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    #1

    Use of "Which" in reported speech

    I would like to enquire about the use of "which" in reported speech. I have looked at many grammar references but not many actually go over the use of "which" very clearly.

    If we have a look at the following example,

    Sara asked Peter, "Which pen is yours?"
    In reported speech it could be,

    1. Sara asked Peter which was his pen.
    or
    2. Sara asked Peter which his pen was.
    or
    3. Sara asked Peter which pen was his.

    If we follow the rules of reported speech it would seem that number 2 is the most correct but if we look at the other 2 alternatives (1 and 3) they both appear as better answers. Could someone tell me which is the best answer and why the rules of reported speech cannot be applied with the use of "which".

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    #2

    Re: Use of "Which" in reported speech

    Look at the order of the words:

    Sara asked Peter, "Which pen is yours?"
    Sara asked Peter which pen was his. (3)

    (3) is the closest to the direct question and is therefore the best choice. (1) is very awkward, (2) is wrong.

    Besides adjusting verb tenses, pronoun references and so on, it is important in reported speech to follow the order of the words carefully.
    Last edited by abaka; 28-Jun-2012 at 04:46. Reason: typo, sigh

  1. 5jj's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: Use of "Which" in reported speech

    Quote Originally Posted by angel_sandie View Post

    Sara asked Peter, "Which pen is yours?"

    1. Sara asked Peter which was his pen.
    2. Sara asked Peter which his pen was.
    o3. Sara asked Peter which pen was his.
    It's not really about just 'which', but about reported questions with 'who/what/which' containing the verb BE.

    Normally, the word order in any indirect question is as in: Sara asked Peter which pen his was. This is one possible version.
    In a 'who/what/which' question, espcially one with a longer subject, the word order in #3 is possible. The subject in your question is not long, but #3 is still possible.


    Because a 'which' question can sometimes, be asked in two ways - 'Which pen is yours?' and 'which is your pen', some people might report your original as Sara asked which his pen was was, or Sara asked which was his pen.
    Last edited by 5jj; 28-Jun-2012 at 07:02. Reason: unclear wording

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    #4

    Re: Use of "Which" in reported speech

    I'm sorry, but Sara asked which pen his was sounds terrible to my ears. Are you really suggesting it's correct, 5jj?

    Sara asked, 'which is your pen' is reported as Sara asked which was his pen. As I've said, I think it's awkward, but still correct.
    Last edited by abaka; 28-Jun-2012 at 06:52.

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    #5

    Re: Use of "Which" in reported speech

    Quote Originally Posted by abaka View Post
    I'm sorry, but Sara asked which pen his was sounds terrible to my ears. Are you really suggesting it's correct, 5jj? Yes. I don't think it sounds particularly awkward.

    Sara asked, 'which is your pen' is reported as Sara asked which was his pen. As I've said, I think it's awkward, but still correct.
    I agree. Sorry if my previous past was unclear. I have edited to remove problems - I hope.
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    #6

    Re: Use of "Which" in reported speech

    Um, to avoid misunderstanding the version I objected to as terrible was the one you edited out in your previous post. But then you say "I don't think it sounds particularly awkward"

    So it seems we agree, if we go by your edits. To avoid confusion let me restate:

    Sara asked which pen his was <-- WRONG

    Sara asked which pen was his
    <-- GOOD, reports Sara asked, "Which pen is yours?".

    Sara asked which was his pen <-- CORRECT, reports Sara asked, "Which is your pen?".

    Are you satisfied with this, 5jj?

    [I still think "Which is your pen?" is a little awkward as a direct question, and the indirect "...which was his pen" is more awkward still, but that's preference I won't argue further].
    Last edited by abaka; 28-Jun-2012 at 07:29.

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    #7

    Re: Use of "Which" in reported speech

    So, from a grammatical point of view there could be 3 possible answers that are acceptable.

    1. Sara asked Peter which was his pen.
    2. Sara asked Peter which pen his was.
    3. Sara asked Peter which pen was his.

    And 'Sara asked Peter which his pen was.' Is definitely wrong.

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    #8

    Re: Use of "Which" in reported speech

    #2 is the one I am questioning (severely). 5jj has said he does not object to it, but he has edited it out -- or has he? Otherwise, yes!

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    #9

    Re: Use of "Which" in reported speech

    In my opinion, the following are all fine:

    Sara asked Peter which pen was his.
    Sara asked Peter which pen his was.
    Sara asked Peter which was his pen.
    Sara asked Peter which [one] his pen was.

    Sara asked Peter to identify his pen.
    Sara asked Peter to pick his pen out of a line-up.
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

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    #10

    Re: Use of "Which" in reported speech

    To me those 3 statements now sound correct. It is very easy to come to the conclusion that #2 is correct. How about we use where instead of which and relook at the examples.

    Sara asked Peter, "Where is your dog?"
    The answer would be:

    Sara asked Peter where his dog was.

    This would be the only correct answer if we are assuming that the tense has to change. In this case #2 which follows a similar format would be correct.

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