You should join his class.

I took some of a colleague’s classes while she was overseas. A student from that class is now coming to mine. She said she likes my teaching. She said she told her brother about me, and:

[1] He said you should join his class.

I was confused. Where is his class and why should I join it? I asked her something along those lines, and she said either:

[2] He said, “You should join his class”.


[3] He said I should join your class.

One of the rules of changing direct quotations into indirect ones is pronoun changes, especially I and you. Another is that direct quotations are usually indicated in speech by a slight pause before the quoted words. She hadn’t paused, or hadn’t paused long enough. 

Interpreting [1] as an indirect quotation, as I did, gives:

[1’] “He [brother] said you [teacher] should join his [brother’s] class”. 

This is the equivalent of:

[4] He said, “He should join my class”.

Part of the problem is that there are two males, so he/him/his could be either the brother or me. In [1] he and his appear to be referring to the same person. In [2], they are distinguishable by the quotation marks and the pause. If she had been talking to her sister, and then said to me:

[5] She said you should join his class

I might have had a moment’s hesitation, but I wouldn’t have been confused to the point of asking for clarification.

Indirect quotations are often introduced with the subordinator that:

[1’’] He said that you should join his class.
[4’] He said that I should join your class.

but it can be omitted, and often is in casual speech. I like it, because it’s clear. 

My usual  class did direct and indirect quotations recently. I counted 11 changes which have to be made, and I’m sure that’s not all. I posted about a previous time I covered indirect quotations.


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