he said vs. said he

Hutschi

Senior Member
Hi,

which of the forms is correct? (... or can you use both?)

" ... sentence ..." said he.
" ... sentence ..." he said.

(... where sentence is the sentence, he said.)

(I learned, that the second is correct, but I heard the first form spoken by William Hartnell on a DVD.)

Best regards
Bernd
 
  • Hikee

    Senior Member
    Polish/English - bilingual
    I came across this dilemma when I got down to writing my story (after a 5 month break). Throughout the whole manuscript, I've been consistent with the first option:

    '[...],' he said.

    However, lately I've bumped into the second while reading Robert Ludlum's "Bourne Identity":

    '[...], said he.

    Now, are both of them correct or is one of them perhaps more... preferable?
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Oh they're both correct, Hikee:):thumbsup:

    He said is the 'standard', 'neutral' version. Said he is a more ... difficult to describe ... a more 'coloured' version: it sounds kind of arty ... or poetic ... or quaint ... or 'deliberate' ~ if an author uses it, he's doing it for some kind of effect that doesn't exist in the standard neutral version.
     

    Wuthenow

    New Member
    German
    Could it be that the first version is more used to describe the sentence as a quote and it's not so much used in a progressing dialogue ?
     

    DonnyB

    Moderator Emeritus
    English UK Southern Standard English
    Could it be that the first version is more used to describe the sentence as a quote and it's not so much used in a progressing dialogue ?
    Possibly. But I think the over-riding consideration here is that it has this rather old-fashioned literary quality which means we wouldn't generally use it in ordinary everyday writing.

    Oh, and welcome to the forum, by the way. :)
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    It's not very common and would have to be done for a reason. Using "he said" too often when writing a story and wanting something different is not a good reason. If that's the problem you're having, it's better to use other words in place of "said".

    ..., he stated.
    ..., he interjected.
    ..., he added.
    ..., he responded.
    ..., he answered.
    ..., he insisted.
    ..., he continued.
    etc.
     
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    Colorado.Rebecca

    New Member
    English
    It's not very common and would have to be done for a reason. Using "he said" too often when writing a story and wanting something different is not a good reason. If that's the problem you're having, it's better to use other words in place of "said".

    ..., he stated.
    ..., he interjected.
    ..., he added.
    ..., he responded.
    ..., he answered.
    ..., he insisted.
    ..., he continued.
    etc.
    Dear kentix: I truly say this with all the compassion in my heart ... this suggestion will get you blacklisted. :) Best case scenario: No dialogue tag. Second best case scenario: "she said." There *is* no third best case scenario, although other dialogue tags are allowable if your character is truly yelling or whispering or asking or the like. Nothing will mark you as an amateur like attempting to come up with synonyms for "said." Good luck.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    The question (to me) was whether "he said" and "said he" are interchangeable for variety. They are not. "Said he" requires a context where it makes some sense. "He said" is generic and default.

    He Said, She Said: Dialog Tags and Using Them Effectively

    She said or said she?​

    ...The truth is, both are correct, although placing the verb before the noun or pronoun (said she) is used less often today and in some circles considered archaic. ... Which way a writer chooses may also depend on the genre or style. For instance, using “said she” in a science fiction novel would likely seem misplaced, but in a Regency romance it might be just right. Above all, a writer should strive to be consistent.​
     
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    Colorado.Rebecca

    New Member
    English
    Hi,

    which of the forms is correct? (... or can you use both?)

    " ... sentence ..." said he.
    " ... sentence ..." he said.

    (... where sentence is the sentence, he said.)

    (I learned, that the second is correct, but I heard the first form spoken by William Hartnell on a DVD.)

    Best regards
    Bernd
    I respectfully disagree that both are (grammatically) "correct," (whatever "correct" means to you). On one hand, English is an extremely flexible language and you can use any word order you want, stylistically. (Just ask E. E. Cummings.) On the other, English is an SVO (subject-verb-object) language, so placing the verb before the subject is ungrammatical. "Said Mitch" is odd; "said she," odder still. I take the point about Regency romance and I'm all about stretching language to its limit when skillfully done. Still, though, you're not going to write:

    "Kiss me!" whispered she.
    "With delight," murmured huskily he.
    Stormed Mitch into the room. "Not on my watch!" yelled with considerable force he.

    The previous response says "Above all, a writer should try to be consistent." I agree whole-heartedly. Inconsistency in matters such as punctuation and dialogue tags distracts and confuses the reader, which is the last thing you want. If you agree, use SVO order for all dialogue tags. If you disagree, go nuts. Your editor will change the word order for you. :)
     

    mamabookworm

    Senior Member
    English-United States
    I respectfully disagree that both are (grammatically) "correct," (whatever "correct" means to you). On one hand, English is an extremely flexible language and you can use any word order you want, stylistically. (Just ask E. E. Cummings.) On the other, English is an SVO (subject-verb-object) language, so placing the verb before the subject is ungrammatical. "Said Mitch" is odd; "said she," odder still. I take the point about Regency romance and I'm all about stretching language to its limit when skillfully done. Still, though, you're not going to write:

    "Kiss me!" whispered she.
    "With delight," murmured huskily he.
    Stormed Mitch into the room. "Not on my watch!" yelled with considerable force he.
    "said he" does invert the ordinary grammatical order of an English sentence, but that doesn't mean it's wrong. (To be clear: I would never use it unless I was trying to be archly poetic.) As Englishmypassion points out, speech tags often invert the usual grammatical order, as long as the verb is followed by a noun rather than by a pronoun (said the girl, asked the waiter...) Here's a discussion of the matter: Answer: Word Order for Dialog Tags That Use Pronouns

    Subject/verb inversions can appear in other constructions as well. For example, "After the proposal came the hugging and crying."
     

    Colorado.Rebecca

    New Member
    English
    "said he" does invert the ordinary grammatical order of an English sentence, but that doesn't mean it's wrong. (To be clear: I would never use it unless I was trying to be archly poetic.) As Englishmypassion points out, speech tags often invert the usual grammatical order, as long as the verb is followed by a noun rather than by a pronoun (said the girl, asked the waiter...) Here's a discussion of the matter: Answer: Word Order for Dialog Tags That Use Pronouns

    Subject/verb inversions can appear in other constructions as well. For example, "After the proposal came the hugging and crying."
    Sure, I agree with all that; that's pretty much what I was trying to say. (Although I would say "wrong," not wrong. It's English, the language of zero morphology and endless flexibility.) If you're writing an email or an academic paper, likely no one will notice or care. If you're writing a novel, however, it's best to be consistent with punctuation, including dialogue tags. Or not. Like I said, your editor will correct, sorry, I mean "correct," any verb-subject dialogue tags you decide to include.

    I agree with the article, too, particularly the last sentence: "Don't confuse your reader for no reason" (paraphrased). FTR, I am NOT okay with the dialogue tag "cooed," :eek: but that's another matter.

    But don't trust the ramblings of an internet stranger like me. Try to find a verb-subject dialogue tag in the next book you read. Assuming it's relatively modern and not self-published, I betcha you can't. :)

    PS: Not to point out the obvious, but your passive voice example is still SVO; the subject and object swap places in the passive voice but the verb isn't affected. Subject = "the proposal," Verb = "came," Object = "the hugging & crying." I'm just sayin.
     
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    mamabookworm

    Senior Member
    English-United States
    PS: Not to point out the obvious, but your passive voice example is still SVO; the subject and object swap places in the passive voice but the ve Subject = "the proposal," Verb = "came," Object = "the hugging & crying." I'm just sayin.
    Not to point out the obvious, but the sentence is not passive, nor is “the proposal” the subject of the verb “came.” “After the proposal” is a prepositional phrase modifying “came.” The subject of the sentence (and of the verb) is “hugging and crying,” as is clear if you write the sentence without the inversion: “The hugging and crying came after the proposal.” I’m just sayin’.
     

    Colorado.Rebecca

    New Member
    English
    Not to point out the obvious, but the sentence is not passive, nor is “the proposal” the subject of the verb “came.” “After the proposal” is a prepositional phrase modifying “came.” The subject of the sentence (and of the verb) is “hugging and crying,” as is clear if you write the sentence without the inversion: “The hugging and crying came after the proposal.” I’m just sayin’.
    :) Correct, that's a perfect description of passive voice. The subject becomes the object and vice versa. Change it to active and they flip again, just as you described. Use of the passive voice doesn't change English into an OVS language. English word order is relatively inflexible due to its lack of morphology, case markings in particular. Don't kill the messenger, but that word order is SVO, regardless of voice.

    If you're looking for a real OVS sentence, I proffer something like "Answer gave he none." I'd call this a highly unusual structure and not typical of modern English, but it's comprehensible. Thanks for the discussion!
     
    It's not very common and would have to be done for a reason. Using "he said" too often when writing a story and wanting something different is not a good reason. If that's the problem you're having, it's better to use other words in place of "said".

    ..., he stated.
    ..., he interjected.
    ..., he added.
    ..., he responded.
    ..., he answered.
    ..., he insisted.
    ..., he continued.
    etc.

    You'll occasionally see ..., he ejaculated, but I recommend you don't repeat this as there's a possibility of it being misunderstood.

    ejaculate v.,
    1. Physiology - to eject or discharge, esp. semen, from the body
    2. to utter suddenly and briefly; exclaim.
    (WR Dictionary)
     
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