In both English and Spanish, we often find ourselves reporting or recounting what others have said. This can be achieved through two methods: direct speech and indirect speech.
Direct speech is when we repeat exactly what someone said, usually enclosed in quotation marks or introduced by a colon. It reproduces the exact words spoken by someone, as if quoting them.
- María dijo: “Estoy cansada.” (Maria said: “I am tired.”)
Indirect or reported speech, on the other hand, involves reporting what someone said but without using the exact words. Instead, we change the tense and pronouns as needed to fit the context of the report. In Spanish, indirect speech often involves the use of the subjunctive mood.
- María dijo que estaba cansada. (Maria said that she was tired.)
When converting direct speech to indirect speech in Spanish, the tenses often shift in a process called “consecutio temporum”. The present becomes the imperfect, the preterite becomes the pluperfect, and so on.
Direct: Ella dijo, “Voy al cine.” (She said, “I am going to the cinema.”)
Indirect: Ella dijo que iba al cine. (She said she was going to the cinema.)
Changing Pronouns and Adverbs
When we switch from direct to indirect speech, it’s also necessary to change pronouns and adverbs to keep the sentence’s meaning.
Direct: Él dijo, “Yo hice mi tarea aquí.” (He said, “I did my homework here.”)
Indirect: Él dijo que él había hecho su tarea allí. (He said he had done his homework there.)
In conclusion, mastering direct and indirect speech in Spanish is crucial for communication, particularly when relating narratives or reporting the words of others. As always, practice is key: the more you use these structures, the more natural they’ll feel.
Check out our series of Complete Spanish Grammar articles – everything you’ll ever need to know about Spanish grammar.
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