From IFWiki

A conversation system that relies primarily on the use of the verbs "ask" and "tell"; as in >ASK PETER ABOUT THE CORPSE or >TELL PETER ABOUT INCOME TAX. This system is supported by default in Inform, but it often produces the impression of a disjointed conversation, since the NPC with whom one is conversing tends to retain no knowledge of the conversation state. The most prevalent alternative is menu-based conversation.

-- Emily Short