Indirect speech in German
The indirect speech is used in order to report what somebody said. The indirect speech consist of a introduction and a dependent clause in the subjunctive I. There are some typical introductions like:
- Sie sagt(e), sie habe die Aufgabe alleine gelöst. (She said, she had solved all tasks alone)
- Sie meint(e), sie habe den Kuchen nicht alleine gegessen. (She said, she didn't eat the cake alone)
- Sie behauptet(e), dass der Regen braun gewesen sei. (She claimed, that the rain was brown)
- Er erklärt(e), dass alle Gespenster echt seien. (He explained, that all ghosts would be real)
- Er erzählt(e), dass er die beste Note habe. (He told, that he had the best grades)
- 1.Three steps how to form the direct speech into the indirect speech:
- 1.1.Change the pronoun, because you are talking about somebody
- 1.2.Use the subjunctive form of the verb
- 1.3.Sometimes you have to change the time and the place
- 2.Indirect speech within questions
- 3.Usage of subjunctive II in the indirect speech
Three steps how to form the direct speech into the indirect speech:
1. Change the pronoun, because you are talking about somebody
- Sie sagt: „Ich habe alle Aufgaben alleine gelöst“ (direct speech) - She said: "I solved all tasks alone"
- Sie sagt, sie habe die Aufgaben alleine gelöst. (indirect speech) - She said, she had solved all tasks alone
2. Use the subjunctive form of the verb
- Sie sagt: „Er hat alle Aufgaben alleine gelöst“ (direct speech) - She said: "He solved all tasks alone"
- Sie sagt, er habe die Aufgaben alleine gelöst. (indirect speech) - She said, that he had solved all tasks alone
3. Sometimes you have to change the time and the place
- Sie sagt: „Sie sind heute hier gewesen“ (direct speech) - She said: "They were here today"
- Sie sagt, sie seien gestern dort gewesen. (indirect speech) - She said, they have been there yesterday
We can build the indirect speech with or without a conjunction. But pay attention to the structure:
- Sie sagt, er habe die Aufgaben alleine gelöst. (direct speech) - She says, he had solved the taks alone
- Sie sagt, dass er alle Aufgaben alleine gelöst habe. (indirect speech) - She said, that he had solved all tasks alone
Indirect speech within questions
We form the indirect speech as a question by including the question word (for example "wie")
- Sie fragt: „Wie hat es geschmeckt?“ (direct speech) - She asks: "How did it taste?"
- Sie fragt, wie es geschmeckt habe. (indirect speech) - She asks, how it has tasted
Exactly, as in the topic of the indirect questions, we are also allowed to use the word "ob" at the position of the question word.
- Sie fragt: „Hat es geschmeckt?“ (direct speech) - She asks: "Did it taste good?"
- Sie fragt, ob es geschmeckt habe. (indirect speech) - She asks, whether it tasted good
Usage of subjunctive II in the indirect speech
In general we use the subjunctive I to form the indirect speech. But what is if the subjunctive I is identical to the indicative form of a verb? In this case we use the subjunctive II in order to differentiate the indirect speech from the direct speech.
- Sie sagte: „Sie haben viel zu Abend gegessen" (direct speech) - She said: "They ate too much for dinner"
- Sie sagte, sie haben viel zu Abend gegessen. (indirect speech with subjunctive I) - She said, they ate too much for dinner
- Sie sagte, sie hätten viel zu Abend gegessen. (indirect speech with subjunctive II) - She said, they had been eating too much for dinner
If the subjunctive II is still not different from the indicative, then you have to use "würde".
- Sie sagte: „Sie gehen viel“ - She said: "They walk a lot"
- Sie sagte, sie gingen viel. - She said, they walked a lot
- Sie sagte, sie würden viel gehen. - She said, they would walk a lot
You have learned about the indirect speech in German. Go on and deepen you knowledge with our interactive exercises.
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