if i want to convert :

She said, "I don't remember which is mine"

to reported speech , which one of these is correct ?

She couldn't remember which was hers.


She couldn't remember which hers was.

In case both are correct , which one is more suitable?

  • You can also say which one hers was or which one was hers, as you do when asking your question.
    – TimR
    Feb 19, 2018 at 20:22

1 Answer 1


Take a look at this example:

She couldn't remember which purse was hers.

What it says is that there were a number of purses and one of them was hers, but she couldn't remember which one was it. Do you agree that this example sounds like perfectly valid English? I hope you do because it is perfectly valid English. Now, "She couldn't remember which hers was.", with respect to the example that I just showed you, would actually be equivalent to the following:

She couldn't remember which purses was.

I hope you can see that there are a lot of problems with the English here. First of all, since purses is a word that's in the plural, the past-tense form of the verb to be must also be in its plural form to agree with purses: were. Secondly, wouldn't you say that which purses were would now sound like an incomplete thought? Were the purses hers or were the purses lost? What exactly was happening with them? Not clear at all. And hers in your original example sounds like the plural form of the noun her as there were such a noun. What exactly is a her? Is there really such a noun in English? I don't think so. So, to cut a long story short, your second example grammatically is just a catastrophe. Only your first example is correct:

She couldn't remember which was hers.

  • 2
    Could you please explain why does "which hers was" becomes equivalent to "which purses was " wrt the example you gave. Shouldn't it be equivalent to "she couldn't remember which her purse was" ?
    – coderDude
    Feb 19, 2018 at 19:06
  • which her purse was is, practically speaking, an impossible construction. Do you understand that you have two determiners for the word purse in this example? It should be either which or her, but not both at the same time. It's kind of like saying my her purse. Which is as much a determiner as her, his or their are. Do you understand what I'm trying to say? Feb 19, 2018 at 19:16
  • She thought and thought and scratched her head and thought some more, but she couldn't remember which hers was is not ungrammatical.
    – TimR
    Feb 19, 2018 at 20:24
  • 3
    One of them may be a more straightforward representation of reported speech, if we admit "couldn't remember" as invoking reported speech. But both utterances (which hers was and which was hers) are grammatical. You claimed that which hers was is equivalent to the ungrammatical "She couldn't remember which purses was." but that is not so.
    – TimR
    Feb 20, 2018 at 0:52
  • 2
    Consider a young girl who is given a puppy at the dog breeders. She has been petting it for only a moment when she turns away for a second, and it runs back to the litter, where now there are eight identical puppies. She could look and look, and be unable to say which hers was. It is a form of emphasis. Perfectly legit in my neck of the woods.
    – TimR
    Feb 20, 2018 at 1:21

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