Often in novels or reported speech, we have the quotation marked by opening and closing quotation mark. And before or after the quotation we have a phrase that states, <somebody> said or said <somebody>. For example, from sherlock holmes:

"What! Where?" shouted Mr. Windibank, turning white to his lips and glancing about him like a rat in a trap.

Is there a linguistics/literary term for the bolded phrase/clause?

How about the verb in that bolded phrase/clause? Is introductory verb the correct terminology to refer to the verb shouted in the above example?

  • No, "introductory verb" is not right. That's too vague. The verb will always be a verb of speaking. Of which English has many, he added/said/shouted/snapped/cackled/piped up. Verbs of speech can take chunks of speech as their object; that's what the quotes are for. The clause preceding or following is the main clause of the sentence; the quotation is the direct object complement of the speech verb, and is a subordinate clause (if it is a clause) in the sentence, though not one subject to the grammar of the speaker, but rather that of the person being quoted.
    – jlawler
    Commented Nov 21, 2013 at 14:07

1 Answer 1


x shouted "...", x said "..." etc. are called quotatives. Another term is verbum dicendi. There is a fairly extensive body of literature on quotatives in varieties of English. The quotative that has recently attracted a lot of interest is be like, as in

And then I was like "no way, that can't be true".

Another recent-ish one is go

And then he went "yada yada yada". I hate him when he says that.

Also possible: The bare quotative (IIRC in Multicultural London English)

And then me "It's true man!". And then him "No way!"

  • Yes, I have heard that term "quotative" to denote these constructions. An important point about quotatives is that when they are postposed, they can have what looks like V2 word order, as in the example above. Commented Nov 27, 2013 at 17:42

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