I am trying to find the right words for the sentences.

(1) The book ____ "Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching".

(2) Charles Dickens writes/wrote in his book: "Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching".


(1) The quote is just an example; I want to know how to refer to exact words written in the book, and I need to explicitly quote them as above.

Obviously, "says" fits here. But I am looking for a word whose meaning is closer to "write".

(2) I am curious whether to use the present or the past tense. Does it matter whether the author is still alive?

  • Please note that, as the answers mention, there are many possible words you can use; but they fail to emphasize that you need to use quotation marks to indicate those are the exact words as written in the book.
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Aug 8, 2019 at 9:19
  • Also bear in mind that while there are a lot of ways you can do it, in some situations there may be one way you have to do it. If you're just writing for yourself, you can pick almost any format you like - though as Mr Lister said, you have to make it clear which words are your own and which are being quoted - but if you're writing for a specific purpose (e.g. an academic paper or a newspaper article) there may be a style guide that says how quotes need to be presented and referenced. Commented Aug 8, 2019 at 10:00
  • You need to fix your question. You mean: How do I quote an author? The verb is quote.
    – Lambie
    Commented Aug 8, 2019 at 15:02

3 Answers 3


(1) The book states "blah blah".

It's definition 1 of the verb 'to state' in Lexico:

Express something definitely or clearly in speech or writing.

Most example sentences there are in indirect form, but it can be used for direct quotes as well.

As for (2), both options are possible. With the present tense, you emphasize the book is still 'alive' in present times; I've seen sentences like 'Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians' in Bible studies, about an author who is already dead for about two millennia. With the past tense, you emphasize the moment the author wrote his/her book and that works for authors both deceased and alive.

  • I think this answer is perfectly fine, but I've been criticised by pedants in the past for using this verb with an inanimate subject. Some editors will insist that an author can state something in a book, but the book itself cannot state anything.
    – sjy
    Commented Aug 8, 2019 at 8:40
  • Using (what looks like) present tense to refer to something past seems increasingly common. (I think that's called historic present. Can't see much benefit from it myself.)
    – gidds
    Commented Aug 8, 2019 at 12:38

When discussing a book "says" is invariably understood to mean "includes in the written text" and is the normal way of introducing a quote:

As Kipling says of Gunga Din: "You're a better man than I am".

You could also write

As is mentioned in {book title} "{quote here}"

other verbs besides "mentioned" could be "given", "listed", "included", "explained", and of course "written". But often "said" will be simplest and best.

Your second form:

As {Author} writes in {book}: "{quote here}"

works perfectly well also.

As to tense, when discussing a book (or other creative work) as a work it is usual to place the entire discussion in the present tense:

Jones writes that "The highest virtue is loyalty".

However, when discussing a work in a historical context, particularly in terms of what author came before what other author, and who influenced whom, use of the past tense is more common. There are other possibilities, particularly if you discuss changes in the work as it is being written or from version to version of a work, when a progressive tense might be used. But past or present will generally suffice.


I really like this list of Verbs of Attribution (or Quoting Verbs) from https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/quotations/ (and because it gives more information about using quotes overall, it's the one I most often shared with students):


add remark exclaim announce reply state comment respond estimate write point out predict argue suggest propose declare criticize proclaim note complain opine observe think note

This next link (a PDF) also specifies a few that are specifically for agreement or disagreement: https://owl.centralia.edu/handouts/verbsatrib.pdf
Excerpt (random lines in the "others" section):

Verbs of attribution that show agreement: affirms concurs with supports agrees confirms verifies concedes echoes

Verbs of attribution that show disagreement: counters disagrees opposes criticizes disputes refutes denies objects rejects

Others: accepts believes expresses hypothesizes offers states addresses challenges decides implies proposes supposes advises cites defines insists realizes uses answers compares echoes lists replies wonders asks concedes emphasizes maintains reports writes assumes considers finds notes reveals assures contends grants observes shows

Each verb has implied meanings, and many are not interchangeable. Use only verbs that you understand!

This final link explains more context for each: http://www.ablongman.com/stovall1e/chap10/10verbs.html


Said is a word that connotes only the fact that words were spoken or written. It says nothing about the way the words were spoken, the circumstances of the utterance, or the attitude of the speaker. The word is a modest one, never calling attention to itself. It can be used repeatedly without disruption to the writing. Consequently, there are few real substitutes for said. There are words you can use in its place, however, when it is proper for you to do so.

Explain means that more facts are being added to make something more understandable. It can be a neutral synonym for said, but it must be used in the right context. It is incorrect to write: “Bill Clinton is our current president,” he explained. It would be correct to use explain as the verb of attribution for the following sentence: “The presidency is the nation’s most important office,” he explained.

Relate means to pass along facts. It implies an absence of opinion on the part of the speaker.

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