A sentence on this website reads:

It might well be, implies the narrator, that he made up the whole story, but he's content to leave it up to the reader to decide which "passages" of his story are true and which are entirely fictional.

More examples can be picked from Google Books.

My intuition is that "implies the narrator" is structurally equivalent to "says the narrator", which is an instance of quotative inversion. Nonetheless, it appears that, unlike say, imply cannot be used to introduce direct quotes.

What is the grammar behind "implies the narrator"?

  • It's like ", said Harry" in reporting dialog. It means "The narrator implies it might well be that ...", and you can believe that interpretation, if you believe whoever's saying the sentence about the narrator. Mar 25 at 16:30

1 Answer 1


The grammar is exactly the same: it is an instance of what Wikipedia calls quotative inversion.

However, whereas the verb says does indicate that the text contains a direct quotation, implies does not do that. It indicates an implication which the writer has detected.

There is nothing wrong with untangling the line as

The narrator implies that it might well be that he made up the whole story.

Since it's impractical to rename every such instance as (say) implicative inversion simply because the verb is now imply rather than say, and the structure and grammar is exactly the same, there is no reason not to call this quotative inversion as well.

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