Let's start with example:

I asked John, when Bill is coming back from London?

and another one:

Jane asks, where is her cellphone?

Why in the first sentence direct word order sounds better, while in the later - reversed w/o is in place.


Punctuation is key in these sentences. You can either write what someone asked literally (direct speech), or you can describe it (reported speech).

If you use direct speech, you do not reverse the word order:

I asked John, "When is Bill coming back from London?"
Jane asks, "Where is my cell phone?"

If you use reported speech, you do use inversion. Notice that you do not need a question mark either. The sentence is a statement, even if you state that a question was asked:

I asked John when Bill was coming back from London.
Jane asks where her cell phone is.

| improve this answer | |
  • Great explanation! But don't you think, that "Jane asks where her cell phone is." sounds a bit unnatural. Will you actually say so? – Denis Kulagin Jun 3 '14 at 8:37
  • 1
    It depends on the situation. I would absolutely say it like that, if I would be on the phone with Jane, and I want to tell someone in the room with me to look for Jane's phone: "Hey, John, Jane asks where her cell phone is. You borrowed it yesterday, did you give it back?" – oerkelens Jun 3 '14 at 9:06
  • Thanks for that comment. I was asked to explain that nuance to my cousin and catched myself noticing, that I don't completely understand it myself. Now it's all clear! – Denis Kulagin Jun 3 '14 at 9:31
  • 1
    Note that when not giving a quote, you do not include a comma. As oerkelens gives it, "I asked John when Bill was coming back from London". NOT "I asked John, when Bill ..." – Jay Jun 3 '14 at 14:03

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.