I took a English test in a non-English speaking country.

There was a problem with a picture. In the picture, a girl whose name is Ann says,

My knife doesn't cut well.

The question asked: "What did Ann say?"

I had to make this direct speech into indirect one.
My answer was:

Ann said that her knife didn't cut well.

I thought that I had perfectly answered the question, but my teacher said that I should replace 'Ann' with 'She'

  • So, do I always replace a noun with a pronoun?
  • Is there a rule?

  • Isn't it optional to use pronouns?

  • That's the whole purpose for which a pronoun exists. Strictly speaking, your teacher is right. Colloquially speaking, both of you are right. – user140086 Oct 15 '15 at 14:01
  • I lose some points because of this.............. Is there any chance to prove my answer is also right? – Kim Oct 15 '15 at 14:09
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    Strictly speaking, your teacher is wrong. The sentence is perfectly grammatical and there is no necessity to use pronouns; it's a speaker's choice situation. – John Lawler Oct 15 '15 at 14:14
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    Your answer was good and would be perfectly acceptable in speech. However, it would be more naturally conversational to use the pronoun here. In my opinion, it not only avoids a jarring repetition of "Ann" but connects the answer to the question, Your answer could stand alone as a statement. Using 'she' confirms that you're speaking in response to the question, and therefore helps the conversation "flow". – JHCL Oct 15 '15 at 14:15
  • @JohnLawler Repetition of proper nouns is one of the most improtant things you have to avoid in writing. This is not about grammar. I disagree with you. – user140086 Oct 15 '15 at 14:21

Generally, two occurrences of the same name aren't used this close to one another. Consider the following two sentences:

  • John went home. John turned on the TV.

This sounds marked to most speakers. (NOTE: markedness is not the same as ungrammaticality). The reason it sounds marked is because there are collocation restrictions on names.

These restrictions occur because of a general rule, as Kent Bach notes:

"We generally choose the least informative sort of expression whose use will enable the hearer to identify the individual we wish to refer to" (see p. 9 of this)

Pronouns are less informative than names. So if a name has just been used, we usually use the pronoun, since the fact that the name has just been used gives us enough information to figure out the referent of the pronoun.

Your teacher seems to be confusing the markedness of your response with its ungrammaticality. If it's a class which is trying to teach you how to be conversationally fluent, she might be justified in giving you partial credit, but I'm not sure.

| improve this answer | |

Nine times out of ten, in a conversation between native speakers, a question that uses a personal name, such as

What did Ann say?

will receive a reply that begins like this:

She said ...

or begins simply like this, as a fragment:

that ...

However, it is perfectly grammatical (as John Lawler remarks) for the reply to begin with the proper noun, and for the reply to be a complete sentence, replete with tense-shifting to mark indirect speech, though I'd guess such tense shifting is used about half the time.

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  • At what level do you think the OP is in terms of learning English? The OP just wants to find if it is the right way to repeat the proper noun and see if he can recover a few points he might lose for repeating it. . I would say, "No, it is wrong. You have to use the pronoun." (I flagged this question off-topic) – user140086 Oct 15 '15 at 14:55
  • @Rathony - why did you repeat 'the OP' in this comment? – JHCL Oct 15 '15 at 15:00
  • @JHCL Because I don't know whether the OP is he or she. Is it wrong? – user140086 Oct 15 '15 at 15:02
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    Err, you used 'he' later on. No I don't think it's wrong, but it seems to contradict your argument. – JHCL Oct 15 '15 at 15:06
  • @JHCL Exactly. I used he in order not to repeat the pronoun. That's the good writing, I guess. – user140086 Oct 15 '15 at 15:08

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