeth) told some people that I liked green onions.

Here are some different ways that those people could explain what I said:

Direct speech: “I like green onions,” Elisabeth said.

Direct speech: “I like green onions,” she told me. — In this sentence, we replace my name (Elisabeth) with the pronoun she.

In all of these examples, the part that was said is between quotation marks and is followed by a noun (“she” or “Elisabeth”) and a verb. Each of these verbs (“to say,” “to tell [someone],” “to explain”) are ways to describe someone talking. You can use any verb that refers to speech in this way.

You can also put the noun and verb before what was said.

Direct speech: Elisabeth said, “I like spaghetti.”

The example above would be much more likely to be said out loud than the first set of examples.

Here’s a conversation that might happen between two people:

1: Did you ask her if she liked coffee?

2: Yeah, I asked her.

1: What did she say?

2. She said, “Yeah, I like coffee.” ( Direct speech )

Usually, reporting of direct speech is something you see in writing. It doesn’t happen as often when people are talking to each other. 

Direct reported speech often happens in the past. However, there are all kinds of stories, including journalism pieces, profiles and fiction, where you might see speech reported in the present as well.

This is sometimes done when the author of the piece wants you to feel that you’re experiencing events in the present moment.

For example, a profile of Kristen Stewart in Vanity Fair  has a funny moment that describes how the actress isn’t a very good swimmer:

Direct speech: “I don’t want to enter the water, ever,” she says. “If everyone’s going in the ocean, I’m like, no.”

Here, the speech is reported as though it’s in the present tense (“she says”) instead of in the past (“she said”).

In writing of all kinds, direct reported speech is often split into two or more parts, as it is above.

Here’s an example from Lewis Carroll’s “ Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland ,” where the speech is even more split up:

Direct speech: “I won’t indeed!” said Alice, in a great hurry to change the subject of conversation. “Are you—are you fond—of—of dogs?” The Mouse did not answer, so Alice went on eagerly: “There is such a nice little dog near our house I should like to show you!”

Reporting indirect speech is what happens when you explain what someone said without using their exact words.

Let’s start with an example of direct reported speech like those used above.

Direct speech: Elisabeth said, “I like coffee.”

As indirect reported speech, it looks like this:

Indirect speech: Elisabeth said she liked coffee.

You can see that the subject (“I”) has been changed to “she,” to show who is being spoken about. If I’m reporting the direct speech of someone else, and this person says “I,” I’d repeat their sentence exactly as they said it. If I’m reporting this person’s speech indirectly to someone else, however, I’d speak about them in the third person—using “she,” “he” or “they.”

You may also notice that the tense changes here: If “I like coffee” is what she said, this can become “She liked coffee” in indirect speech.

However, you might just as often hear someone say something like, “She said she likes coffee.” Since people’s likes and preferences tend to change over time and not right away, it makes sense to keep them in the present tense.

Indirect speech often uses the word “that” before what was said:

Indirect speech: She said that she liked coffee.

There’s no real difference between “She said she liked coffee” and “She said that she liked coffee.” However, using “that” can help make the different parts of the sentence clearer.

Let’s look at a few other examples:

Indirect speech: I said I was going outside today.

Indirect speech: They told me that they wanted to order pizza.

Indirect speech: He mentioned it was raining.

Indirect speech: She said that her father was coming over for dinner.

You can see an example of reporting indirect speech in the funny video “ Cell Phone Crashing .” In this video, a traveler in an airport sits down next to another traveler talking on his cell phone. The first traveler pretends to be talking to someone on his phone, but he appears to be responding to the second traveler’s conversation, which leads to this exchange:

Woman: “Are you answering what I’m saying?”

Man “No, no… I’m on the phone with somebody, sorry. I don’t mean to be rude.” (Direct speech)

Woman: “What was that?”

Man: “I just said I was on the phone with somebody.” (Indirect speech)

When reporting questions in indirect speech, you can use words like “whether” or “if” with verbs that show questioning, such as “to ask” or “to wonder.”

Direct speech: She asked, “Is that a new restaurant?”

Indirect speech: She asked if that was a new restaurant. 

In any case where you’re reporting a question, you can say that someone was “wondering” or “wanted to know” something. Notice that these verbs don’t directly show that someone asked a question. They don’t describe an action that happened at a single point in time. But you can usually assume that someone was wondering or wanted to know what they asked.

Indirect speech: She was wondering if that was a new restaurant.

Indirect speech: She wanted to know whether that was a new restaurant.

It can be tricky to know how to use tenses when reporting indirect speech. Let’s break it down, tense by tense.

Sometimes, indirect speech “ backshifts ,” or moves one tense further back into the past. We already saw this in the example from above:

Direct speech: She said, “I like coffee.”

Indirect speech: She said she liked coffee.

Also as mentioned above, backshifting doesn’t always happen. This might seem confusing, but it isn’t that difficult to understand once you start using reported speech regularly.

What tense you use in indirect reported speech often just depends on when what you’re reporting happened or was true.

Let’s look at some examples of how direct speech in certain tenses commonly changes (or doesn’t) when it’s reported as indirect speech.

To learn about all the English tenses (or for a quick review), check out this post .

Direct speech: I said, “I play video games.”

Indirect speech: I said that I played video games (simple past) or I said that I play video games  (simple present).

Backshifting into the past or staying in the present here can change the meaning slightly. If you use the first example, it’s unclear whether or not you still play video games; all we know is that you said you played them in the past.

If you use the second example, though, you probably still play video games (unless you were lying for some reason).

However, the difference in meaning is so small, you can use either one and you won’t have a problem.

Direct speech: I said, “I’m playing video games.”

Indirect speech: I said that I was playing video games (past continuous) or I said that I’m playing video games (present continuous).

In this case, you’d likely use the first example if you were telling a story about something that happened in the past.

You could use the second example to repeat or stress what you just said. For example:

Hey, want to go for a walk?

Direct speech: No, I’m playing video games.

But it’s such a nice day!

Indirect speech: I said that I’m playing video games!

Direct speech: Marie said, “I have read that book.”

Indirect speech: Marie said that she had read that book (past perfect) or Marie said that she has read that book (present perfect).

The past perfect is used a lot in writing and other kinds of narration. This is because it helps point out an exact moment in time when something was true.

The past perfect isn’t quite as useful in conversation, where people are usually more interested in what’s true now. So, in a lot of cases, people would use the second example above when speaking.

Direct speech: She said, “I have been watching that show.”

Indirect speech: She said that she had been watching that show (past perfect continuous) or She said that she has been watching that show (present perfect continuous).

These examples are similar to the others above. You could use the first example whether or not this person was still watching the show, but if you used the second example, it’d probably seem like you either knew or guessed that she was still watching it.

Direct speech: You told me, “I charged my phone.”

Indirect speech: You told me that you had charged your phone (past perfect) or You told me that you charged your phone (simple past).

Here, most people would probably just use the second example, because it’s simpler, and gets across the same meaning.

Direct speech: You told me, “I was charging my phone.”

Indirect speech: You told me that you had been charging your phone (past perfect continuous) or You told me that you were charging your phone (past continuous).

Here, the difference is between whether you had been charging your phone before or were charging your phone at the time. However, a lot of people would still use the second example in either situation.

Direct speech: They explained, “We had bathed the cat on Wednesday.”

Indirect speech: They explained that they had bathed the cat on Wednesday. (past perfect)

Once we start reporting the past perfect tenses, we don’t backshift because there are no tenses to backshift to.

So in this case, it’s simple. The tense stays exactly as is. However, many people might simplify even more and use the simple past, saying, “They explained that they bathed the cat on Wednesday.”

Direct speech: They said, “The cat had been going outside and getting dirty for a long time!”

Indirect speech: They said that the cat had been going outside and getting dirty for a long time. (past perfect continuous)

Again, we don’t shift the tense back here; we leave it like it is. And again, a lot of people would report this speech as, “They said the cat was going outside and getting dirty for a long time.” It’s just a simpler way to say almost the same thing.

Direct speech: I told you, “I will be here no matter what.”

Indirect speech: I told you that I would be here no matter what. (present conditional)

At this point, we don’t just have to think about tenses, but grammatical mood, too. However, the idea is still pretty simple. We use the conditional (with “would”) to show that at the time the words were spoken, the future was uncertain.

In this case, you could also say, “I told you that I will be here no matter what,” but only if you “being here” is still something that you expect to happen in the future.

What matters here is what’s intended. Since this example shows a person reporting their own speech, it’s more likely that they’d want to stress the truth of their own intention, and so they might be more likely to use “will” than “would.”

But if you were reporting someone else’s words, you might be more likely to say something like, “She told me that she would be here no matter what.”

Direct speech: I said, “I’ll be waiting for your call.”

Indirect speech: I said that I would be waiting for your call. (conditional continuous)

These are similar to the above examples, but apply to a continuous or ongoing action.

Direct speech: She said, “I will have learned a lot about myself.”

Indirect speech: She said that she would have learned a lot about herself (conditional perfect) or She said that she will have learned a lot about herself (future perfect).

In this case, using the conditional (as in the first example) suggests that maybe a certain event didn’t happen, or something didn’t turn out as expected.

However, that might not always be the case, especially if this was a sentence that was written in an article or a work of fiction. The second example, however, suggests that the future that’s being talked about still hasn’t happened yet.

Direct speech: She said, “By next Tuesday, I will have been staying inside every day for the past month.”

Indirect speech: She said that by next Tuesday, she would have been staying inside every day for the past month (perfect continuous conditional) or She said that by next Tuesday, she will have been staying inside every day for the past month (past perfect continuous).

Again, in this case, the first example might suggest that the event didn’t happen. Maybe the person didn’t stay inside until next Tuesday! However, this could also just be a way of explaining that at the time she said this in the past, it was uncertain whether she really would stay inside for as long as she thought.

The second example, on the other hand, would only be used if next Tuesday hadn’t happened yet.

Let’s take a look at where you can find resources for practicing reporting speech in the real world.

One of the most common uses for reported speech is in fiction. You’ll find plenty of reported speech in novels and short stories . Look for books that have long sections of text with dialogue marked by quotation marks (“…”). Once you understand the different kinds of reported speech, you can look for it in your reading and use it in your own writing.

Writing your own stories is a great way to get even better at understanding reported speech.

One of the best ways to practice any aspect of English is to watch native English videos. By watching English speakers use the language, you can understand how reported speech is used in real world situations.

If you struggle to understand English videos, you can use a program like FluentU to help you through subtitles and other learning tools.

Celebrity profiles, which you can find in print magazines and online, can help you find and practice reported speech, too. Celebrity profiles are stories that focus on a famous person. They often include some kind of interview. The writer will usually spend some time describing the person and then mention things that they say; this is when they use reported speech.

Because many of these profiles are written in the present tense, they can help you get used to the basics of reported speech without having to worry too much about different verb tenses.

While the above may seem really complicated, it isn’t that difficult to start using reported speech.

Mastering it may be a little difficult, but the truth is that many, many people who speak English as a first language struggle with it, too!

Reported speech is flexible, and even if you make mistakes, there’s a good chance that no one will notice.

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reported speech using whether

'If' vs. 'Whether': Similar But Different

What to Know If and whether are often interchangeable, but have distinct uses. For clarity, it is best to use whether in reference to a choice or alternatives ("we're going whether it rains or not") and if when establishing a condition ("we will go if it doesn't rain").

In English grammar, a conjunction is a word that joins together sentences, clauses, phrases, or words. If and whether are referred to as subordinating conjunctions , which means that they are elements that form sentences into word groups called, well, subordinate clauses . As such, they have similar function, which sometimes causes hesitation on which to use. Grammarians have ruled that if and whether have distinct uses; however, they are interchangeable in their shared senses referring to the uncertainty of future happenings. That ruling is consistent with the lawlessness of English, which leads to confusion (and which we will clarify).

blank signs pointing in opposite directions

Though English will still remain chaotic, whether we clarify this issue or not.

If starts a subordinate clause of a conditional sentence—a sentence that states a relation between cause and effect, makes a prediction, or speculates about what might happen. The bare bones: a subordinate clause is a clause that does not form a sentence by itself and is connected to a main clause , which is a complete sentence. The if clause states what must occur before something else, which is stated in the main clause. It can be at the beginning or end of a conditional sentence.

If it doesn't rain, we will go. = We will go if it doesn't rain. Please contact us if you have any further questions.

The main clause of a conditional sentence may begin with the adverb then . This often occurs in science contexts especially in statements of logic or proofs where then is used to emphasize a relation between cause and effect: "If you eat the whole pint of ice cream, then you will be satisfied"; "If line segment p , q and r are equal, then the triangle is an equilateral." Then , in general cases, is not a necessary coupling with if .

Whether is a conjunction that usually starts a subordinate clause that expresses an indirect question involving two stated or implied possibilities or alternatives. And this is where the confusion starts: if can also be used in this sense.

I'm unsure if/whether my answer is correct. [Is my answer correct?] He called the restaurant to see if/whether they take reservations. [Do they take reservations?] She wondered if/whether his story was true. [Was his story true?] They doubt if/whether the team will win. [Will the team win?] I don't know if/whether the mail has arrived. [Did the mail arrive?]

As to why this interchange is the case, we don't have an answer. If we did, we would gladly share with you.

There is a grammatical hint that calls for whether instead of if . Whether is the one that precedes an infinitive , which is the verb form in the collocation "to + simple verb," as in "I am wondering whether to change our reservations." Whether , in this case, refers to the making of a choice, whereas if states a condition, as in "If the contestant spells the word wrong, he or she will be eliminated."

Readers might be familiar with the phrase whether or not , meaning "in any case," "without regard to or in spite of other considerations," or "whatever else is done or is the case"—for example "we are going whether or not you decide to come along." The "or not" of the phrase does not need to immediately follow "whether," but it often does: hence, "The parade will go on whether it rains or not."

There are no ifs , ands , and buts , if and whether are used interchangeably as function words to indicate an indirect question involving stated or implied alternatives and have their own uses. But (so there is a but ), for clarity, it is best to use whether rather than if when referring to choice or alternatives and reserve if as the word to introduce a condition.

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ESL Lesson Handouts

Reported Speech using Asked, If, and Whether

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ESL Lesson Handouts - Reported-Speech-using-Asked-If-and-Whether

Help your students report questions that have been asked by using reported speech and if or whether. Students practice rewriting quoted (direct) speech into reported (indirect) speech. Open and closed questions are also reviewed.

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reported speech using whether

Conditionals and Reported Speech

reported speech using whether

Have you started learning conditionals ? You probably fear you’ll make a lot of mistakes with all those complicated rules, right? And to make things even more complicated, there’s the reported speech. How can you report conditional sentences?

There are numerous English language schools and programs in California that can help you with all the doubts you may have. But to truly master the conditionals and other aspects of the English language, you should rely on as many reliable resources as possible. So, keep reading this article as we explain how if-clauses are changed in reported speech. 

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reported speech using whether

Can we use "if" in reported speech?

“If” is a conjunction we use in indirect speech when we report yes/no questions. 

Direct speech: Do you want to go to the cinema?

Indirect speech: He asked if I wanted to go to the cinema.

Also, if we want to report a conditional sentence, we’ll keep “if” in the reported speech too.

Direct speech: If it doesn’t rain, I’ll go for a walk.

Indirect speech: She said that if it didn’t rain, she’d go for a walk.

How do you change the if-clause in reported speech?

To see what tense and modal changes occur, let’s examine each type of conditional sentence separately. 

Zero conditional in reported speech

The tense shift will occur only in instances when the condition is no longer valid. Otherwise, the tenses remain the same.

Mom: If dad gets angry, he always reads a newspaper in the living room and ignores everybody else.

Mom said that if dad gets angry, he always reads a newspaper in the living room and ignores everybody else. (Dad still does this.)

Mom said that if dad got angry, he always read a newspaper in the living room and ignored everybody else. (Dad doesn’t do this anymore. Mom just described his past habit.)

First conditional in reported speech

If we need to report a first conditional sentence, the following changes might take place.

Luke: If we hurry up, we’ll catch the bus .

Luke said that if we hurry up, we’ll catch the bus. (This information is still relevant. Luke and his interlocutor still have time to catch the bus.)

Luke said that if we hurried up, we’d catch the bus. (These reported words aren’t relevant anymore. The bus has already left. Note the tense and modal shift: the present simple becomes the past simple , and will becomes would .)

Second conditional in reported speech

The above tense and modal shifting rules apply to the second conditional too. If the condition is still relevant, no changes occur. However, if it’s outdated, the past simple becomes the past perfect , and would becomes would + have + past participle. 

Sofia: If I had more money, I would buy a new car. 

Sofia said that if she had more money, she would buy a new car. (Sofia still doesn’t have money, and consequently, she can’t buy a new car.)

Sofia said that if she had had more money, she would have bought a new car. (The speaker remembers Sofia’s words and wishes from the past. Maybe Sofia doesn’t have any money issues now.)

Third conditional in reported speech

When reporting third conditionals, there is no change in the verb form:

Tania: If I had seen him, I would have told him about the accident.

Tania said that if she had seen him, she would have told him about the accident .

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Supreme Court examines whether government can combat disinformation online

Nina Totenberg at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C., May 21, 2019. (photo by Allison Shelley)

Nina Totenberg

reported speech using whether

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments Monday on the role of the First Amendment in the internet age. Catie Dull/NPR hide caption

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments Monday on the role of the First Amendment in the internet age.

In a major case testing the role of the First Amendment in the internet age, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday hears arguments focused on the federal government's ability to combat what it sees as false, misleading or dangerous information online.

Last September, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the most conservative federal appeals court in the U.S., issued a broad ruling that barred key government officials from contacts with social media companies. Among the personnel targeted in the order were officials at the White House, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Office of the Surgeon General, the FBI and an important cybersecurity agency.

Supreme Court to hear court ban on government contact with social media companies

Supreme Court to hear court ban on government contact with social media companies

The appeals court said that individuals at those agencies likely violated the First Amendment by seeking to coerce social media platforms into moderating or changing their content about COVID-19, foreign interference in elections and even Hunter Biden's laptop. The Supreme Court has put that ruling on hold while it examines the tricky issues in the case.

The facts of the case

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are two states, Missouri and Louisiana, and five individuals, including vaccine opponents, who either were banned from some internet platforms at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic or whose posts, they say, were not prominently featured on social media sites such as Facebook, YouTube and X, formerly known as Twitter.

Supreme Court justices appear skeptical of Texas and Florida social media laws

Supreme Court justices appear skeptical of Texas and Florida social media laws

The Biden administration notes that under established First Amendment precedent, the government itself is entitled to express its views and to try to persuade others. As the government says in its brief, "A central dimension of presidential power is the use of the office's bully pulpit to seek to persuade Americans—and American companies—to act in ways that would advance the public interest."

The administration's opponents counter that the bully pulpit "is not a pulpit to bully."

Jenin Younes, who represents the individuals who claim they were censored, argues that the government is essentially using social media companies as proxies to censor speech. And that, she contends, is unconstitutional state action.

"We're talking about the government going after all major platforms and trying to get them to censor ... entire points of view," she says.

The government notes that officials in both Republican and Democratic administrations have interacted regularly with social media companies. Indeed, from the beginning of the pandemic in the Trump administration, the companies themselves reached out to government health agencies for guidance on what was and was not reliable medical information.

U.S. is barred from combating disinformation on social media. Here's what it means

U.S. is barred from combating disinformation on social media. Here's what it means

Former Obama White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler said she was particularly struck in reading the lower court opinions in this case because "there really was no recognition ... that the vast majority of these communications between the government officials and the social media companies related to a global health crisis."

"If you think about what is the purpose of the government, why do governments exist? It's really to protect the health and safety and welfare of its citizens," she said during a panel discussion at New York University's School of Law.

How the government interacts with social media companies

The government makes similar arguments about the FBI and other agencies' dealings with social media companies. Former FBI general counsel Andrew Weissmann notes that private companies and the government typically benefit from this sort of back-and-forth.

Why the fight to counter false election claims may be harder in 2024

Untangling Disinformation

Why the fight to counter false election claims may be harder in 2024.

"Let's say that somebody from the Department of Defense alerts you to information about a terrorist group that is identifying" the location and address of a State Department employee abroad and calling for violence against that individual. Typically, Weissman says, "depending on the imminent danger," the FBI general counsel would alert the social media company and have a conversation that would go something like this: "I wanted to flag for you" something that "seems to us it violates your policy. Obviously that's for you to decide, but you can understand why ... there is a grave concern on our part."

The response, most of the time, says Weissmann, is that the social media company is grateful for the information and often takes down the post because it does violate company policy but was missed by the company's algorithms. No algorithm is perfect, he observes, because of the billions, even trillions, of posts worldwide that are on social media platforms every day.

Was speech censored?

That is hardly the picture painted by the other side in this case. They claim their speech was censored. Two of the plaintiffs are epidemiologists who were advocates of exposing most people to get COVID-19 in order to establish herd immunity instead of imposing lockdowns, masks and other steps taken by both the Trump and Biden administrations. The CDC has argued that there is no such thing as herd immunity with a virus like the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, which has constantly morphed and mutated.

But the plaintiffs in the case have produced dozens and dozens of quotes from government emails that they say prove the government's coercive behavior.

"When you read between the lines, what was happening was that the companies were feeling enormous pressure from the White House, and they were caving to that pressure. And the result of that pressure was censoring certain viewpoints," contends lawyer Younes.

That's "kind of silly," says former White House counsel Ruemmler, who notes that the president can't remove existing legal protections for social media companies. Only Congress can do that.

Colin Stretch, former general counsel for Facebook, agrees that the idea of social media platforms bowing to government officials is outlandish.

"These are big companies. They don't scare easy," he says, adding that there always are competing political imperatives in public policy. "That's life in the big leagues," he said at NYU.

A forceful government response

The Biden administration, for its part, rebuts the plaintiffs' coercion allegations in unusually forceful terms. "When I looked at the government's brief, they don't use the L-word, the 'lying' word, but they do everything but," observes former FBI counsel Weissmann.

To cite just one example, the government rebuts the coercion claim drawn by the lower court from a White House email to Facebook. "Are you guys f***ing serious?" the email says, adding, "I want an answer on what happened here and I want it today." Sounds bad, the government says, until you learn that the "admittedly crude email" concerned "a technical problem affecting the President's own Instagram account —it had nothing to do with moderating other users' content."

Beyond the enormous factual disputes in the case, there are basic disagreements about how the courts should treat social media companies under the First Amendment and whether those regulatory policies should be made by the Supreme Court or Congress.

"There is no clear partisan line" in Monday's case, observes NYU law professor Ryan Goodman. And you don't have to be a genius to see that some politicians have a convenient way of switching sides, depending on the content of the speech at issue.

Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey, for instance, brought this case accusing the Biden administration of "arguably ... the most massive attack against free speech in United States history." But at the same time, he threatened legal action against Target for selling LGBTQ-themed T-shirts and other merchandise as part of a Pride campaign.

What the social media companies say

None of the social media companies are parties in Monday's Supreme Court case, but they continue to assert that like other media companies, their speech and their choices of what to allow on their platforms are protected by the First Amendment. Those challenging that status contend that social media companies are more like utilities; they are hosts to other people's opinions and thus don't have the same First Amendment protections that newspapers and broadcasters have.

Presidents of both parties and members of Congress can and do say plenty of nasty things about social media companies in public; it's the private communications that make critics suspicious, according to Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute.

"It might be naive to expect the social media companies to be reliable proxies for the speech interests of their users," he said at NYU.

Until now, though, the line that has been drawn by the courts is the line between persuasion and coercion. It sounds simple, but as Jaffer observes, "applying that rule is much more difficult than stating what the rule is."

Just where the Supreme Court justices stand on this or other social media questions before the court this term is unclear. But in this case, the court's three most conservative justices — Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch — would not have paused the lower court's decision while the case is litigated in the high court. They would have let it take effect.

A separate First Amendment case

After the court finishes the arguments in the social media case on Monday, it will move on to a second case involving government influence and the First Amendment. The National Rifle Association sued the former head of New York state's Department of Financial Services.

The NRA charged that during an agency investigation into so-called "murder insurance," the Department of Financial Services violated the NRA's free speech rights by issuing letters and news releases that dissuaded financial institutions from doing business with the gun rights advocacy group. "Murder insurance" is the derogatory term for insurance that covers the costs of using firearms to shoot another person, and it is illegal in New York. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the NRA's complaint, concluding that the news releases and letters were appropriate government speech, and the NRA then appealed to the Supreme Court.

  • First Amendment
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Federal Reserve March meeting: Rates hold steady; 3 cuts seen in '24 despite inflation

Officials also bumped up their estimates of economic growth and inflation in 2024..

  • The decision leaves the Fed’s rate at a 23-year high of 5.25% to 5.5%
  • Wednesday’s move means Americans will keep paying higher borrowing costs as the Fed battles to slow sharp price increases.
  • Officials kept their projection that they’ll lower the federal funds rate by three-quarters of a percentage point to a range of 4.5% to 4.75% by year’s end.

WASHINGTON--The Federal Reserve left its key interest rate unchanged again Wednesday and stuck to its forecast of three rate cuts this year despite signs that inflation may stay elevated longer. 

Fed officials also bumped up their estimates of economic growth and inflation in 2024.

The decision leaves the Fed’s benchmark short-term rate at a 23-year high of 5.25% to 5.5% for a fifth straight meeting. After hiking the rate from near zero since March 2022 to wrestle down high inflation, the central bank has stood pat since July as consumer price increases moderated substantially.

Wednesday’s move means Americans will keep paying higher borrowing costs for now as the Fed battles to slow sharp price increases.

In a statement after a two-day meeting, the Fed repeated that it “does not expect it will be appropriate to reduce the target range until it has gained greater confidence that inflation (now close to 3%) is moving sustainably toward” the Fed’s 2% goal.

Learn more: Best current CD rates

What's ahead for homebuyers? Mortgage rates at a 'new normal' of 6%.

How much will interest rates drop?

While inflation has eased more slowly early this year, Fed officials maintained their projection that they’ll lower the federal funds rate by three-quarters of a percentage point to a range of 4.5% to 4.75% by year’s end, according to their median estimate. That’s equivalent to three quarter-point rate cuts, an outlook that could further bolster a stock market that has hit new records since fall on the prospect of lower rates.

At a news conference, Fed Chair Jerome Powell acknowledged that inflation flared in early 2024 after falling dramatically last year. But he said the uptick in January could have been caused by challenges the government faces as it seasonally adjusts the data. The February data was more worrisome, he said, but it appeared to show less of a spike than the previous month.

"The story is really essentially the same of inflation coming down gradually to 2% on a sometimes bumpy path," Powell said. "We're not going to overreact...to the two months of data. Nor are we going to ignore them."

Powell wasn't more specific on when the Fed could start shaving rates except to reiterate that it likely will be "sometimes this year." He noted, however, that besides further progress on inflation, Fed officials also could lower rates "if there's a significant weakening in the labor market."

Futures markets continue to predict three rate decreases this year, with the first coming in June.

Some economists believe the Fed will slice rates more sharply this year in response to both a softening economy and slowing inflation.

"We continue to believe that below-potential GDP growth will help to drive core inflation much closer to the 2% target by year-end, persuading the Fed to cut rates by (a full percentage point), beginning in June," Paul Ashworth of Capital Economics wrote in a note to clients..

Fed officials did reduce their forecast to just three rate cuts in 2025 from four in December.  And they nudged up their estimate of the longer-run rate intended to neither stimulate nor curb growth to 2.6% from 2.5%, indicating they believe the economy will be a bit stronger than anticipated in coming years.

How's the job market? Behind the rosy job numbers, Americans are struggling to find work

The Fed raises rates to make consumer and business borrowing more expensive in an effort to curtail economic activity and inflation. It lowers rates to stimulate weak growth or dig the economy out of recession . Wednesday’s decision means consumers will continue to endure higher borrowing costs for mortgages , credit cards, auto and other loans but will also benefit from higher savings account yields.

Some Fed officials say they can afford to trim rates cautiously because the economy has been resilient despite the high borrowing costs and inflation is still above their goal. Others note that with price gains generally slowing, inflation-adjusted rates are already too high and serve as a drag on an economy that’s poised to lose steam after a post-COVID surge. 

Some forecasters still think the U.S. could slip into a mild recession this year, an outcome they say would become more likely if the Fed waits too long to chop rates.

What is the prediction for the economy in 2024?

On Wednesday, the Fed said it expects the economy to grow 2.1% in 2024, well above its prior 1.4% estimate. It predicts 2% growth in 2025, up from its prior 1.8% projection.

The economy grew a sturdy 3.1% in 2023 (as measured from the fourth quarter of 2022 to the fourth quarter of 2023). But it’s projected to slow this year as high interest rates, record credit card debt and dwindling COVID-related savings take a bigger toll on household spending. Retail sales were feeble in January and February.

Stubborn inflation: Inflation data from CPI report shows sharper price gains.

What is the forecast inflation rate for 2024?

Fed officials estimate their preferred measure of annual inflation, the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) index, will end 2024 at its current level. 2.4%, in line with their previous projection.

But a core measure that strips out volatile food and energy items and is watched more closely by the Fed is expected to dip from 2.8% to 2.6% by the end of the year, above the prior 2.4% estimate.

After hitting a 40-year high of 7% in mid-2022, the PCE price index has tumbled. Economists point to the resolution of product and labor shortages as Americans idled by COVID came back to the labor force, joining a stream of immigrants. Also, consumer demand for furniture and other goods has softened as the health crisis has faded.

But in January, consumer prices rose 0.3% and a core measure  both jumped 0.4%,  higher than the previous trend. The increases still lowered annual inflation overall to 2.4% and core PCE to 2.8%.

In February, though, a different inflation gauge, the consumer price index (CPI), along with core CPI, both rose 0.4%, according to a report last week. The cost of services such as rent, auto insurance, car repairs and airline fares continued to climb. And prices for goods that had been falling or rising modestly, such as used cars and clothing, drifted higher.

Economists are divided over whether the high inflation readings amount to a blip or a sign that the road to the Fed’s 2% target is becoming bumpier. Barclays economist Jonathan Millar believes the fall in goods prices may have petered out. And annual wage growth, which was propelled higher by pandemic-related worker shortages, could decline just gradually, leaving services inflation elevated, he says.

Gregory Daco, chief economist of EY-Parthenon, says the inflation readings for the past two months have been distorted by volatile items such as airfares. And, he says, pay increases should continue to slow steadily, bringing inflation close to the Fed’s 2% target by year’s end.

What happened to the American Dream? How younger workers are redefining success

What will the job market look like in 2024?

The 3.9% unemployment rate is projected to end 2024 at 4%, a bit lower than the December forecast, the Fed’s median estimate shows. Average monthly job growth has downshifted from about 300,000 in early 2023 to a still robust 264,000 the past three months. But average job gains are likely to slow to less than 100,000 by mid-year, according to Moody’s Analytics.

Meanwhile, average yearly wage gains have declined to 4.3% from 5.9% since March 2022. The Fed wants pay increases to come down to 3.5% to align with its 2% inflation target.

For more answers to your questions about today's interest rate decision and its impact, keep reading:

Why is the Fed slow to cut rates?

The Fed’s cautious approach illustrates what’s unusual about this round of potential rate cuts. 

Vincent Reinhart, chief economist at Dreyfus-Mellon and a former Fed economist, notes that the Fed typically cuts rates quickly as the economy deteriorates in an often-futile effort to prevent a recession.

But this time, the economy is still healthy. The Fed is considering rate cuts only because inflation has steadily fallen from a peak of 9.1% in June 2022. As a result, it is approaching rate cuts the way it usually does rate hikes: Slowly and methodically while trying to divine the economy’s direction from often-conflicting data.

“The Fed is driving events, not events driving the Fed,” Reinhart said. “That’s why this task is different than others.”

- Associated Press

Will Fed rate cuts lift Americans? Fed interest-rate cuts are likely coming but may not offer much relief

Are other countries’ central banks cutting rates?

Like the Fed, other major central banks are keeping rates high to ensure that they have a firm handle on consumer price spikes. In Europe, pressure is building to lower borrowing costs as inflation drops and economic growth has stalled, unlike in the United States. The European Central Bank’s leader hinted this month that a possible rate cut wouldn’t come until June, while the Bank of England isn’t expected to open the door to any imminent cut at its meeting Thursday.

What happened at the last FOMC meeting?

During the last Federal Reserve meeting in January, the Fed underscored that an interest rate cut was now far more likely than a hike. But the central bank also suggested that it’s in no rush to reduce rates and wants to make sure inflation has been subdued for the long term before acting.

"The timing of (the first rate decrease) is linked to our gaining confidence that inflation is on a sustainable path down to 2%," Powell said at a January news conference. "I don't think it is likely (Fed officials) will reach that level of confidence by the time of the March meeting. It's probably not the most likely case."

- Paul Davidson, Daniel de Visé, Medora Lee, Charisse Jones and Bailey Schulz

Is the Federal Reserve a government agency?

The Federal Reserve is an “independent government agency.” It does not get funding through Congress. Rather, its income is primarily based on interest from the government securities it owns. 

- Bailey Schulz

Bitcoin value today

The value of a single Bitcoin was $63,355.24, as of 8 a.m. ET Wednesday, down from $73,835.57 on March 14 which was the cryptocurrency’s highest intraday price in the past year. 

- USA TODAY/Blueprint

How does raising rates lower inflation?

The federal funds rate is what banks pay each other to borrow overnight. If that rate increases, banks usually pass along that extra cost, meaning it becomes more expensive for consumers and businesses to borrow as rates rise on credit cards, adjustable-rate mortgages and other loans. That’s why the funds rate is the key mechanism used by the Federal Reserve to calm inflation.  

Simply put, companies and consumers don’t borrow as much when loans cost them more, and that means an overheated economy can cool and inflation may dip.  

- USA TODAY Staff

Consumer Price Index: What is it?

In February , the Labor Department’s consumer price index (CPI) – a measure of the average shift in prices for a basket of different products and services – was up 3.2% from a year earlier, a slightly larger annual increase than the month before.  

Annual inflation is down dramatically from 9.1% in June 2022, which marked a 40-year high. But it remains above the 2% target the Fed equates with price stability.

Why is CPI important?

The Federal Reserve watches two key aspects of the economy, price stability and maximum employment, and those are the main factors it takes into account for its interest rate decisions. The CPI is one key measure the Fed looks at to help determine if prices are “stable.’’ It traditionally has watched PCE prices even more closely.

What is the difference between CPI and core CPI?

Core prices don’t include the volatile costs of food and energy items, giving a more accurate gauge of longer-term trends.

Is there a recession coming in 2024?

Now that inflation is easing, the Fed may be poised to make a blunder by moving too slowly to cut rates and triggering a recession, some economists argue.

“The longer they wait, the greater the risk that something goes off the rails ,” says Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics.

Other economists say inflation still poses the bigger threat and the Fed is on the right track.

- Paul Davidson

Ethereum price

Ethereum topped $4,000 at the start of this month, its highest peak since December 2021. The cryptocurrency is the second-largest based on market capitalization . 

Does the Federal Reserve interest rate affect credit cards?

The Fed doesn’t directly dictate how much interest you pay on your credit card debt. But its rate is the basis for your bank’s prime rate. In combination with other factors, such as your credit score, the prime rate helps determine the Annual Percentage Rate, or APR, on your credit card.

Credit card annual percentage rates (APRs), or the annual interest rates you pay to borrow money, will likely continue climbing . The average credit card interest rate is 24.66%, the highest since LendingTree began tracking rates monthly in 2019, it said. 

“We’ll likely see more record credit card APRs in the short term, with rates for those who don’t have perfect credit perhaps climbing the most,” said Matt Schulz, credit analyst at comparison site LendingTree. “I expect the increases to be pretty small, barring unexpectedly bad economic news, but after two years of upward movement, even tiny increases are definitely unwelcome.” 

With interest rates so high, Americans should focus on paying off credit card debt before anything else. “You can’t outrun 20-plus-percent interest rate on a balance,” said Rich Guerrini, president and chief executive at financial services company PNC Investments. 

Since it’s tax season, consider using your refund check to pay off credit card debt, he said. As of March 8, the average refund was $3,145, up 5.8% from a year ago, the IRS said. “Use it to pay your credit card bill instead of a trip,” Guerrini said. 

Credit card debt was a record $1.13 trillion in the last three months of 2023 and delinquencies have risen above pre-pandemic levels, the New York Federal Reserve said. 

- Associated Press, Medora Lee

Will auto loan rates go down in 2024?

Borrowers’ rates are based on factors like credit background, vehicle price, down payment and the lenders’ borrowing costs and risks. 

But rates alone have “a pretty limited impact on affordability,” said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at personal finance site Bankrate. “For most auto buyers, it’s not the interest rate that’s busting the budget...The difference between 8% and 7.25% on a $40,000 loan is about $14 per month – on an $800 per month loan.” 

Instead, it’s price. The average new vehicle transaction price remains 18% higher than pre-pandemic, Kelley Blue Book said.

- Medora Lee

How does the Fed's decision affect savings interest rates?    

Rates have already begun to fall in anticipation of a rate cut later this year, said Ken Tumin, banking expert at DepositAccounts.com, which tracks interest rate products. 

Certificates of Deposit (CD) rates have led the decline, with some banks having already slashed their 12-month online CD rate by more than half a percentage point this year, he said. 

Online savings accounts have fared better, with rates holding mostly steady or just dipping. 

“Widespread cuts in online savings account rates are unlikely until the first Fed rate cut is near,” Tumin said. So far in 2024, the average yield has declined 5 basis points from 4.49% to 4.44%, he said. 

Certificate of Deposit: Average CD rates today

The average yield on a one-year certificate of deposit (CD) in December 2023 was 1.86%, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), while a 60-month CD was 1.40%. 

While those rates aren’t exactly robust, they’re well above recent levels. For instance, a one-year CD yielded just 0.13% in January 2022, before the Fed started raising rates, while a 60-month CD offered only 0.28%. 

A rate increase of that size can make a big difference to your bottom line. 

Say you opened a 60-month CD and deposited $10,000 in January 2022 that paid a 0.28% APY. After five years, you’d earn just a little more than $140 in interest. 

That same $10,000 would net nearly $700 now. 

High-yield savings account rates

Some of the top high-yield savings accounts currently feature rates of 4% or higher.

A high-yield account works much like a regular savings account. You open the account and then deposit and withdraw funds when you want to, within what the rules allow. The biggest difference you may see between a traditional and a high-yield account is that a larger amount of interest is earned and deposited into your account at the end of each month.

The rate is subject to change depending on the overall financial market and the business needs of the bank or credit union. 

HELOC rates today

The Fed's rate moves also influence what borrowers pay on variable-rate home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) , which are revolving lines of credit that give homeowners a flexible way to borrow against the equity they’ve built up in their homes. Similar to a credit card, you can repeatedly borrow from your credit line and will only pay back the amount you’ve drawn. You’ll also only pay interest on what you’ve actually borrowed.

HELOCs can be used for almost any purpose, from home improvement projects or debt consolidation to college tuition or emergency expenses.

The average rate on a $100,000 HELOC is 9.14% if you have a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio of 60%, 9.29% if your LTV ratio is 80% and 10.02% with a 90% LTV ratio.

When is the next Federal Reserve meeting?

Here are the upcoming Fed meetings planned for this year:

  • April 30-May 1
  • Sept. 17-18

Fed prime rate today

The prime rate tends to be three percentage points above the federal funds rate, which is the interest tacked on to overnight loans between banks. Based on the current federal funds rate of  5.25% to 5.5%, the prime rate today is 8.5%.  

Fed dot plot today

The Fed’s dot plot can be found in the Fed's Summary of Economic Projections report. It’s an illustration of where individual Fed officials forecast interest rates will be years down the line. The dot plot was first created in late 2011 and was meant to give more transparency to the Fed's decisions when it came to monetary policy.

The Fed's latest dot plot indicated three cuts for 2024.

Inflation data: What is the inflation rate right now?

Core PCE prices, which exclude volatile food and energy items and are watched more closely by the Federal Reserve , increased 0.4% in January. That still lowered the annual increase from 2.9% the previous month to 2.8%. Overall prices rose 2.4% from a year earlier, down from 2.6% and the smallest increase in nearly three years. 

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

The seven-member Board of Governors is the governing body of the Federal Reserve System. Each member is nominated by the President of the United States and confirmed by the Senate. Their terms are staggered and last 14 years.

- USA TODAY staff

Will mortgage rates go down if the Fed cuts rates?

Rate cuts are unlikely to give Americans significant relief on mortgages, auto loans, credit cards, and other types of debt anytime soon, financial experts say. Over time, the cumulative impact of lower rates could be more substantial.

The Fed influences, but does not control, mortgage rates. If you’ve found a nice, affordable home, that shouldn’t stop you from buying it, some experts say. 

“You can always buy a house and refinance later if rates fall,” said Sameer Samana, senior global market strategist and investment adviser at Wells Fargo Investment Institute. 

How does this affect my plans to buy a house?    

With the Fed now expected to delay rate cuts, some prospective home buyers may follow suit , some experts say. 

“Unfortunately for the housing market, a decision to stay the course will likely result in a softer spring selling season,” said Dan Burnett, head of investor product at fintech Hometap, which offers home equity investment products.  

The 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate has recently risen above 7% again, reversing its steady decline since October. 

“Homeowners sitting on mortgage rates well below market are unlikely to sell, and prospective homebuyers staring down exorbitant monthly payments seem willing to wait,” Burnett said. 

Mortgage rates today

As of March 19, the average annual percentage rate (APR) for a 30-year fixed mortgage was 7.40%. That was a slight dip from the 7.49% one month ago. But it was far above the 5.8% some home buyers were able to get in late 2022.

The average APR for a 15-year, fixed-rate mortgage was 6.64% — a tick down from 6.71% in February. 

What are the current interest rates?

Since March 2022, the Fed has hiked its benchmark short-term interest rate from near zero to a 23-year high of 5.25% to 5.5% to tame inflation. With its preferred yearly inflation measure – the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) index – falling swiftly from a 40-year high of 7%, the Fed has paused since July.

FOMC Press Conference: Watch live at 2:30 p.m. ET

Stock market today

U.S. stocks are edging higher Wednesday after the Federal Reserve indicated it’s still likely to deliver the cuts to interest rates this year that Wall Street craves, even though concerns are growing about stubbornly high inflation.

The S&P 500 was 0.6% higher at 2:47 p.m. ET after flipping between tiny gains and losses before the Fed’s announcement. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.7% and the Nasdaq composite was 0.9% higher.

10-year Treasury yield

In the bond market, Treasury yields had a mixed reaction.

The two-year Treasury yield, which closely tracks expectations for Fed action, initially jumped before quickly giving up the gain. It was recently at 4.64%, down from 4.69% late Tuesday.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury, which also takes into account longer-term economic growth and inflation, initially tumbled after the Fed’s announcement but then rose. It was recently at 4.29%, compared with 4.30% late Tuesday.

- Associated Press and USA TODAY Staff

How will the stock market react to ‘higher for longer’?    

The stock market response to the Fed's announcement will depend on details of the message, not the expected hold on rates. 

“Investors are going to look at the FOMC statement, Chair Powell’s press conference, and the FOMC dot plots for clues as to what the future path of monetary policy might look like,” said BeiChen Lin, strategist at Russell Investments.  

But with so much optimism for avoiding recession, slower inflation and lower interest rates already priced into stocks with their recent record highs, “it’s hard to come up with another catalyst for a sharp upward move higher from here,” Lin said. “Even a minor unpleasant surprise in the economic data could cause a pullback. We think investors should avoid playing the momentum game, and instead stay close to their strategic allocation to equities.” 

Fed rate cuts 2024

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said earlier this month the central bank won’t begin cutting its key interest rate “until it has gained greater confidence that inflation is moving sustainably toward” its 2% goal, noting the move will likely occur “at some point this year.”Responding to questions from members of the House Financial Services Committee, Powell added, "because the economy has been so strong we think we can and should be careful" about slicing rates. He added the Fed wants "to see more good inflation readings" to feel confident that the recent pullback in price gains won't stall or reverse.

Did the latest jobs report affect the Fed’s plans?

The latest jobs report showed the country adding a robust 275,000 jobs in February.

Economists said this doesn’t change expectations that the Fed will probably start cutting interest rates in June, with the booming February job gains offset by the downgrades for previous months and a rising unemployment rate.More significantly, yearly pay increases, which feed into inflation, dipped, giving the Fed some assurance that price increases should continue to slow. 

What does the Federal Reserve do?

Traditionally, the Fed reduces interest rates to jolt an economy that’s slowing significantly or already in recession. Right now, however, neither of those things is happening. The economy grew a sturdy 3.3% in the fourth quarter and a solid 2.5% for all of 2023, as consumer spending stayed strong.

Instead, the Fed tentatively plans to lower rates because inflation has eased. Otherwise, over time, inflation-adjusted rates would be too high and excessively restrain consumer and business spending.

Subscribe to our free Daily Money newsletter  for personal finance tips and business news every Monday through Friday. Signing up will also give you our Sunday tax tips newsletter.

  • B1-B2 grammar

Reported speech: reporting verbs

Reported speech: reporting verbs

Do you know how to tell someone what another person said using reporting verbs? Test what you know with interactive exercises and read the explanation to help you.

Look at these examples to see how reporting verbs are used.

direct speech: 'You should come, it's going to be a lot of fun,' she said. indirect speech: She persuaded me to come. direct speech: 'Wait here,' he said. indirect speech: He told us to wait there. direct speech: 'It wasn't me who finished the coffee,' he said. indirect speech: He denied finishing the coffee.

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Reported speech 3 – reporting verbs: 1

Grammar explanation

When we tell someone what another person said, we often use the verbs say , tell or ask . These are called 'reporting verbs'. However, we can also use other reporting verbs. Many reporting verbs can be followed by another verb in either an infinitive or an -ing form. 

Reporting verb + infinitive

Verbs like advise , agree , challenge , claim , decide , demand , encourage , invite , offer , persuade , promise , refuse and remind can follow an infinitive pattern.

'Let's see. I'll have the risotto, please.' He decided to have the risotto. 'I'll do the report by Friday, for sure.' She promised to do the report by Friday. 'It's not a good idea to write your passwords down.' They advised us not to write our passwords down.

We can also use an infinitive to report imperatives, with a reporting verb like tell , order , instruct , direct or warn .

'Please wait for me in reception.' The guide told us to wait for her in reception. 'Don't go in there!' The police officer warned us not to go in there.

Reporting verb + -ing form

Verbs like admit , apologise for , complain about , deny , insist on , mention and suggest can follow an -ing form pattern.

'I broke the window.' She admitted breaking the window. 'I'm really sorry I didn't get back to you sooner.' He apologised for not getting back to me sooner. 'Let's take a break.' She suggested taking a break.

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Reported speech 3 – reporting verbs: 2

Language level

Would you consider the following structure to be reported speech?

The original sentence went as follows:

- After the procedure the doctors confirmed it was the right thing to have done.

Why am I asking? As far as I know the top notch phrasing should go like this:

- After the procedure the doctors confirmed it HAD BEEN the right thing to have done.

I think so because at that time the doctors must have said something like:

- Doctors confirming after the procedure - It was the right thing to have done, Dominik.

Would you be so kind to comment on this one, please :)

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Hello Dominik992,

The version that you propose is correct, and, as you mention, is what is taught as best practice in most grammars.

The other version is also fine, however. Especially in more informal speaking and writing, we often use a past simple form when a past perfect form doesn't add any additional or important meaning.

Best wishes, Kirk LearnEnglish team

Hello! I would like to know whether this two sentences are correct. I think they are both correct, but I am not sure.

"He apologized for letting me down." Or: "He apologized for having let me down"

Thank you in advance! GabDip

Hello GabDip,

Yes, both sentences are correct. There is a slight difference in meaning:

Sentence 1 ( for letting ) could be about a particular situation or it could be about his general habit of being unreliable.

Sentence 2 ( for having let ) describes an issue in the past which is not true any more.

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, i have 2 questions, firstly is the same use advise with verb + object + infinitive that use it with + gerund, it changes the meaning or no? secondly, when we use warn + object + infinitive it has the same meaning that warn somebody against?

Hi facundo62,

For  advise , the meaning is the same with those two structures. For example:

  • I'd advise resting as much as you can.
  • I'd advise you to rest as much as you can.

However, the structure  advise  + - ing form is less commonly used than the advise + object + to + infinitive structure. 

About  warn , the two structures you mentioned do also have the same meaning. But just to be clear, it's  warn  + object + not + to  + infinitive that has that meaning. For example:

  • The doctor warned me not to eat too much.
  • The doctor warned me against eating too much.

I hope that helps.

LearnEnglish team

what is the diffrence beetween he suggested to ask andi for some ideas and he suggested asking andi for ideas

"He suggested to ask ..." is not grammatically correct. 

The verb "suggest" is followed by either:

  • an - ing  verb form -->  He suggested asking ...  OR
  • a  that  clause -->  He suggested  that we ask   ...

"Suggest" is not in the group of verbs that is followed by an infinitive ( to  + verb).

it helped alot thanks

Why can't we say "Katie suggested us going for a walk" but instead should say "KATIE SUGGESTED THAT WE GO FOR A WALK" whilst "The man warned us not to park in this street" is correct. It's unclear why "She suggested us" isn't correct but "The man warned us...." is.

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Supreme Court Wary of States’ Bid to Limit Federal Contact With Social Media Companies

A majority of the justices appeared convinced that government officials should be able to try to persuade private companies, whether news organizations or tech platforms, not to publish information so long as the requests are not backed by coercive threats.

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A reflection shows the Supreme Court. The building is in the background.

Adam Liptak

Reporting from Washington

Here’s the latest on the First Amendment case.

A majority of the Supreme Court seemed wary on Monday of a bid by two Republican-led states to limit the Biden administration’s interactions with social media companies, with several justices questioning the states’ legal theories and factual assertions.

Most of the justices appeared convinced that government officials should be able to try to persuade private companies, whether news organizations or tech platforms, not to publish information so long as the requests are not backed by coercive threats.

The dispute was the latest in an extraordinary series of cases this term requiring the justices to assess the meaning of free speech in the internet era.

Justices Brett M. Kavanaugh and Elena Kagan, both former White House lawyers, said interactions between administration officials and news outlets provided a valuable analogy. Efforts by officials to influence coverage are, they said, part of a valuable dialogue that is not prohibited by the First Amendment.

Members of the court also raised questions about whether the plaintiffs — Missouri and Louisiana, along with five individuals — had suffered the kind of injury that gave them standing to sue. They also suggested that a broad injunction prohibiting contacts between many officials and the platforms was not a proper remedy in any event.

“I don’t see a single item in your briefs that would satisfy our normal tests,” Justice Kagan told J. Benjamin Aguiñaga, Louisiana’s solicitor general.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor accused the states of distorting the record in the case. “I have such a problem with your brief,” she told Mr. Aguiñaga. “You omit information that changes the context of some of your claims. You attribute things to people who it didn’t happen to.”

Mr. Aguiñaga apologized “if any aspect of our brief was not as forthcoming as it should have been.”

The justices peppered Mr. Aguiñaga with hypothetical questions about national security, doxxing of public officials and contests that could endanger teenagers, all suggesting that there is a role for vigorous efforts by the government to combat harmful speech.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., the member of the court who appeared most sympathetic to the states’ position, urged his colleagues to remain focused on the case before them.

“Whatever coercion means,” he said, “whatever happened here is sufficient.”

The case arose from a barrage of communications from administration officials urging platforms to take down posts on topics like the coronavirus vaccines and claims of election fraud. Last year, a federal appeals court severely limited such interactions .

The Supreme Court put that injunction on hold last year while it considered the administration’s appeal. If it were to go into effect, said Brian H. Fletcher, a lawyer for the government, it would prohibit all sorts of speech, including public comments from the press secretary or other senior officials seeking to discourage posts harmful to children or conveying antisemitic or Islamophobic messages.

He added that the social media companies had been moderating content on their platforms long before they were contacted by officials, had powerful business incentives to do so and were following their own policies. The companies acted independently of the government, he said, and often rejected requests to take down postings.

“These were sophisticated parties,” he said. “They routinely said no to the government. They weren’t open about it. They didn’t hesitate to do it. And when they said no to the government, the government never engaged in any sort of retaliation.”

Justice Alito said the volume and intensity of the contacts were troubling, as was the suggestion in some of them that the government and the platforms were partners in an effort to combat misinformation about the pandemic.

Mr. Fletcher responded that the messages had to be understood “in the context of an effort to get Americans vaccinated during a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic” at “a time when thousands of Americans were still dying every week.” The platforms, he added, acknowledged “a responsibility to give people accurate information.”

Mr. Aguiñaga presented a different picture of the relationship between the government and the platforms.

“Behind closed doors, the government badgers the platforms 24/7,” he said. “It abuses them with profanity. It warns that the highest levels of the White House are concerned. It ominously says that the White House is considering its options.”

“Under this onslaught,” he added, “the platforms routinely cave.”

The court this term has repeatedly grappled with fundamental questions about the scope of the government’s authority over major technology platforms. On Friday, the court set rules for when government officials can block users from their private social media accounts. Last month, the court considered the constitutionality of laws in Florida and Texas that limit large social media companies from making editorial judgments about which messages to allow.

Those four cases, along with the one on Monday, will collectively rebalance the power of the government and powerful technology platforms in the realm of free speech.

A second argument on Monday posed a related constitutional question about government power and free speech, though not in the context of social media sites. It concerns whether a state official in New York violated the First Amendment by encouraging companies to stop doing business with the National Rifle Association. The justices appeared to be favoring the gun rights group.

The states in Monday’s first case, Murthy v. Missouri, No. 23-411, did not dispute that the platforms were entitled to make independent decisions about what to feature on their sites. But they said the conduct of government officials in urging them to take down what they say is misinformation amounted to censorship that violated the First Amendment.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit agreed, saying that officials from the White House, the surgeon general’s office, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the F.B.I. had most likely crossed constitutional lines in their bid to persuade platforms to take down posts about what they had flagged as misinformation.

The panel, in an unsigned opinion , said the officials had become excessively entangled with the platforms or used threats to spur them to act. The panel entered an injunction forbidding many officials to coerce or significantly encourage social media companies to remove content protected by the First Amendment.

The Biden administration filed an emergency application in September asking the Supreme Court to pause the injunction, saying that the government was entitled to express its views and to try to persuade others to take action.

The court granted the administration’s application , put the Fifth Circuit’s ruling on hold and agreed to hear the case.

Three justices dissented. “Government censorship of private speech is antithetical to our democratic form of government, and therefore today’s decision is highly disturbing,” Justice Alito wrote, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil M. Gorsuch.

Those same three justices voiced the most skepticism of the Biden administration’s position at Monday’s argument.

Other justices asked about government interactions with the press. Justice Kavanaugh, who served in the White House in the administration of President George W. Bush, said that it was “probably not uncommon for government officials to protest an upcoming story on surveillance or detention policy and say, you know, if you run that it’s going to harm the war effort and put Americans at risk.”

That was perfectly proper, he suggested, adding that it would be a different matter if the request were backed by a threat of an antitrust action.

Justice Kavanaugh said he understood, based on his earlier government service, that there are “experienced government press people throughout the federal government who regularly call up the media and berate them.”

Justice Kagan echoed the point.

“Like Justice Kavanaugh,” she said, “I’ve had some experience encouraging the press to suppress their own speech.”

She sketched out some of those conversations: “You just wrote a bad editorial. Here are the five reasons you shouldn’t write another one. You just wrote a story that’s filled with factual errors. Here are the 10 reasons why you shouldn’t do that again.”

“I mean,” she said, “this happens literally thousands of times a day in the federal government.”

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., another former White House lawyer, registered a lighthearted dissent, to laughter. “I have no experience coercing anybody,” he said.

But he added that the government is not monolithic and that different parts of it may hold and press competing views.

Justice Alito, who has been the subject of critical news coverage, seemed taken by the idea of pushing back against it, wondering aloud whether the court’s public information officer was in the courtroom.

“Maybe she should take a note about this,” he said. “So whenever they write something that we don’t like, she can call them up and curse them out and say ‘Why don’t we be partners? We’re on the same team.’”

What happens next? The court will probably not issue a decision until June.

Now that the arguments in the case are complete, the justices will cast tentative votes at a private conference in the coming days. The senior justice in the majority will then assign the majority opinion to a colleague — or keep it. Draft opinions, most likely including concurrences and dissents, will be prepared and exchanged.

On average, it takes the Supreme Court about three months after an argument to issue a decision. But rulings in a term’s more important cases — and this one qualifies — tend not to arrive until near the end of the term in June, no matter how early they were argued.

There are other reasons to think the decision will not arrive until late June. The case was argued in the court’s next-to-last two-week sitting, and the court will be busy this month and next with arguments on abortion and former President Donald J. Trump’s claim that he is immune from prosecution on charges that he plotted to overturn the 2020 election.

The decision must also be harmonized with rulings in related cases, including ones on whether states may prohibit technology platforms from deleting posts based on the viewpoints they express and whether a state official in New York violated the First Amendment by encouraging companies to stop doing business with the National Rifle Association.

Scholars have given varied explanations for why the biggest cases tend to land in June, no matter when they were argued. One is that justices keep polishing the opinions that will define their legacies until the last possible moment.

A 2015 study in The Duke Law Journal suggested a more personal reason: “The justices, most of whom have busy social schedules in Washington, may want to avoid tensions at their social functions by clustering the most controversial cases in the last week or two of the term — that is, just before they leave Washington for their summer recess.”

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The court is hearing a related case on the N.R.A.

The question in the social media case is in one sense about government power over the internet. But at bottom it is about something more fundamental: striking the right balance between government advocacy for its policies, which is permissible, and coercion backed by threats of punishment, which is not.

The justices will return to that tension in Monday’s second argument, over whether a state official in New York violated the First Amendment by encouraging companies to stop doing business with the National Rifle Association after the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Fla.

That question is at a general level the same as the one in the social media case, and its answer will also involve finding the constitutional line between persuasion and coercion.

The second case, National Rifle Association v. Vullo, No. 22-842, concerns the activities of Maria Vullo, a former superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services. In the aftermath of the school shooting in Parkland, Ms. Vullo said banks and insurance companies should consider whether they wanted to provide services to the group.

The N.R.A. sued, saying Ms. Vullo’s efforts leveraged government power in a way that violated the First Amendment.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York, ruled against the N.R.A. Judge Denny Chin , writing for the panel, acknowledged that government officials may not “use their regulatory powers to coerce individuals or entities into refraining from protected speech.

“At the same time, however,” he wrote, “government officials have a right — indeed, a duty — to address issues of public concern.”

Ms. Vullo’s actions were on the right side of the constitutional line, Judge Chin wrote. Key documents, he said, “were written in an evenhanded, nonthreatening tone and employed words intended to persuade rather than intimidate.”

In its petition seeking Supreme Court review , the N.R.A. said the appeals court’s ruling could have sweeping consequences.

“The Second Circuit’s opinion below gives state officials free rein to financially blacklist their political opponents — from gun-rights groups to abortion-rights groups to environmentalist groups and beyond,” the petition said.

One sign that the N.R.A. has a plausible First Amendment argument: It is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union . David Cole, the A.C.L.U.’s national legal director, will argue the case on behalf of the gun rights group.

“In this hyper-polarized environment, where few are willing to cross the aisle on anything,” Mr. Cole said, “the fact that the A.C.L.U. is defending the N.R.A. here only underscores the importance of the free-speech principle at stake.”

Charlie Savage

Charlie Savage

Oral arguments in the case are over.

Fletcher, the Justice Department lawyer, is now back for rebuttal.

Jim Rutenberg

Jim Rutenberg

Justice Jackson asks Aguiñaga whether government can’t move against harm, like posts that might lead teens to commit suicide, and can’t tell the platforms to move to reduce the posts. Aguiñaga says the government can call platforms to say there’s a problem, but can’t apply pressure to remove that content.

“Is it your view that the government authorities could not declare those circumstances a public emergency and encourage social media platforms to take down the information that is instigating this problem?” “Your honor, the government absolutely can use the pulpit to say publicly, here’s what we recognize to be a public health issue, emergency. We this is obviously extremely terrible and the public shouldn’t tolerate this. Platforms — we see it’s going on on the platforms — but they can’t call the platforms and say, listen, we really think you should be taking this down because look at the problems that it’s causing.” “If it’s protected speech, your honor, then I think we get closer. But like, look, if you think that that’s if that’s clearly the way you’re asking the question, I understand that the instinct that that may, you know, may not be a First Amendment issue. I guess what I fall back on, your honor, is that at least where the government itself — there is no emergency like this. There’s nothing —” “No, my hypothetical is there is an emergency. My hypothetical is that there is an emergency, and I guess I’m asking you in that circumstance, can the government call the platforms and say this information that you are putting up on your platform is creating a serious public health emergency? We are encouraging you to take it down.” “I was with you right until that last comment, your honor. I think they absolutely can call and say this is a problem. It’s going rampant on your platforms. But the moment that the government tries to use its ability as the government and its stature as the government to pressure them to take it down, that is when you’re interfering with the third-party speech rights.”

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Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson asks if the government could actually tell platforms they needed to take down leaked classified information. Aguiñaga, the Louisiana lawyer, says the government could do that. “I think that would be a great example where strict scrutiny would be in the government’s favor.”

“Part of the reason why you might be running into all of these difficulties with respect to the different factual circumstances is because you’re not focusing on the fact that there are times in which the government can, depending on the circumstances, encourage, perhaps even coerce, because they have a compelling interest in doing so. And so that’s why I keep coming back to the actual underlying First Amendment issue, which we can isolate in this case and just talk about about coercion. But I think that you have to admit that there are certain circumstances in which the government can provide information, encourage the platforms to take it down, tell them to take it down. I mean, what about what about the hypo of someone posting classified information? They say it’s my free speech right. I believe that, you know, I got access to this information and I want to post it. Are you suggesting that the government couldn’t say to the platforms, we need to take that down?” “No, your honor, because I think that would be a great example where strict scrutiny would cut in the government’s favor.”

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Heightening the problem of the flawed factual record undergirding the litigation, Justice Sotomayor starkly accuses Aguiñaga himself of distorting facts of what happened: “I have such a problem with your brief, counselor. You omit information that changes the context of some of your claims. You attribute things to people who it didn’t happen to — at least in one of the defendants, it was her brother that something happened to, not her. I don’t know what to make of all this because I am not sure how we get to prove direct injury in any way.”

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Aguiñaga apologizes if any of the brief is not “as forthcoming” as it should have been.

This exchange between Justice Kagan and Aguiñaga, in which the Louisiana lawyer concedes that it can be OK for the government to provide information to the platforms under some circumstances, shows the problem with having an unreliable factual record compiled by Judge Doughty about what actually happened. Fletcher is citing the district court’s findings to say the government crossed the line into official censorship, but are the specifics accurate?

Aguiñaga goes at a key issue in the government content moderation efforts of the past few years — what began as attempts to address foreign meddling and disinformation moved to cover speech from Americans in 2020, over an election and a pandemic.

In an exchange with Justice Kagan, Aguiñaga, the Louisiana lawyer, identifies a difference from the hypothetical Justice Kavanaugh brought up about government officials raising concerns with a newspaper about publishing an article: That is the government going directly to the speaker. What is “so pernicious” here is that the government is going to a third party — the platforms — and people may never learn about it.

Steven Lee Myers

Steven Lee Myers

Aguiñaga describes the communications between officials and the platforms as “unrelenting government pressure” going on outside of the public eye. “Pressuring platforms in back rooms, shielded from public view, is not using a bully pulpit. That’s just being a bully.”

The justices and Fletcher keep referencing a 1963 precedent, Bantam Books, Inc. v. Sullivan . It centered on a state commission in Rhode Island that was empowered to notify distributors of certain books and magazines it considered to be obscene that it had decided the materials were objectionable, request its “cooperation,” and to advise them that the commission had a duty to recommend prosecution of purveyors of obscenity. The Supreme Court ruled that these notices intimidated businesses and resulted in the suppression of the sale of the books and magazines --- an unconstitutional system of informal censorship.

Aguiñaga disputes the Biden administration’s standard for the case: “We don’t need coercion as a theory,” he said. He said the government “cannot induce, encourage or promote” to get private actors to do what government cannot: censor Americans’ speech.

Benjamin Aguiñaga, the solicitor general of Louisiana, is now arguing. Louisiana is one of the Republican-controlled states that brought the lawsuit arguing that the government was coercing social media platforms into taking down posts, amounting to government censorship.

Justice Kavanaugh, a former lawyer in George W. Bush's White House, raises a national-security analogy. He notes that it’s “not uncommon” for government officials to protest to a newspaper an upcoming story on surveillance or detention policy and say, “If you run that, it is going to harm the war effort and put Americans at risk.” The implication is under the lower-court rulings, the government would not be allowed to express such concerns.

Fletcher, the government lawyer, agrees with Justice Kavanaugh that that is an example of a valuable interchange as long as it stays on the persuasion side of the line. “Platforms — newspapers — want to know if their publishing a story might put lives at risk. And they don’t have to listen to the government, but that’s information that they can consider when exercising their editorial judgment.”

Justice Kavanaugh adds that it would become problematic coercion if the government tacked on that “And if you publish the story we’re going to pursue antitrust action against you.” Fletcher agrees again with him: “Huge problem, yeah.”

Fletcher argues that the social media platforms are large companies with sufficient clout to rebuff government efforts to influence them. In fact, when university researchers working with the government flagged misinformation about the 2020 election, the platforms refused to do anything two-thirds of the time .

Justice Kavanaugh pivots back to the Biden “killing people” line and notes that in a national security context there is some history of the government warning media outlets that their stories threaten to endanger Americans’ lives.

Justice Kagan floated the idea of resolving the case by saying the plaintiffs were not entitled to an injunction because they could not show they faced an imminent threat of future harm at the time of litigation, without getting into past content moderation disputes. Fletcher, the government lawyer, agrees that would be the narrowest and easiest way to resolve the matter.

Fletcher, the government lawyer, argues that government officials can persuade a private party to do something the private party is lawfully allowed to do, even when the government could not do that thing itself. He gives various examples: when government officials called on colleges to do more about antisemitic speech on campuses after the Oct. 7 attacks in Israel, encouraging parents to monitor their children’s cell phone usages, or internet companies to watch out for child sexual abuse on their platforms, even if the Fourth Amendment would prevent the government from doing that directly. Telling social media companies that the government thinks their algorithms or posting of certain things are causing harm is the same, he said.

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Here’s the moment Justice Gorsuch was referring to regarding the president’s “killing people” line.

Justice Gorsuch asks if President Biden’s statement that the platforms were “killing people” by allowing misinformation to flow in the middle of the pandemic would amount to coercion. Fletcher says the president made clear afterward it was “exhortation, not threat.”

Alito is saying he can’t imagine the federal government cajoling and threatening print media. Fletcher notes that there is that sort of back and forth with the press, but Alito is getting at the central unsettled element in all of these cases. The platforms are something different, they provide pipelines, but through their algorithms and rules they are also applying their own version of editorial standards.

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Justice Alito just demonstrated that he has bought into the misinformation in the lower court’s work, citing an example where a White House official said in an email to Facebook. “I want an answer on what happened here and I want it today.” In reality that (inappropriate) language was about getting a technical problem fixed with the presidential Instagram account, not about content moderation.

When Fletcher, the government lawyer, points out that the example Alito cited as happening repeatedly actually only happened once and had nothing to do with content moderation, Alito blows past the demonstration of his misunderstanding. “OK, well, put that aside. There’s all the rest.”

Fletcher raised an issue that some experts and research organizations involved in the case have: that many of communications cited in the lower courts included disputed facts, including quotations taken out of context.

Terry A. Doughty, the Trump-appointed district court judge who set the case off (after the Republican plaintiffs filed it in a place that would ensure he got the case) issued a ruling that has itself been criticized as being riddled with misinformation and conspiracy theories about what happened, setting up an unreliable factual record for the constitutional issues at play.

Here’s a recent item on the Just Security website that catalogs many ways Doughty torqued the facts to play into right-wing culture war notions — for example, falsely editing a quote in an email to Dr. Anthony Fauci to remove the word “published” before the words “take down” in a way that made it look like a scientist was urging steps to remove misinformation about vaccines, as opposed to publishing a rebuttal to it.

That goes to another major question in the case — did government action directly cause platforms to remove speech? The government has argued that it left it to platforms to make their own decisions as it flagged and even cajoled the companies about content.

Justice Samuel Alito and Fletcher, the government lawyer, are sparring over whether there are sufficient facts to show that the plaintiffs’ injuries — having their posts taken down to having accounts suspended by social media companies — were caused by government actions, giving them standing to seek an injunction. This is a major problem with this case, according to many legal observers.

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The question, as the rhetoric in the case has gone so far, is whether the White House used its classic “bully pulpit” or used its “pulpit to bully.”

Brian Fletcher, the principal deputy solicitor general for the Biden administration, argues that the government has a right to speak to social media companies in an attempt to persuade them to choose to remove or reduce certain matters, so long as it does not coerce them. He said the test should be whether the government makes threats; bully-pulpit exhortations are protected by the First Amendment, he argued.

Michael D. Shear

Michael D. Shear and David McCabe

Here’s how a Trump-appointed judge saw the Biden administration pressuring companies to censor speech.

This First Amendment case is a flashpoint in a broader effort by conservatives to document what they contend is a liberal conspiracy by Democrats and tech company executives to silence their views, and it taps into fury on the right about how social media companies have treated stories about the origins of Covid, the 2020 election and Hunter Biden, the president’s son.

The final outcome could shape the future of First Amendment law in a rapidly changing media environment and alter how far the government can go in trying to prevent the spread of potentially dangerous claims, particularly in an election or during emergencies like a pandemic.

The government’s actions at the heart of the case were intended largely as public health measures during the coronavirus pandemic. But a federal judge in Louisiana framed his ruling back in July through the filter of partisan culture wars — asking whether the government violated the First Amendment by unlawfully threatening the social media companies to censor speech that the Biden administration found distasteful and potentially harmful to the public.

In his ruling, Judge Terry A. Doughty described dozens of interactions between the administration and social media companies, including how two months after President Biden took office, his top digital adviser had emailed officials at Facebook urging them to do more to limit the spread of “vaccine hesitancy” on the social media platform.

Judge Doughty also outlined how officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had held “weekly sync” meetings with Facebook, once emailing the company 16 “misinformation” posts. And in the summer of 2021, he wrote, the surgeon general’s top aide had repeatedly urged Google, Facebook and Twitter to do more to combat disinformation.

The case sets up a showdown between the justices and a conservative appeals court.

The appeals court that partly upheld limits on the Biden administration’s communications with social media companies has a reputation for issuing decisions too conservative for the Supreme Court, which is itself tilted to the right by a six-justice supermajority of Republican appointees.

Of the appeals court’s 17 active judges, only five were appointed by Democratic presidents. Six members of the court were appointed by President Donald J. Trump.

The court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, hears appeals from federal trial courts in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Those forums often attract ambitious lawsuits from conservative litigants correctly anticipating a favorable reception, and rulings from trial judges in those states are often affirmed by the Fifth Circuit.

But when those cases reach the Supreme Court, they sometimes fizzle out. An attack on the constitutionality of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, endorsed by three Trump appointees on the Fifth Circuit, did not seem to fare well before the justices when it was argued in October. Another, in which the Fifth Circuit struck down a federal law barring domestic abusers from carrying guns, was also met with skepticism .

Other rulings from the Fifth Circuit, on issues like immigration , abortion pills and so-called ghost guns , have also met with at least tentative disapproval from the Supreme Court, suggesting that the appeals court is out of step with the justices.

At a news briefing in September, Irv Gornstein, the executive director of Georgetown’s Supreme Court Institute, said the Fifth Circuit had staked out positions that “at least some of the center bloc of conservatives aren’t going to be able to stomach.”

He added that some of the rulings by the Fifth Circuit were “delivered from Crazy Town” and that “it would be shocking if at least some of those decisions are not reversed.”

The case is one of several about the intersection of free speech and technology on the court’s docket.

The Supreme Court hears First Amendment cases fairly often. But it has never before considered as many cases on what the Constitution has to say about free speech in the internet era as it will in its current term, set to end in June.

Monday’s argument will be the fifth one since October considering the fundamental question of the scope of government power over social media platforms. The decision in that case and the four others will collectively mark the boundaries of free expression in the digital age.

Last month, the Supreme Court considered two cases on whether Florida and Texas could limit prominent social media companies from moderating content on their platforms, appearing skeptical of the breadth of laws that had been enacted in an effort to shield conservative voices on technology sites.

On Friday, the court, in two unanimous rulings, set requirements for when elected officials could block people from their social media accounts.

The court’s decisions in the five cases will have broad political and economic implications. A ruling that tech platforms have no editorial discretion to decide which posts to allow, for instance, would expose users to a greater variety of viewpoints, but it would almost certainly amplify the ugliest aspects of the digital age, including hate speech and disinformation.

In shadow of Trump tweets, Supreme Court outlines when officials can be sued for social media use

Photo illustration of Supreme Court Justices with a text box that reads "Block"

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled Friday that members of the public in some circumstances can sue public officials for blocking them on social media platforms, deciding a pair of cases against the backdrop of former President Donald Trump’s contentious and colorful use of Twitter.

The court ruled unanimously that officials can be deemed "state actors" when making use of social media and can therefore face litigation if they block or mute a member of the public.

In the two cases before the justices, they ruled that disputes involving a school board member in Southern California and a city manager in Michigan should be sent back to lower courts for the new legal test to be applied.

In a ruling written by Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the court acknowledged that it "can be difficult to tell whether the speech is official or private" because of how social media accounts are used.

The court held that conduct on social media can be viewed as a state action when the official in question "possessed actual authority to speak on the state's behalf" and "purported to exercise that authority."

While the officials in both cases have low profiles, the ruling will apply to all public officials who use social media to engage with the public.

During October's oral argument , Trump's use of Twitter — before it was renamed X — was frequently mentioned as the justices considered the practical implications.

The cases raised the question of whether public officials’ posts and other social media activity constitute part of their governmental functions.

In ruling that it can, the court found that blocking someone from following an official constitutes a government action that could give rise to a constitutional claim under the Constitution's First Amendment, which protects free speech.

But the court made it clear that conditions have to be met for a claim to move forward, with Barrett noting that government officials are also "private citizens with their own constitutional rights."

Determining whether a claim can move forward is not based simply on whether the person is a government official, but on the substance of the conduct in question, she added.

Factors such as whether the account is marked as official and the official is invoking his or her legal authority in making a formal announcement can be taken into account, Barrett said.

"In some circumstances, the post's content and function might make the plaintiff's argument a slam dunk," she added

Trump himself was sued when he was president, with the courts ruling against him, noting that he often used his Twitter account to make official announcements. But that lawsuit was tossed out as moot once he left office in January 2021.

At that point, Twitter had disabled Trump’s account, although the company’s new owner, Elon Musk, has  reversed course  as part of a major overhaul that has included changing the site’s name. In other disputes, however, courts have reached other conclusions.

It appears likely that Trump would have lost the earlier lawsuit based on the new legal test.

Barrett briefly referred to Trump's case in a footnote, pointing out that when an X user blocks someone, the blocked person cannot see any of the user's posts, including those that feature official announcements.

"Even under the court’s new test, we would have won our case against Trump, who regularly used his Twitter account to announce official policy and whose White House staff helped him run the account," said Katie Fallow, a lawyer at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, which had sued Trump.

The ruling was largely welcomed by legal experts across the ideological spectrum.

Evelyn Danforth-Scott, a lawyer with the liberal American Civil Liberties Union, said the ruling "underscores that the First Amendment restricts how the government can shape speech that takes place on social media."

In a similar vein, Thomas Berry, a research fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute, said the decision "strikes a reasonable balance between the general public’s right to access official state communications and the rights of government officials to exercise their own private speech."

The California case arose after two members of the Poway Unified School District Board of Trustees, Michelle O’Connor-Ratcliff and T.J. Zane, blocked parents Christopher and Kimberly Garnier from commenting on their Facebook page in 2017. O’Connor-Ratcliff also prevented Christopher Garnier from responding to her Twitter posts. Zane has since left office.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2022 ruled for the couple, upholding a similar decision by a federal judge in the Southern District of California. The appeals court concluded that the elected officials were acting in their official capacities.

The dispute in Michigan began in March 2020, when Port Huron City Manager James Freed, an appointed official who described himself on his Facebook page as a “public figure,” posted information there about the city’s efforts to deal with the Covid pandemic. After resident Kevin Lindke posted comments criticizing the city’s response, Freed blocked him.

Freed argued that the no-longer-active Facebook page was a personal page that he used to share pictures of his family and comment on his daily activities. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, upholding a lower court decision, agreed in June 2022 that Freed was not acting in his official capacity and that therefore his Facebook activity did not constitute state action.

Freed’s page was somewhat different from the ones at issue in the school board case because it included a lot more personal content, making it much less clear whether it was an official page.

The court is wrestling with a whole series of  social media-related free speech issues in its current term, which runs until June.

reported speech using whether

Lawrence Hurley covers the Supreme Court for NBC News.

COMMENTS

  1. How to use "whether" and "if"

    Whether vs. if: We can use if or whether before reported speech.Their meaning is the same: "Do you have enough time?" [direct speech] I asked her if / whether she had enough time. [reported speech] "I don't know." [direct speech] She doesn't know if / whether she has enough time. [reported speech] However, if the reported clause comes first in the sentence, we use whether, not if ...

  2. If or whether ?

    If or whether ? - English Grammar Today - a reference to written and spoken English grammar and usage - Cambridge Dictionary

  3. Reported speech: indirect speech

    Reported speech: indirect speech - English Grammar Today - a reference to written and spoken English grammar and usage - Cambridge Dictionary

  4. Reported Speech

    To change an imperative sentence into a reported indirect sentence, use to for imperative and not to for negative sentences. Never use the word that in your indirect speech. Another rule is to remove the word please. Instead, say request or say. For example: "Please don't interrupt the event," said the host.

  5. Reported speech

    2. She told me she loves me. In sentence 1 we know she loved me when she told me but we don't know whether or not she loves me now. In sentence 2, we know she loved me when she told me and we know that she loves me now. In your example, if the supermarket is still in the same place then we can use either form.

  6. Reporting verbs with 'that', 'wh-' and 'if' clauses

    Level: intermediate. Reporting verbs with that clauses. When we want to report what people say or think, we can use a reporting verb and a clause with that:. He said that I had to see a doctor. I thought that he was being silly.. We can leave out the word that:. He said I had to see a doctor. I thought he was being silly.. These verbs have the pattern:

  7. What is Reported Speech and How to Use It? with Examples

    Reported speech: He said he would meet me at the park the next day. In this example, the present tense "will" is changed to the past tense "would." 3. Change reporting verbs: In reported speech, you can use different reporting verbs such as "say," "tell," "ask," or "inquire" depending on the context of the speech.

  8. Reported Questions

    Note that we sometimes use "whether" instead of "if". The meaning is the same. "Whether" is a little more formal and more usual in writing: They asked us if we wanted lunch. They asked us whether we wanted lunch. Reported question-word questions. We introduce reported question-word questions with ask + question word:

  9. If/Whether

    If or whether? Whether and if both indicate uncertainty. We use both words in reported speech and indirect questions.Sometimes these words are interchangeable: Example: Henry asked Isabella if they should save some cake. ↔ Henry asked Isabella whether they should save some cake.. However, sometimes if and whether have different meanings:. Compare: Isabella asked their friends whether they ...

  10. Reported speech

    Yes, and you report it with a reporting verb. He said he wanted to know about reported speech. I said, I want and you changed it to he wanted. Exactly. Verbs in the present simple change to the past simple; the present continuous changes to the past continuous; the present perfect changes to the past perfect; can changes to could; will changes ...

  11. Reported speech

    Improve your English with exercises and materials about reported speech. Exercise 1. Listen and answer the questions. Practice now. Exercise 2. Read the text and fill in the blanks. Practice now. Exercise 3. Complete the text using the correct word order.

  12. Reported Questions: Direct and Indirect Questions • 7ESL

    Reported Speech Questions: Yes/No Questions. - We use "if" or "whether" to introduce a "yes‑no question". Example: Direct speech: "Did you receive my e-mail?". Reported speech: The teacher asked me if I had received his e-mail. OR The teacher asked me whether I had received his e-mail.

  13. Reported Speech

    We can call this an 'order' in English, when someone tells you very directly to do something. For example: Direct speech: Sit down! In fact, we make this into reported speech in the same way as a request. We just use 'tell' instead of 'ask': Reported speech: She told me to sit down. Direct Order.

  14. If and Whether Use in Indirect Reported Speech

    Check When To Use If & Whether. You might have observed that in an informal or Indirect speech the words 'If' and 'whether' can be used interchangeably but while in the case of formal writing such as technical writing, or documentation at work you need to be very careful as to when to use 'if' and 'whether'. It is always a good ...

  15. Reported Speech in English Grammar

    Introduction. In English grammar, we use reported speech to say what another person has said. We can use their exact words with quotation marks, this is known as direct speech, or we can use indirect speech.In indirect speech, we change the tense and pronouns to show that some time has passed.Indirect speech is often introduced by a reporting verb or phrase such as ones below.

  16. How to use Reported Speech

    Direct Tomie said = ' I am tired.'. Reported Speech = 'Tomie said (that) she was tired.'. In reported speech we need to use the past tense form of the verb. In direct speech the present tense is used. As you can see, in the above sentence 'am' changes to 'was' when we use reported speech.

  17. He Said, She Said: Mastering Reported Speech in English (Both ...

    Indirect speech: She was wondering if that was a new restaurant. Indirect speech: She wanted to know whether that was a new restaurant. Verb Tenses in Indirect Reported Speech. It can be tricky to know how to use tenses when reporting indirect speech. Let's break it down, tense by tense.

  18. Reported speech: questions

    A reported question is when we tell someone what another person asked. To do this, we can use direct speech or indirect speech. direct speech: 'Do you like working in sales?' he asked. indirect speech: He asked me if I liked working in sales. In indirect speech, we change the question structure (e.g. Do you like) to a statement structure (e.g.

  19. The Difference between 'If' and 'Whether'

    Whether is the one that precedes an infinitive, which is the verb form in the collocation "to + simple verb," as in "I am wondering whether to change our reservations." Whether, in this case, refers to the making of a choice, whereas if states a condition, as in "If the contestant spells the word wrong, he or she will be eliminated."

  20. Reported Speech using Asked, If, and Whether

    Language forms Past forms. These handouts are the same level as "Reported Speech using Asked, If, and Whether". Help your students report questions that have been asked by using reported speech and if or whether. Students practice rewriting quoted (direct) speech into reported (indirect) speech. Open and closed questions are also reviewed.

  21. Should we use "whether" or "if" in indirect speech?

    Your second sentence using of whether is correct. - Peter. Jan 7, 2016 at 17:11 | Show 2 more comments. 1 Answer Sorted by: Reset to ... Indirect speech of Imperative and Interrogative sentence. 0. whether or not I need to change words used only in question such as ''any'' for embeded question. 0.

  22. Conditionals and Reported Speech

    Second conditional in reported speech. The above tense and modal shifting rules apply to the second conditional too. If the condition is still relevant, no changes occur. However, if it's outdated, the past simple becomes the past perfect, and would becomes would + have + past participle. Sofia: If I had more money, I would buy a new car.

  23. Supreme Court examines whether government can combat disinformation

    Supreme Court examines whether ... "A central dimension of presidential power is the use of the office's bully pulpit to seek to persuade Americans—and American companies—to act in ways that ...

  24. Supreme Court leans against limiting Biden administration contacts with

    In a "jawboning" case, the justices considered whether officials crossed the line when the Biden administration pressured social media platforms to remove content. IE 11 is not supported.

  25. Fed meeting today: Interest rates hold steady with 3 cuts seen in '24

    The Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged and held to forecast of 3 rate cuts in 2024 despite an inflation uptick. ... consider using your refund check to pay off credit card debt, he said ...

  26. Trump says there will be a 'bloodbath' if he loses the election

    Trump made the comments at a rally in Ohio, where he spoke about auto manufacturing. The Biden campaign responded by criticizing the former president's "threats of political violence."

  27. Dateline Philippines

    Stay up to date with the biggest stories of the day with ANC's 'Dateline Philippines' (18 March 2024)

  28. Reported speech: reporting verbs

    indirect speech: He denied finishing the coffee. Try this exercise to test your grammar. Grammar test 1. Reported speech 3 - reporting verbs: 1. Grammar explanation. When we tell someone what another person said, we often use the verbs say, tell or ask. These are called 'reporting verbs'. However, we can also use other reporting verbs.

  29. Highlights From the Supreme Court Arguments on Free Speech and Social

    A majority of the Supreme Court seemed wary on Monday of a bid by two Republican-led states to limit the Biden administration's interactions with social media companies, with several justices ...

  30. In shadow of Trump tweets, Supreme Court outlines when officials can be

    In a ruling written by Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the court acknowledged that it "can be difficult to tell whether the speech is official or private" because of how social media accounts are used.