Four Unusual Quotatives

Posted 10 November, 2017 by Alicia in Grammar + Syntax / 0 Comments  


I didn’t really think about all the ways we could introduce quotes until recently. I just suddenly realized that there were two used fairly frequently, and the third one I remembered later. The fourth one I only realized in researching this post. I was actually doing the research to try to find more, but I didn’t get very far. So I hope to add more as I discover them, and if you can think of any more, please let me know.


This is probably the most common. A typical example:

I was like, “Are you kidding me? That’s not fair!”

Of course, this invites ambiguity. The way it’s used today, it could either refer to a quote that was actually said, or one that was only thought and not voiced. Context usually clears this up, if the quote itself is something that would break societal norms of appropriateness (i.e. it’s just too outrageous for polite conversation). But sometimes people have to clarify and ask whether it was actually said or not.

A form of “to go”

You can conjugate this infinitive and use it as a quotative as well. It’s most commonly seen in the past tense, though.

And she went, “I know it’s not, but that’s how it is.”

I went, you went, she went. I go, you go, she goes. I can see “you go” being used more often in an informal hypothetical scenario.

Then, if she asks you, you go, “That’s not my problem.”

I can see “she goes” used more often in a past-tense situation.

So I tell her she’s not welcome, and she goes, “But I brought brownies!” In that case, she’s very welcome.

“To be” + all

This is one found in very casual speech, like “like,” but much less often.

He was all, “You can’t bring the dog in here, but it’ll be fine if you leave him outside for a few hours.”

Have you noticed a trend here? All of these quotes sound negative. I think it’s because we use these quotatives more often when we’re complaining about something. We get worked up and lapse into really casual speech.

Present-tense to refer to past-tense

We do this a lot. We can take any quotative in the present tense and use it to describe an event that happened in the past. It’s not as common as using past tense, or using the above quotatives, but we do it. It’s often preceded by “So.”

So yesterday I’m talking to my mum, and my sister barges in and says, “We’re out of milk!” And I’m like, “Sure, let’s just drop everything and run to the store and get some.”

As you can see, the whole story exists in present-past. “Barges” and “talking” are in present tense as well. This is one of those contexts where you have to do a bit of creative guessing to figure out whether the narrator actually suggested dropping everything and going to the store or only thought it sarcastically. I suppose it also depends on the rest of the context. Is the narrator on good enough terms with his/her sister that sarcasm could be laughed off? You’ve got to do some sleuthing.

In any case, those are the quotatives I’ve got for you today! I hope to discover more soon. Which ones do you use and how often?

For further reading:



Comments are closed.