I read the article below.

Mark Twain was a famous American writer. James Whistler was a famous American painter. Twain liked Whistler’s work very much. One day Twain was looking at Whistler’s wonderful paintings. He put out his hand to touch one of them. Whistler got very angry. “Don’t touch it,” Whistler cried, “The paint isn’t dry yet.” “I know,” Twain said. “But it’s quite all right. I got my gloves on.”

I didn’t understand the sentence

but it’s quite all right

I interpreted “but it’s quite all right” as “the painting is OK, and nothing bad happened to it”, but this sentence was interpreted as “it doesn’t matter”. Which explanation is correct?

And what’s more, the usage of punctuation in the following sentence is weird.

“I know,” Twain said. “But it’s quite all right. I got my gloves on.”

I would like to correct it as follows:

“I know,” Twain said, “but it’s quite all right. I got my gloves on.”

  • @snailboat.I thought the sentence should be "i know, but it's quite all right. I got my gloves on." "Twain said."is the insertion. So the sentence should be corrected as "I know," Twain said, "but it's quite all right. I got my gloves on."
    – user48070
    Aug 2, 2013 at 6:48
  • @snailboat.Why I am confused,just because I think “I know,” is a sentence. Why does the comma place after "know",but not period? That's what make me confused.
    – user48070
    Aug 2, 2013 at 8:26
  • 1
    A-ha! Now I think I see your problem. So-called dialogue tags such as Twain said are usually considered part of a sentence rather than an independent sentence. "I know," Twain said. is a single sentence, so it has a comma rather than a period in the middle. The same would be true of the sentence Twain said, "I know."
    – user230
    Aug 2, 2013 at 8:29
  • @snailboat.OK,I C.I appreciate your help. I want to learn more about the punctuation, where can I get some useful information?Can you give me some advice?
    – user48070
    Aug 2, 2013 at 8:33
  • let us continue this discussion in chat
    – user230
    Aug 2, 2013 at 8:50

1 Answer 1


Twain may have been joking with Whistler. Whistler's concern was that touching the picture while the paint was wet would degrade the image on the canvas. Twain (probably deliberately) misinterprets Whistler's concern as a desire for his hands not to get smeared with paint. When Twain remarks that he is wearing gloves, he means his hands won't get dirty. That is, when Twain says

“I know, ... But it’s quite all right. I got my gloves on.”

he means he is aware that the paint is wet; but the wet paint is no problem for him; it will not get his hands dirty because he is wearing gloves.

I see no need to replace the period after Twain said with a comma, and believe that it reads better (more punch-line impact) with the longer pause the period provides.

In the phrase “It's quite all right”, the word it serves as a dummy pronoun, standing for the current situation. That is, the phrase is roughly equivalent to “Everything is all right” or “There is no problem”.

  • @jwpat7.I agree with you.Twain may have been joking with Whistler. But I wonder how to understand "it's all right". What does "it" refer to?
    – user48070
    Aug 2, 2013 at 7:06
  • @user48070, see edit re it as a dummy pronoun Aug 2, 2013 at 7:14
  • @jwpat7.what does that whole sentence mean?
    – user48070
    Aug 2, 2013 at 7:18
  • @user48070, I added slightly more explanation about the meaning of Twain's reply. (However, my answer probably says about the same thing as before in only very slightly different words, so might not be wonderfully more helpful). Aug 2, 2013 at 7:28
  • 1
    @user48070 "I got my gloves on" is actually the present tense. It is a shortened version of "I have got my gloves on" which is equivalent to "I have my gloves on". See have (got) sth on.
    – stillenat
    Aug 2, 2013 at 11:43

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