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Reported speech I: Italian grammar lesson 159

Reported speech: Explained

Reported speech, also know as indirect speech (discorso indiretto), is when you “report” to someone what someone else said. Of course, you can always do this by using the form:

  • Mario ha detto: “Sono stanco”. (Mario said: “I am tired”.)

But this is not really how you actually talk, is it?

Instead, you’d say:

  • Mario said he’s tired. Mario ha detto che è stanco.

In Italian, just as in English and other languages, you need to make various changes to the words you are “reporting”. Mainly, you’ll have to change the tense of the speech, but you may also need to change pronouns and adverbs of place and time.

Let’s look at the rules then!

he said that in Italian

Reported speech: Tenses

First of all, let’s talk about verb tenses.

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The verb that introduces the speech can be in the present, both if the speech is about the present:

  • “Sono stanca”.
    Maria dice che è stanca.

or the past:

  • “Sono andata a correre” (Maria says: “I went running”.)
    Maria dice che è andata a correre. (Maria says that she went running.)

As you can see, in this case the tenses used in the reported speech do not need to change.

However, if the verb that introduces the speech is in the past, then the tenses within the speech will have to change. Here is how:

The present becomes imperfect or subjunctive imperfect

  • Sono stanca” (“I am tired”)
    Maria ha detto che era stanca. (Maria said she was tired.)

The passato prossimo becomes trapassato prossimo (past perfect)

  • Sono andata a fare la spesa.”
    Maria ha detto che era andata a fare la spesa.
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The imperfect doesn’t change

  • Ero stanca.”
    Maria ha detto che era stanca.

The past perfect doesn’t change

  • Avevo finito di lavorare.”
    Maria ha detto che aveva finito di lavorare.

The future becomes conditional past

  • Farò il medico da grande.”
    Marco ha detto che avrebbe fatto il medico da grande.

The imperative becomes infinitive

  • Vai a casa!”
    Maria mi ha detto di andare a casa.

discorso indiretto

Reported speech: Pronoun and Adverbs

When reporting sentences, of course you will have to change other elements as well as the verb tense.

Here are pronouns and some adjectives:

Io/tu = lui/lei
noi/voi =
 loro
mio/tuo =
 suo
nostro/vostro =
 loro
mi/ti =
 le/gli/lo/la
ci/vi =
 gli
questo =
 quello

Here are some adverbs and their equivalents in reported speech.

qui/qua = lì/là
ora/adesso
= allora
oggi =
 quel giorno
ieri =
 il giorno prima
domani =
 il giorno dopo
scorso =
 precedente/prima
fra (un mese) =
 dopo (un mese)

Reported speech: Examples

  • “Non voglio andare alla festa domani.” (“I don’t want to go to the party tomorrow.”)
    Maria ha detto che non sarebbe voluta andare alla festa il giorno dopo. (Maria said she did not want to go to the party the day after.)
  • “Stamattina mi sentivo stanco.” (“This morning I felt tired.”)
    Giorgio ha detto che quella mattina si sentiva stanco. (Giorgio said that that morning he had felt tired.)
  • “La settimana scorsa siamo andati al mare.” (“Last week we went to the seaside.”)
    Hanno detto che la settimana prima erano andati al mare. (They said that the week before they had gone to the seaside.)
To practice Reported speech I: Italian grammar lesson 159, take lesson
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