Quick context, work as a translator.

I had a short blurb I had to translate where I basically rendered it as:

"Bob spoke about how Countryland was one of the countries that suffered greatly from the Big Bad Thing, and that he wanted to hold a photograph exhibition in Hereland."

(Names and places changed for privacy/company policy reasons)

Is there anything wrong with making it "said that Countryland..." Is it ungrammatical? If so, what would be the correct word(s) to use?

My proofreader initially changed "spoke about how" to "told that" which was ungrammatical, so I told her that, to which she responded "change it to 'said or said that' then", which I felt was wrong but could not explain why.

All the stuff I came across online explained that:

  • "Say" is when you pronounce words, express a thought/opinion, for stating a fact, affirming something, declaring something, etc. and is also a one-way sort of action, i.e. doesn't necessarily imply there's more than one person in the situation at hand. It is also doesn't take a person as its object, not without some modifying/adding extra words.

  • "Tell" is for giving information to somebody through speaking or writing and needs a person after it as the object. Unlike Say, it is a "two-way" sort of action, where it implies the existence of two parties conversing with each other.

  • "Speak" is for languages and for general conversation, no specific details usually expressed.

  • "Talk" is more or less the same as speak, but more informal.

  • 2
    Welcome to the site! As written, it's a bit unclear what you're actually trying to ask us here. Could you possibly edit the question to make it more obvious? Maybe a structure like "My proofreeder told me to change X to Y, but Y seems ungrammatical to me. Is Y grammatical? What is the correct form for me to use in this context?"
    – ymbirtt
    Sep 20, 2018 at 12:35
  • There is nothing wrong with spoke about how Countryland was, although you could change it to spoke about Countryland being if you don't like the presence of how. Personally, the only thing I noticed is that I'd tend to say photography exhibit rather than photograph exhibition. But that's just personal preference. Sep 20, 2018 at 12:35
  • @ymbirtt Sorry for the lack of clarity, I edited my question, is it okay like this?
    – Reveiller
    Sep 20, 2018 at 12:39
  • 2
    The text as given isn't syntactically valid, because there's no "main verb" (speak about, say, tell, etc.) in the second clause (after the comma). This can be fixed by changing the first verb to Bob said [that] Countryland was..., in which case we can reasonably delete some or all of the implied highlighted repetitions in ...and [he said that] he wanted... This problem arises because the syntax of initial spoke about doesn't match the "repeating" context of the second clause, so it can't be "deleted" as per my "to say [that]" alternative. Sep 20, 2018 at 13:17
  • 1
    If your proofreader changed it to "Bob told that Countryland was ..." then you absolutely need a new proofreader and you shouldn't feel the need to justify anything to them.
    – Jim
    Sep 20, 2018 at 18:48

1 Answer 1


"He said [that]" followed by a clause is fine, although 'that' might also be the first word of the following clause.

"He told that" followed by a clause is bad (although grammatical), because it is likely to create a 'garden path' where the reader expects an indirect object before the object clause.

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