Does placing a statement in quotes, invalidate the need to backshift?


Is it correct to say the following sentence:

A week ago I went to the shops to buy some butter and all of a sudden I saw that ‘two men are walking towards me’.

Here I used ‘are’ because the statement is inside the inverted commas. The same concept which is used in direct speech. Such as:

John said to Kate, “I am hungry”.

So is it correct to use 'are' in the aforementioned scenario?


Posted 2015-09-10T14:45:02.607

Reputation: 361

2Not to be picky, just trying to help: butter is an uncountable noun so 'a butter' should be either 'some butter' or 'a unit of butter'... Same rule that applies to other substances like water. – None – 2015-09-10T15:43:39.097



I saw that ‘two men are walking towards me’.

That is incorrect. It's wrong for more than one reason

  1. You would not say: John said to Kate that “I am hungry”.

So we should remove the word 'that'.

  1. I saw "Two men are walking towards me".

That is marginally better but not at all idiomatic because 'to see' is a subjective experience whereas quotes are used when relating an experience.

So you could say

I saw two men walking towards me.


I thought to myself, "Two men are walking towards me".

or stretching things

I realised, "Two men are walking towards me".

chasly - reinstate Monica

Posted 2015-09-10T14:45:02.607

Reputation: 4 332

1A question that should be on ELL really ought not to be answered here: it sends the wrong message, and deos not help the OP in any but the most individual sense. – None – 2015-09-10T15:09:57.883

@chaslyfromUK :What about the sentence : A week ago I was sleeping and when I woke up I noticed "The clock is not working." SO, is this sentence idiomatically correct ? – None – 2015-09-10T15:55:38.663

No it's not idiomatic. The only reason I entertained I realised, "Two men..." is that it could be interpreted as an internal dialog. I don't see any way that I noticed can describe a dialog. The only exception I can think of is if you saw a sign or note with the words, "The clock is not working." written on it. – chasly - reinstate Monica – 2015-09-10T16:01:14.170