Direct Speech vs. Indirect Speech  

Reporting what someone says

Reporting what someone has said can be a difficult task in a foreign language. The first question to ask yourself is: did the speaker give information or ask for a favor? For example, let's imagine that my neighbor Joe says, "There's a mouse in my house." He has just given me information. Now, if Joe says, "Give me a mousetrap," he is asking for a favor.

It is important to distinguish between the two because it will determine how I report what Joe said to a third party. For example, let us now imagine that my friend Ben didn't hear Joe and he asks me what he said. For the first sentence I would respond, "Joe said that there was a mouse in his house." The second sentence would require a different form, "Joe told me to give him a mousetrap."

Likewise, indirect speech in Spanish requires a different form for reporting information and a favor. Let's look at the same sentences in Spanish:

Direct: Juan dice, "“hay un ratón en mi casa”".
Indirect: Juan dijo que había un ratón en su casa.

Direct: Juan says, "There is a mouse in my house."
Indirect: Juan said that there was a mouse in his house.

Direct: Juan dice, "dame una ratonera".
Indirect: Juan me dijo que le diera una ratonera.

Direct: Juan says, "Give me a mousetrap."
Indirect: Juan told me that I (should) give him a mousetrap.

When reporting information in Spanish two changes occur: first, the tense changes from the present (e.g. dice, hay) to the past (e.g. dijo, había). Secondly, que must be used to separate the first verb-subject combination (e.g. Juan dijo) and the information (e.g. había un ratón en la casa). Here are some more examples:

Direct: Ana dice, "quiero un refresco".
Indirect: Ana dijo que quería un refresco.

Direct: Ana says, "I want a soft drink."
Indirect: Ana said that she wanted a soft drink.

Direct: José dice, "leo tres horas por día".
Indirect: José dijo que leía tres horas por día.

Direct: Jose says, "I read three hours a day."
Indirect: Jose said that he read three hours a day.

Reporting a favor is a more complicated matter. In addition to the changes made when reporting information, you must use the past subjunctive to express the favor that has been asked (e.g. diera) and, in most cases, you will need to add an object pronoun (e.g. le). Here are some more examples:

Direct: Ana dice, "cómprame un refresco".
Indirect: Ana me dijo que le comprara un refresco.

Direct: Ana says, "Buy me a soft drink."
Indirect: Ana told me to buy her a soft drink.

Direct: José dice, "léeme una historia".
Indirect: José me dijo que le leyerauna historia.

Direct: Jose says, "Read me a story."
Indirect: Jose asked me to read him a story.

Pronunciation guide to the Spanish alphabet



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