Telling someone don't or telling someone not to


I told Jim not to shout.

I told Jim don't shout.

Could anyone possibly tell me what is the difference between these? And which one would you rather use?


Posted 2014-03-10T11:09:28.053

Reputation: 5 551



The first is indirect discourse: it reports the content of what you said, not your actual words.

The second is direct discourse, reporting your actual words, and should be pointed with quotation marks:

I told Jim, "Don’t shout!"

StoneyB on hiatus

Posted 2014-03-10T11:09:28.053

Reputation: 176 469

If your actual words to Jim were "Don't shout.", you can quote them as @StoneyB said (you can use either form). Otherwise, you must use the first form ("I told Jim not to shout."), as you don't want to misquote yourself. – Phil Perry – 2014-03-10T14:49:30.623


To answer your second question: if I thought I had said something especially clever, I would quote it directly as in your second example. If I simply wanted someone to understand what I told him, I'd use the indirect example. Therefore, since I am a humble and self-effacing soul, I would prefer the usage in your first example. :)


Posted 2014-03-10T11:09:28.053

Reputation: 13 000