• I can climb to the top of that tree. How you ask? Well, like this.

  • I can climb to the top of that tree. How, you ask? Well, like this.

  • I can climb to the top of that tree. "How", you ask? Well, like this.

Here, the highlighted part, the question hasn't been asked by the listener, and doesn't require a response. What i'm concerned about is the punctuation that go/goes into that.


How, you ask?

is a simple inversion of

You ask how?

which is a shortened version of

You ask how I can climb to the top of that tree?

So your second version is correct: "How, you ask?"

  • Why is this downvoted?
    – AIQ
    Sep 21 '19 at 17:11
  • 1
    @AIQ: Who knows? You can cure that with an upvote, however. ^_^
    – Robusto
    Sep 21 '19 at 19:30

To go to the crazy extreme, we can say that the "correctest" way is:

"How?" you ask?


You ask "How?"?

Of course, it is too complicated and ugly and it is never used.

A good compromise would be:

"How", you ask?

but it still includes direct speech in direct speech, although not so ugly as before.

To maximize efficiency, the following seems to be best:

How, you ask?

The form:

How you ask?

(without comma) inquires (ungrammatically) about the method / way of asking. Therefore, some possible answers are:

With my mouth. (Verbally.)


In written form.


The sentence isn't actually a question so it shouldn't end in a question mark. It is reporting a question, so I would punctuate it.

"How?" you ask.

I understand this to be a shortened version of

"How do you climb to the top of that tree?" you ask.

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