Lets say I am describing the interaction between me and a friend (lets say John), to another person (Mike). If the interaction consists of John saying to me 'I don't know the answer, but you do'. How would I tell about this interaction to Mike?

Do I say:

1) John told me 'He doesn't know the answer but I do'


2) John told me 'I don't know the answer, but you do'

  • 1
    If you're using quote marks (a direct quotation) then you should use the exact words that John said, so # 2 would be be correct. If you're not using quote marks, the sentence would best be constructed as John told me that he doesn't know the answer but that I did. (an indirect quotation). – Zan700 Oct 5 '18 at 3:25

There are two ways of reporting dialogue: direct speech, in which you report the speaker's exact words in inverted commas, and indirect speech, where you give the meaning of what they said. Your second example is direct speech. Example 1. in indirect speech should be John told me that he didn't know the answer, but [that] I did.

  • Thank you. Does this mean that the tense of the verbs also change if the event stated has occurred in the past? – picolo Oct 5 '18 at 19:07
  • The past tense would normally be used when reporting a conversation about the situation at that time (you may have told John the answer since then!). However, if it was about a fact that is still true the present tense might be appropriate. I met an old school friend and he told me that he is now married. – Kate Bunting Oct 6 '18 at 8:29

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