How to frame this sentence properly with adherence to all grammatical rules?


Until yesterday, Men had never asked God, "What is the meaning of life?".

I'm trying to embed a question in a statement. How to achieve this properly?

In addition, Should the quotation marks come before question mark or after?

  1. "What ... life?"
  2. "What ... life"?

Please explain with everything from grammar, word order, commas, quotation marks, etc. Can this also be made in reported speech?

  • 1
    "Inverted commas" (otherwise known as quotation marks) and commas are a matter of punctuation, which is to say a matter of style, not grammar. Have you checked your manual of style? Perhaps the Chicago Manual of Style? For wording advice, type reported speech question into the search box above. You'll find things like this: english.stackexchange.com/questions/100571/…
    – deadrat
    Sep 14, 2016 at 16:11
  • @deadrat , I understand that this statement can be converted into a reported speech. However what I wanted to know is, can a question be directly embedded into a statement? Here I am embedding the question directly into the statement... plz help
    – oathkeeper
    Sep 14, 2016 at 16:14
  • Of course a question can be embedded in a statement. If you read a movel, you are almost certain to find a sentence like: Tom asked, "Where are my pants?" But deadrat's point is that the grammar doesn't change; this isn't a question of grammar, but of punctuation and style.
    – stangdon
    Sep 14, 2016 at 16:24
  • @stangdon , problem is, when I type the same sentence in Microsoft Word, It highlights the ending quotation mark and question tag in green as a grammatical mistake. This prompted me to clarify this doubt once in for all... Copy paste this exactly with the period and try in MS word ---> Tom asked, "Where are my pants?". Sep 14, 2016 at 16:27
  • Ah, the problem is the period. Style manuals generally recommend only one terminal punctuation mark. The question mark serves that purpose.
    – deadrat
    Sep 14, 2016 at 16:40

1 Answer 1


American and British style guides vary in their recommendations regarding the placement of punctuation at the end of quotation marks.

The American rules always place periods and commas inside the quotation marks (The American rules allow for a question mark outside the quote when the whole sentence is a question). The British rules only place quotation marks inside if the punctuation is part of the quote.

In your case the rules agree: the question mark goes inside the quote. No further punctuation is needed after the quote.However, the following sentence should start with a capital letter as usual. Examples

In general, the purpose of all punctuation is to clarify meaning, not part of the grammar of English.

  • No period. JamesK has it right. One terminal punctuation mark per sentence. The question mark pulls double duty.
    – deadrat
    Sep 14, 2016 at 16:45
  • @deadrat , but the sentence does look weird when the terminal punctuation mark is within the quotation mark. For instance ... I asked, "How are you?" Everybody's great. Seems like there is no termination between "How are you?" and Everybody's great. Sep 14, 2016 at 16:49
  • 1
    @oathkeeper Weird is in the eye of the typesetter and the reader. It may be more logical to demand terminal punctuation for both internal sentences and their enclosing sentences, but punctuation is a matter of style, not logic.
    – deadrat
    Sep 14, 2016 at 16:54

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