I asked him if I might see his watch?

So can I write this above sentence like this?

I asked him that could I see his watch?

What if I use "that" instead of if?

  • When you use that you need to use indirect speech. But you used a direct speech in your sentence. That aside you have a yes/no question to include indirectly which doesn't work with that. You need to use if or whether. That is used with quoting sentences as in he told me that he could stay here for 2 years. As opposed to he asked if he could stay here for 2 years which is from can I stay here for 2 years. – Yuri Oct 12 '16 at 17:01
  • Neither of those should have a question mark, because they are not questions. They're simply statements: I asked him if _____. You would only use a question mark if you're quoting a question: I asked him, "Can I see your watch?" – stangdon Oct 12 '16 at 19:33

No, you can't use 'that' instead of 'if', because this is a reported question of the yes/no type using Indirect speech, and the form 'ask' + 'if / whether' + clause must be used. For example,

He asked me if I spoke English.


He asked me whether I was British or American.

So, if you're looking for an alternative to 'if', I suggest you use 'whether', adding an 'or not' after 'watch' (as 'whether' is used when there are two options), but 'that' is not correct.

Here are more examples for this.

Hope this helps.

| improve this answer | |
  • 3
    It's not a question of whether it uses indirect speech: "He told me that he was English" uses indirect speech, and is fine. It's the (unpredictable) property of ask that it takes an if (or whether) clause but not a that clause (except in the different sense of "request": He asked that we clear up when we had finished.) – Colin Fine Oct 12 '16 at 17:19
  • I expressed myself wrong saying 'a question using indirect speech': what I meant was a reported yes/no question using indirect speech. Thanks for taking notice. Will edit. – matias Oct 12 '16 at 17:53
  • Compare Did I know that he was guilty? and Did I know if he was guilty? The first version has an embedded statement (which pragmatically is often implied to be true, a "given"), where the second has an embedded question (which pragmatically would usually be implied to be still unresolved). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Oct 12 '16 at 18:27
  • if I was to report those questions were asked to me, I would say "I was asked if/whether i knew that/if he was guilty". If/whether are still the only correct alternatives to report the question on your example: what you say makes perfect sense, but I fail to see how whether the content of the question includes an 'if' or a 'that' or not is relevant. – matias Oct 12 '16 at 18:39
  • @Matias, I think FumbleFingers was giving an example (know) where both if clauses and that clauses are allowed, but have different meanings. Ask only takes if clauses (except in the different sense I mentiojned). – Colin Fine Oct 12 '16 at 21:02

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