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Reported Speech in Spanish

It is very important to learn how to report the sayings of one person to a third party in any foreign language. This is a  typical daily situation which we encounter over and over again. 

As in English, there are two ways to report the declaration of someone else in Spanish: direct way and indirect way. The first one is called the direct speech and the latter is called the indirect speech or the reported speech. 

Governing the reported speech is of course more complicated than governing the direct speech. Because if you choose the express the quotaton in a direct way, you simply take the sentence of the person and put it in the quotation mark without having to make any change

For example

Carlos dice “leo un libro” Carlos says “he reads a book”.

In the indirect version, you need to say

Carlos dice que lee un libro

Hence, the indirect speech is expressed by using “que” in Spanish. Also note that the verb “leer” is conjugated in accordance with the subject pronoun, singular third person. This is the case if present tense is used.

On the other hand if past tenses are used you need to be careful. Because further changes are necessary. The following classification can be used to decide which tense shall be used with the indirect speech. 

If in the direct speech present or imperfect is used, use imperfect in the indirect speech.

If in the direct speech preterite or pluperfect is used, use pluperfect in the indirect speech.

If in the direct speech future or conditional is used, use conditional in the indirect speech.

If in the direct speech future perfect or conditional perfect is used, use conditional perfect in the indirect speech.

Rosa preguntó  " ¿Dónde está el libro? " (Rosa asked "where the book is)

Rosa preguntó donde estaba el libro (Rosa asked where the book was)

Note also that the two sentences were joined this time using the relative pronoun donde. 

Examples of words which are used frequently in reported speech are given below

decir to say

contestar  to answer

declarer to declare

explicar to explain

pretender to claim

proclamar  to announce

insistir  to insist

preguntar to ask


Let us take a break from the reported speech and learn some idioms 

A otro perro con ese hueso (You are pulling my leg)

El hijo de la gato, ratones mata (Like father like son)

Mientras que en mi casa estoy, rey soy (A man’s home is his castle)

La carne de burro no es transparente (I can't see through you)

Antes que te cases mira lo que haces (Look before you leap)

Let's Practice

Change the following to reported speech 

All Exercises