Guide to Indirect and Direct Speech in French

guide to indirect and direct speech how and when to use them

In French, you have two main ways of getting your point across or expressing what someone has said, reported speech and indirect speech. Indirect speech is used to report what someone said without repeating their exact words. And direct speech is used in the opposite way, you convey what someone said using their exact words. But when would you use each of them correctly?

How to Use Indirect Speech?

As we briefly mentioned in the introduction to this lesson, indirect speech is used to express what someone said without saying their exact words, you might want to use it to paraphrase a quote or a brief summary of what was said. The sentences using indirect speech useque to introduce the indirect action.

This speech mode is not as simple as the direct one. There is a certain number of verbs, also known as reporting verbs, that can be used to introduce indirect speech sentences.

Fatima affirme que les choses vont changer.

Fatima says that things are going to change.

Il crie que des fourmis se baladent sur lui.

He screams he has ants all over him.

Elles expliquent que les classes sont difficiles.

They explain that the classes are difficult.

Direct Speech in French

Contrary to indirect speech, direct speech is easier to use and form. You use it to quote word by word what was said by another person. This speech is usually introduced by quotation marks.

Ma plus jeune fille dit : “Je vais être ecrivaine”.

My youngest daughter says: “I’m going to be a writer”.

Ta mére nous dit toujours : “Je suis très fier de vous deux”.

Your mother always tells us: “I am very proud of you two”.

Sa soeur prononce au milieu du dejeuner: “J’ai tombé enceinte.”

His sister utters in the middle of lunch: “I got pregnant.”

How to Turn Direct Speech into Indirect Speech in French?

Indirect speech is in fact a little more complicated than direct speech because there are certain details that you have to keep in mind if you want to go back and forth between the two of them.

  • The personal pronouns may need to be changed.
    • Direct Speech:

David déclare a son épouse: “Je veux voir la mer”.

David says to his wife: “I want to see the sea”.

    • Indirect Speech:

David déclare qu’il veut voir la mer.

David says that he wants to see the sea.

  • You might need to change some verb conjugations to agree with the subject.
    • Direct Speech:

Silvie a dit: “Je veux voir ma mère.”

Silvie said: “I want to see my mother.”

    • Indirect Speech:

Silvie dit qu’elle veut voir sa mère.

Silvie says she wants to see her mother.

  • If the main clause is in the past tense, the tense of the subordinate clause needs to change.
    • Direct Speech

Theo a déclaré : “Je veux jouer au foot.”

Theo said: “I want to play soccer.”

    • Indirect Speech

Theo a déclaré qu’il voulait jouer au foot.

Theo said he wanted to play soccer.

You’re Ready to Use the Reported Speech in French

As we come to the end of this lesson, we hope you feel ready to use this important tool to express, quote, or even paraphrase what someone else said. With this lesson, the techniques, and the examples we’ve presented, you can start communicating everything you need to get your point across with ease. Remember that practice makes perfect and that we have all the tools you need to speak and write French like a native speaker.

Learn more about: Finally Learn which French Verbs Take Direct or Indirect Object

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