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Reported Speech in French

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What is the reported speech in French ?

In French, we distinguish the same as in English, between direct (French: le discours direct) and indirect speech (French: le discours indirect). You use the indirect speech when you want to report words that someone said or thoughts. The content of the statement should be reproduced more logically with the use of indirect speech. 
The report requires some grammatical transformations.

examplesstylestranslations
il m'a dit: "je vais bien"direct he said: "I am fine"
il m'a dit qu'il allait bienindirecthe said to me that he was fine

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Recap: what is the direct speech in French ? 

In the direct speech, words are enclosed in quotation marks and without a linking term after the verb of speech. 

Examples: 

  • Il pense: "c'est dommage" (he thinks: "it is too bad")
  • Il dit 'peut être je devrais aller lui parler" (he says "maybe I should go talk to him")
  • Maman a dit "viens me voir tout de suite" (mom said "come see me right now")

Formation of the indirect speech in French 

In the indirect style, the words are connected to the verb of speech by a conjunction as:

  • 'que' in the indirect speech to assert something said in the direct speech
  • 'si' in the indirect speech to report a simple question (yes or no)
  • 'de' + infinitive in the indirect speech to report an imperative sentence
  • 'ce qui' or 'ce que' in the indirect speech to report a 'qu'est ce que/qui ?' or 'que' sentence
  • interrogative pronoun in the indirect speech to report an interrogative question 
usesdirect speech indirect speechtranslation
"que"Paul dit: "il pleut"Paul dit qu'il pleutPaul says that it is raining
"si"est ce que vous sortez ? il a demandé si vous sortezhe asked if you were going out
"de" + infinitiveviens maintenant!elle demande de venir maintenantshe wants you to come right now
"ce qui" or "ce que"qu'est ce qui se passe? il demande ce qui se passehe asks what is going on 
interrogative pronoun où allez-vous ?il demande où vous allezhe asks where you are going

The indirect speech is initiated by the following verbs: 

  • dire (to say)
  • demander (to ask)
  • répondre (to answer)
  • affirmer (to assert, affirm)
  • déclarer (to declare)
  • annoncer (to announce)
  • raconter (to tell)
  • expliquer (to explain)
  • prétendre (to pretend)
  • croire (to believe)
  • penser (to think)
  • ordonner (to order)

Grammatical rules of the indirect speech in French

As you know, the indirect speech is no longer in quotation marks and in colon, therefore the sentence will undergo grammatical transformations in relation with:

  • tenses
  • time markers
  • personal pronouns
  • possessive and demonstrative pronouns
  • possessive adjectives

Change of tenses

When the sentence that designates the speaker is in the present tense, the tense remains in the indirect speech:

direct speechindirect speech
Paul dit: "il pleut"Paul dit qu'il pleut

When the phrase that designates the speaker is in the past, the tense in the indirect speech change:

  • present → imperfect
  • future simple → conditional present
  • future perfect (futur antérieur) → past conditional 
  • completed past (passé composé) → pluperfect 
usesdirect speechindirect speechtranslation
present → imperfectil m'a dit: "je vais bien"il m'a dit qu'il allait bienhe told me that he was fine
future → conditional il m'a dit: 'je partirais"il m'a dit qu'il partiraithe told me that he would go
future perfect → past conditionalil m'a dit: "nous aurons terminé de faire nos devoirsil m'a dit qu'ils auraient terminé de faire leurs devoirshe told that they would have finished their homework
completed past → pluperfectil m'a dit: "j'ai appris ma leçon"il m'a dit qu'il avait appris sa leçonhe told that he has learned his lesson 

Change in time markers

You always keep the previous tenses matched but these changes are useful in narrations when doing indirect speech. 

direct speechindirect speech
aujourd'hui (today)ce jour-là (that day)
hier (yesterday)la veille (last night)
demain (tomorrow)le lendemain (the next day)
le jour prochain (the following day)le jour suivant (the next day)

Examples: 

  • Elle pensait: "je vais aller faire les courses demain" → Elle pensait qu'elle allait faire les courses le lendemain(She thought that she would go shopping the next day)
  • Le juge a dit: "vous ne sortirez pas aujourd'hui" → Le juge a dit qu'il ne sortirait pas ce jour-là(The judge said that he will not go out on that day)
  • Mon père a dit "hier, j'ai acheté un cadeau pour ta mère" → Mon père a dit qu'il avait acheté un cadeau pour ma mère, la veille(My father said that he had bought a gift for my mother, last night)
  • Elle m'a dit: "mardi prochain, je vais à Londres" → Elle m'a dit qu'elle allais à Londres, le mardi suivant(She told me that she was going to London, next Tuesday)

​Change in personal pronouns 

In the indirect style the tense stays the same, but you have to be logical with the situation. When the speaker talks about himself, you logically use the 3rd personal pronoun and as the others pronouns.

Examples

direct speechindirect speechtranslation
elle m'a dit: "je pense aller lui parler"elle m'a dit qu'elle pensait aller lui parlershe told me that she was thinking about going to talk to him
il m'a raconté: "nous sommes sortis avec eux"il m'a raconté qu'ils étiez sortis avec euxhe told me that they were out with them
il m'a demandé: "vous viendrez aussi ?"il m'a dit si nous viendrions aussihe asked me if we would come too 
elle m'a demandé: "tu vas partir en vacances ?"elle m'a demandé si j'allais partir en vacancesshe asked me if I will go in holidays

Change in demonstrative pronouns 

In the indirect speech, you use a demonstrative pronoun to report what the speaker has said. 

direct speechindirect speechtranslation
il m'a dit: "je n'ai plus ce jouet"il m'a dit qu'il n'avais plus ce jouet-làhe told me that he did not have that toy anymore
elle a dit: "cet enfant est malin"elle a dit que cet enfant-là était malinshe said that this child was wise
elle a dit: "je vais régler ce problème"elle a dit qu'elle réglerait ce problème-she said that she will fix the problem

Change in possessive adjectives and pronouns 

In the indirect speech, you use a possessive pronoun and adjectives to report what is said. In this case, you also have to logically adapt to the situation just like the personal pronouns. 

direct speechindirect speechtranslation
il m'a demandé: 'tu pourrais me rendre mon livre ?"il m'a demandé si je pouvais lui rendre son livrehe asked if I could give him back his book
elle m'a dit: "je suis dans votre maison"elle m'a dit qu'elle était dans notre maisonshe told that the she were in our house
elle m'a dit: "cette robe est à moi"elle m'a dit que cette robe-là était le sienshe told me that this dress was hers
nous avons dit: "nous avons volé votre repas"nous avons dit que nous avions volé leur repaswe said that we had stolen their meal

yes Keep your motivation and test your knowledge about the indirect speech with our exercises.


Exercises

  1. Fill in the blank exercise for the reported speech with change of tenses and personal pronouns in French
  2. Fill in the blanks exercise about the reported speech with change of time markers in French
  3. Fill in the blank exercise of the reported speech with change in demonstrative, possessive pronouns in French
  4. Fill in the blank exercise for the formation of the reported speech in French

Fill in the blank exercise for the reported speech with change of tenses and personal pronouns in French


Fill in the blanks exercise about the reported speech with change of time markers in French


Fill in the blank exercise of the reported speech with change in demonstrative, possessive pronouns in French


Fill in the blank exercise for the formation of the reported speech in French


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