A leading article in Britain's Independent newspaper has the following (my emphasis):

It is also evident, albeit in a different form, in the Global Investment Summit that opened on Thursday with a rousing speech from the Prime Minister full of assurances about "getting behind" British business.

I have some confusion in understanding this statement. Are the words which are enclosed in quotation marks showing irony? Or is it just that the quoted words (by the source) are being quoted again by the author? Or is it that the author doesn't have the same opinion as did the source had in the meaning of the words? Also please provide me with some important points in understanding quotation marks and their uses as I am a non-native learner.


2 Answers 2


There are two factors governing the use of quotation marks here.

First, as Rory Alsop confirmed, this is a direct quotation of Cameron. Probably from this speech:

There’s another way we are getting behind business — by sorting out the banks. Taxpayers bailed you out. Now it’s time for you to repay the favour and start lending to Britain’s small businesses. (Source)

Second, getting behind is somewhat colloquial — more colloquial, at any rate, than is typical for The Independent. So, even if it weren’t a quote, they might well put scare quotes around it, to signal that they are aware that it is out of register.

  • The first point is probably the most important one to make, but +1 for the second point (which is "spot on"! :) Commented Jul 28, 2012 at 21:19
  • So, can I conclude that the words are not approved by the author? My reason : why is there a need for anyone to quote specific words when they can as well quote the whole thing(from source) in direct speech. Based on this can I come to a conclusion- when ever smaller parts of sentences quoted by others are put in quotations- that the author is not approving the literal meaning of the quoted words? Please do help me. I am facing difficulty while comprehending some writings:especially when there are quite a "good" [:)] number of quoted words in paragraphs.
    – Manoj
    Commented Jul 29, 2012 at 4:16
  • I wouldn’t characterize use of quotations marks as marking disapproval. Reporting is different from repeating. You summarize content in your own words. However, if the source you’re reporting used a particularly important, memorable, colourful or striking phrase, then it’s important for the readers to know that it’s not an invention of the reporter’s. For instance, if a central bank says the economy is “worsening”, that is news in itself and definitely deserves a direct quotation. Commented Jul 30, 2012 at 7:15

I think in this case the quotes indicate that 'getting behind' were the actual words used by the Prime Minister.

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