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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?

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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.

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

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  • 1
    It's interesting how said Mark sounds so normal but said he sounds so archaic.
    – J.R.
    Aug 19 '16 at 20:58
  • "This is a handy cove," says he, at length; "and a pleasant sittyated grog-shop." Aug 20 '16 at 14:57

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