When reading novels, we often see expressions such as

"I don't want to talk to you," said Mark in a quiet voice.

Is it okay to replace "Mark" with "he"? I argued with my English teacher about this a long time ago. She said such sentences are common but I thought it's weird. I still think "he" should come before "said". Is there a distinction between noun and pronoun in this case?

2 Answers 2


The most common form would indeed be:

"I don't want to talk to you," he said in a quiet voice.

It is possible to do the inversion with a pronoun. The main trouble with this sentence is the adverbial phrase "in a quiet voice". Since it is part of the verb phrase, it is part of the inversion too:

"I don't want to talk to you," in a quiet voice said he.

Which way you want to write it is a stylistic choice, and I would find the above sentence rather stilted and awkward. Dropping the adverbial phrase makes it less awkward:

"I don't want to talk to you," said he.

This sort of construction is most often found in literature, but would be very unusual in everyday speech.


"said he" can be found in texts of past centuries; it would be considered unusual or deliberately archaic today.

  • 1
    It's interesting how said Mark sounds so normal but said he sounds so archaic.
    – J.R.
    Aug 19, 2016 at 20:58
  • "This is a handy cove," says he, at length; "and a pleasant sittyated grog-shop."
    – TimR
    Aug 20, 2016 at 14:57

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