"Jack'll come tomorrow", she told Rose in the morning.

What does it mean if I ask "When did she tell Rose Jack would come?". 'Tomorrow' and 'the morning' are the two times in the first statement. The question above returns one of them as an answer. If I want to get the other as the answer, how do I modify the question?

2 Answers 2


There is no ambiguity! There are two times and both are separated. Tomorrow belongs to Jack's arrival, and morning is the time when the information is shared. The question you have framed can be improved:

A spoken question/sentence could be:

When did she tell Rose about Jack's coming? ~ In the morning.

To stay away from ambiguity, split the question. In spoken English it goes well.

When did she tell Rose about Jack's coming?... and when is he coming? ~ She told Rose in the morning...and Jack is coming tomorrow.

  • Can you explain what you mean that there's no ambiguity? If someone asks that question, it's ambiguous whether they're asking about when Jack's coming or when she told Rose.
    – gotube
    May 30, 2021 at 21:33

I'll use italics to refer to direct discourse (literal quotations) and bold to refer to indirect discourse (reports of quotations).

She told Rose, "Jack'll [Jack will] come tomorrow"

gives the direct discourse, that is a direct quote of the literal words of Rose's informant (the "she" of the sentence). The version

She told Rose that Jack would come tomorrow.

is the transposition into indirect discourse.

When you keep the indirect discourse in the question

When did she tell Rose that Jack would come?

you're asking about the time within the indirect discourse, that is, the time reported of Jack's arrival.

If you want to ask about the time of the telling, you ask

When did she tell Rose, "Jack will come tomorrow"?

keeping the direct discourse.

  • She told Rose that Jack would come the next day ? Dec 18, 2019 at 12:17
  • In this case I think you can just say When did she tell Rose that Jack would come the next day? (or tomorrow if he is yet to come) instead of keeping the direct discourse. It's also kinda unlikely that the speaker remembers the exact quote, in which case (I'm not a native speaker, but still) I'd expect something like When did she tell her (that thing) about John, about him coming the next day?. If they do remember, or if something (perhaps lengthier, otherwise they could just refer to it as that) has been quoted to them exactly, or if they're in court, the direct discourse thing works.
    – user3395
    Dec 21, 2019 at 23:13
  • What time would Jack come, as she told Rose? When, as she told Rose, Jack would come?
    – Ram Pillai
    May 26, 2020 at 6:54

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .