This might be a strange question but basically I am wondering the following:

If I wish to integrate a quotation into my sentence and in the original text there is a "the" or "a" or "that" before the start of the bit I want to quote directly but the same words are also those I wish to use in my sentence grammatically, do I need to include the "the" or "a" or "that" in the quotation?

To give an example if the original sentence is "I hereby declare that time is relative". Can I then say in my sentence: After Einstein paused for a second he explained that "time is relative". Or am I bound to include the "that" as well? The thing is I have kind of seen both in the writings of historians (that is my academic field) it seems (not with "that" I think but with "a" and "the" for sure, meaning that some include it in the quotations and others don't). And what about "that a" or "that the" being before the bit I wish to quote?


P.S: Cross-posted here: https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/607749/when-i-integrate-a-quotation-into-my-sentence-can-i-decide-where-i-start-end-th?noredirect=1#comment1535287_607749

1 Answer 1


No, you don't have to include a preceding word just because it exists in the original and is the same as the word you want to use. The same goes for two or more words.

This is fine:

After Einstein paused for a second he explained that "time is relative".

This looks weird:

After Einstein paused for a second he explained "that time is relative".

In fact, in this example, it is not just weird. It even makes it sounds like he was talking about THAT time in particular, whatever THAT time was. So you should definitely not do this.

Make sure your quotations are accurate, and don't give a misleading impression about what the original person said, and make sure your own writing around the quotation sounds natural and makes sense.

  • 1
    Just to clarify: The key thing is to make sure the quotation and its meaning in the overall sentence is correctly represented. Beyond that, whether or not I include one or two words that precede the quotation is up to me? And sorry for the bad example. Had to come up with something quickly:)
    – IbnZubeira
    Commented May 19, 2023 at 14:20
  • Yes, I think those are the key things. As you are careful about things like this, I predict that your writing is probably better than plenty of other people in your field!
    – gib
    Commented May 19, 2023 at 14:24
  • Thanks! Yes, I think these key things I do. Just want to make sure I do everything correctly when quoting:)
    – IbnZubeira
    Commented May 19, 2023 at 14:33

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