If you use "that" to introduce a full quote from a person is there still a comma and is the first letter of the sentence capitalized?

For example, which one of the following is correct?

Bob once said that "a big fish is a good fish."


Bob once said that, "A big fish is a good fish."

  • Does this answer your question? Direct Speech: the subordinator "that" before the reported clause Dec 27, 2019 at 17:54
  • So basically what you're saying is to remove the "that"? That was my intuition for general writing quality as well. You can see the actual sentence I am using below.
    – user193897
    Dec 27, 2019 at 22:21
  • Bob once said "A big fish is a good fish." [Direct speech; I'd definitely not use the subordinator 'that' though it is becoming increasingly commonly used even with direct speech, when some may want to redefine its part of speech; see the duplicate for restrictions some require on this relaxation of the traditional rule. I've chosen zero introductory punctuation although a comma is more traditional and a colon also possible.] // Bob once said that a big fish is a good fish. [Reported speech; 'that' is sometimes omitted.] Dec 28, 2019 at 15:12

2 Answers 2


No comma is necessary if the quote continues the syntax of the sentence. The comma in direct quotation separates a reporting verb (says, tells, and so on) from the utterance. That, a conjunction, subordinates what follows it, removing the need for the comma. The UNC Writing Center guide to "Quotations" has several examples involving that. In each case, the material after that is quoted but also fits the sentence's syntax.

Harriet Jacobs, a former slave from North Carolina, published an autobiographical slave narrative in 1861. She exposed the hardships of both male and female slaves but ultimately concluded that “slavery is terrible for men; but it is far more terrible for women.”

The Pirate King argues that “it is, it is a glorious thing/to be a pirate king” (Pirates of Penzance, 1983).

The author laconically notes before the second quoted example that "when you use 'that' after the verb that introduces the quote, you no longer need a comma."

That advice is common in other popular grammar guides. Here is Grammar Girl on "When to Use Commas Before Quotations":

First, skip the comma if the quotation is introduced by a conjunction like “that,” “whether,” or “if.”

  • Interesting, if the quote is a full quote then would the first word still be capitalized if introduced with that?
    – user193897
    Dec 27, 2019 at 22:16
  • This is the actual sentence that I am using: 'Eleanor Roosevelt once said that "You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face."'
    – user193897
    Dec 27, 2019 at 22:20

Remember that that is never used when shifting a sentence to active voice (sentence between the quotes). Neither of the examples you provided are correct.

That is used only when you intend on continuing the sentence without quotes, i.e., in passive voice.

Below is an instance where you can use that

Bob had once told that a big fish is a good fish.

And in active voice, you could rephrase the sentence as

Bob once said, "A big fish is a good fish".


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