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When you end a sentence with a quotation that is itself a full sentence, do you use the quotation's punctuation? The containing sentence's? Both? Something else?

I think this might be best illustrated with an example. Which of the following is correct?

John asked her "Do you have the time?" She said yes.

or

John asked her "Do you have the time." She said yes.

or

John asked her "Do you have the time?." She said yes.

Related, but not a dupe: Is it ever acceptable for a period to come after a quote at the end of a sentence?

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3 Answers 3

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I consider the first to be the most correct, although I would precede the quote with a comma and capitalise the beginning of John's sentence.

John asked her, "Do you have the time?"

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  • Is it correct to separate verb and object with comma?
    – b.roth
    Aug 23, 2010 at 11:47
  • 5
    It is unimpeachably correct to separate a quotation from its introduction using a comma.
    – nohat
    Aug 23, 2010 at 15:52
  • Your answer is also in conformance with the current Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed. (2010) (and the previous edition as well).
    – Old Pro
    Apr 28, 2012 at 17:59
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John asked her "do you have the time?" She said yes.

This is a very awkward sentence, so maybe not a good example. I would write

John asked her "Do you have the time?" She said "Yes."

I believe this is the standard way to do this.

I have never seen punctuation doubled, as in ?., in printed English.

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  • 1
    I would suggest, even beyond the added quotation marks around her speech, that for clarity that sentence should be a new paragraph because it's a different speaker.
    – Isaac
    Aug 6, 2010 at 6:57
  • @Isaac: In which case the question is moot, but you are right. The problem with this question is that the example sentence is rather confusing.
    – delete
    Aug 6, 2010 at 7:44
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The example given is confusing, because it uses a question mark. Let's switch to an example of "I have no homework today."

John told me, "I have no homework today." I smiled.

This seems most natural to me.

John told me, "I have no homework today". I smiled.

This looks wrong, but may be acceptable in certain circumstances.

John told me, "I have no homework today.". I smiled.

This is very wrong.

On the other hand, suppose the outer sentence is a question. Then a question mark is required, and so to avoid double-punctuating, you need to leave out the full stop from the quoted sentence:

Did I mention that John told me, "I have no homework today"?

This is correct.

Did I mention that John told me, "I have no homework today."?

This is wrong.

Your question is specific to when the outer sentence ends at the same place as the quoted sentence. The answer would be different if the outer sentence continues after the quoted sentence; in that case I believe it's correct to omit the terminal punctuation of the quoted sentence.

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  • 2
    Just to be clear, it was very much intentional that "[my] question is specific to when the outer sentence ends at the same place as the quoted sentence."
    – Pops
    Aug 24, 2010 at 1:44
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    I'm confused... Aren't all my examples also cases where the outer sentence ends at the same place as the quoted sentence? "I smiled" is intended as a separate sentence in the first three cases.
    – AlexC
    Oct 6, 2010 at 10:06

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