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I'm trying to search for a phrase containing quotes but as the quotes is what Gmail uses to delimit the exact phrase filter, it closes before it can.

For instance

I need to search for the exact phrase:

and then james said "come here"

Issue is when I put that around quotes

"and then james said "come here""

It creates two exact phrases search:

  1. and then james said
  2. come here

Which doesn't work for me.

Is there any way to escape the "?

On programming languages we usually have a escape character like \ that you add before the character you want to escape, so it would be something like:

"and then james said \"come here\""
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The simple answer is that you can't search for a quotation mark. You also can't search for a lot of other punctuation. From my experience Gmail interprets most punctuation as a space and anything joined by punctuation to indicate that the strings should be side by side. In fact multiple spaces are not an issue it is the strings that Gmail seems to focus on.

Perhaps that doesn't matter. Do you really need to find the quotes specifically? Is there a concern about false positives such as

     and then james said come here

Your search could be any of

    "and then james said come here"
    
    "and then james said .come here"

    "and then james said..come        here.."

You could drop the quotation marks entirely and use periods to search for the terms as a group

    and.then.james.said.come.here

Basically they all say the same thing: Search result must contain ALL these strings and they must ALL side by side in this order.

Let me know if I can help further.

Note about your question

Issue is when I put that around quotes

"and then james said "come here""

It creates two exact phrases search:

  1. and then james said
  2. come here

This is not actually accurate

what it creates is 1 exact phrase 'and then james said' then also looks for 2 words: "come" and "here" which can be anywhere.

The following could be successfully returned:

Here lies James. 6 feet below. Dad said come, and then James said no.
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I have not tried this myself but even though it would not be as exact as being able to search on an exact phrase that already contains quotes in part, but have you tried seeing if you could get the same functional result by setting up a search for "and then James said" AND "come here"?

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