For someone who is not a grammar fan, the term “Spanish reported speech” may sound as mysterious as the dark side of the Moon. What hides behind it, however, is quite straightforward and easy to grasp.
Imagine you’re at a party. The music is so loud that you can hardly hear what other people are saying. The fact that you’re deaf in one ear does not help things.
You’re trying to establish a conversation with that nice-looking girl you’ve had your eye on all night. Luckily, a friend of yours, who does not suffer from impaired hearing, offers to give you a hand.
“I’m Mike. What’s your name?” – is what you are shouting, but the girl can’t hear you.
So, your friend comes to the rescue: “He says he’s Mike and wants to know what your name is”.
That first sentence, articulated by the main speaker, is an example of the so-called “direct speech” o “discurso director”, in Spanish.
The second one, in which an intermediate (a friend, a journalist, a lawyer, etc.) reports on what you just said is nothing other than reported speech, called “discurso reportado o indirecto” in Spanish.
Spanish Reported Speech – Common Reporting Verbs
Let’s go back to our example of reported speech for a second. Pay attention to how Mike’s friend introduces his sentences: “He says…”
“To say” is one of the most common reporting verbs in English.
How about Spanish? Below you’ll find a list of verbs and expressions that will come extremely handy when reporting on someone else’s words:
- decir – to say / to tell
- pedir – to ask (for something)
- indicar – to indicate
- sugerir– to suggest
- aclarar– to clarify
- asegurar – to assure
- anunciar– to announce
- quejarse / reclamar – to complain
- explicar – to explain
- preguntar– to ask (if)
- contestar – to answer / to respond
- querer saber– to want to know
- preguntarse– to wonder
These verbs can be used either in present or in past and you’ll have to conjugate them accordingly.
Here are a few ideas of how you can start your sentence in Spanish reported speech.
🇪🇸 Pedro dice / dijo …
🇬🇧 Pedro says / said…
🇪🇸 Tu papá pregunta / preguntó…
🇬🇧 Your dad is asking / asked…
🇪🇸 El doctor sugiere / sugirió…
🇬🇧 The doctor suggests / suggested…
🇪🇸 El gobierno indica / indicó…
🇬🇧 The government indicates / indicated…
🇪🇸 Tu mamá pide / pidió que…
🇬🇧 Your mom is asking (you) / asked (you) to …
🇪🇸 Nos gustaría saber…
🇬🇧 We’d like to know…
🇪🇸 ¿Puedes / podrías aclarar…
🇬🇧 Can / could you clarify…
🇪🇸 Me pregunto…
🇬🇧 I wonder…
🇪🇸 El cliente reclama / reclamó…
🇬🇧 The customer is complaining / complained …
Of course, you can adjust the subject freely according to what is logical for your sentence.
Picking a verbal tense for reported speech in Spanish – present or past – brings consequences regarding the rest of your sentence.
Keep reading to see what they are.
🇪🇸 Test Your Spanish Knowledge 🇪🇸
Spanish Reported Speech – Talking About What People Say
ReSpanish Reported Speech in Positive or Negative Statements
When you want to report on simple affirmative or negative ideas with the verb “dice” in the present tense, all you have to remember is to adjust the verb conjugation, just like in the examples below.
The verbal tenses used in your original sentence remain the same.
🇪🇸 “Necesito descansar” – Mi mamá dice que necesita descansar.
🇬🇧 “I need to rest” – My mom says she needs to rest.
🇪🇸 “Estoy muy preocupado” – Pedro dice que está muy preocupado.
🇬🇧 “I’m very worried” – Pedro says he is very worried.
🇪🇸 “No queda leche.” – Juan see queja que no queda leche.
🇬🇧 “There is no milk left” – Juan complains (that) there is no milk left.
🇪🇸 “Ayer fui al dentista” – El abuelo dice que ayer fue al dentista.
🇬🇧 “I went to the dentist’s yesterday” – Grandpa says he went to the dentist the day before.
🇪🇸 “Vamos a casarnos.” – Ana y Miguel anuncian que se van a casar.
🇬🇧 “We are going to get married” – Ana and Miguel announce they are going to get married.
Spanish Reported Speech in Yes / No Questions
“Do you drink coffee?”, “Are you upset?”, “Can you help me?” – these are examples of the so-called closed questions. You can easily recognize them, as the only logical answer to them is “yes” or “no”.
Turning closed questions into reported speech is a little tricky in English, as it requires you to eliminate the auxiliary and switch from interrogative word order to affirmative.
In Spanish, however, there is no such need. Why? Well, to start with, there are no auxiliaries for present actions. Besides, closed questions in Spanish have the same word order as affirmative sentences, but a different intonation.
All you’ll have to do this time is to add the word “SI” (“IF”) to connect your main question with the introductory expression, just like in the examples below:
🇪🇸 “¿Tienes hambre?” – Alex pregunta si tienes hambre.
🇬🇧 “Are you hungry?” – Alex asks if you are hungry.
🇪🇸 “¿Hay un cajero por aquí?” – Quisiera saber si hay un cajero por aquí.
🇬🇧 “Is there an ATM nearby?” – I’d like to know if there is an ATM nearby.
🇪🇸 “¿Te gustan los mariscos?” – Mi mamá se pregunta si te gustan los mariscos.
🇬🇧 “Do you like seafood?” – My mom wonders if you like seafood.
🇪🇸 “¿Has leído algo de Dickens?” – La maestra pregunta si has leído algo de Dickens.
🇬🇧 “Have you read something by Dickens?” – The teacher asks if you’ve read something by Dickens.
Spanish Reported Speech in Open Questions
“Where do you live?”, “What’s your name?”, “When are you coming?” – you can’t answer “yes” or “no” to questions like that. They require specific information according to the “WH-” word that comes at the beginning.
Questions like that are called “open”. To report on them in Spanish, you keep their original form (as long as you are using reporting verbs in present). Just make sure that you know all the necessary question words in Spanish.
🇪🇸 “¿Dónde está el mesón del servicio al cliente?” – ¿Me puede decir dónde está el mesón del servicio al cliente?
🇬🇧 “Where is the customer service counter?” – Can you tell me where the customer service counter is?
🇪🇸 ¿Cómo llegar a este lugar?” – ¿Me puede explicar cómo llegar a este lugar?
🇬🇧 “How do I get to this place?” – Can you tell me how to get to that place?
🇪🇸 ¿Quién está a cargo aquí?” – ¿Me puede aclarar quién está a cargo aquí?
“Who’s in charge here?” – Can you clarify who is in charge here?
🇪🇸 “¿Cuándo llega el abuelo?” – Mamá, ¡dime cuando llega el abuelo!
🇬🇧 “When is grandpa coming?” – Mom, tell me when grandpa is coming!
Have you noticed how the last question changed into the imperative mood? That’s because “¡Dime!” is a command, not a question.
Spanish Reported Speech – Talking About What People Said
When your reporting verb is in past, you have to adjust the verbal tense of the original message, according to the “One-Step-Back” rule.
The table below shows the way this rule works for different tenses:
Reporting On Present Actions or Conditions
🇪🇸 “Tengo miedo” – Mi hermana dijo que tenía miedo.
🇬🇧 “I’m scared” – My sister said she was scared.
🇪🇸 “Estoy muy orgulloso de tí” – Tu papá dijo que estaba muy orgulloso de tí.
🇬🇧 “I’m very proud of you” – Your father said he was very proud of you.
🇪🇸 “Hay un problema” – Alex dijo que había un problema.
🇬🇧 “There is a problem” – Alex said there was a problem.
🇪🇸 “Voy a salir” – Pedro dijo que iba a salir.
🇬🇧 “I’m going out” – Pedro said he was going out.
🇪🇸 “Necesito ayuda” – Mi prima dijo que necesitaba ayuda.
🇬🇧 “I need help” – My cousin said she needed help.
🔔 Note that “prima” refers to a girl. A male cousin would be “primo” in Spanish. If you’d like to review the vocabulary related to family members in Spanish, feel welcome to read my post about that topic.
Reporting On Future Actions or Conditions
🇪🇸 “Un día serás un gran hombre” – Mi papá prometió que un día sería un gran hombre.
🇬🇧 “One day you’ll be a great man” – My dad promised that one day I would be a great man.
🇪🇸 “Tu abuela se pondrá muy contenta” – Ella dijo que mi abuela se pondría muy contenta.
🇬🇧 “Your granny will get very happy” – She said my granny would get very happy.
🇪🇸 “Él será nuestro nuevo presidente” – Escuché que él sería nuestro nuevo presidente.
🇬🇧 “He’ll be our next president” – I heard he’d be our next president.
🇪🇸 “¿Adónde irás si hay un ataque zombie?” – Mi hijo preguntó adónde iría si hubiera un ataque zombie.
🇬🇧 “Where will you go if there is a zombie attack?” – My son asked where I’d go if there was a zombie attack.
🇪🇸 “¿Qué harás si te asaltan?” – Preguntó qué haría si me asaltaran.
🇬🇧 “What will you do if you get mugged?” – He/ she asked what I’d do if I got mugged.
If you pay close attention, you’ll realize that the last 2 examples are in fact conditional sentences.
🔔 According to the “one-step-back rule”, the 1st (realistic) conditional gets replaced with the 2nd (hypothetical) conditional.
Reporting On Past Actions or Conditions
If you have read my previous grammar posts, you’ll know that there are four different Past Tenses in Spanish: Pretérito Indefinido, Pretérito Perfecto, Imperfecto, and Pluscuamperfecto.
Luckily, turning them into reported speech in Spanish is easier than you might think.
Pretérito Indefinido in Spanish Reported Speech
🔔 Just like in English, the Spanish Simple Past tense gets converted to Past Perfect (Pluscuamperfecto). Here is a bunch of examples to show you how it is done:
🇪🇸 “Anoche fuimos al cine” – Dijeron (ellos/ellas) que la noche anterior habían ido al cine.
🇬🇧 “We went to the movies last night” – They said they had gone to the movies the night before.
🇪🇸 “Te lo entregué ayer” – Sandra dijo que te lo había entregado el día anterior.
🇬🇧 “There is a problem” – Alex said there was a problem.
🇪🇸 “Nos casamos en 2020” – Luis dijo que se había casado con su señora en 2020.
🇬🇧 “We got married in 2020” – Luis said he had married his wife in 2020.
🇪🇸 “Cuándo te mudaste aquí?” – La vecina preguntó cuándo me había mudado allá.
🇬🇧 “When did you move here? – The neighbor asked when I had moved there.
🇪🇸 “No te vi” – Ella dijo que no te había visto.
🇬🇧 “I didn’t see you” – She said she hadn’t seen you.
Have you noticed how “anoche” changes to “la noche anterior” and “ayer” to “ el día anterior”. Paying attention to such details is what differentiates a B-level student from a C-level one.
Pretérito Perfecto in Spanish Reported Speech
Pretérito Perfecto is the Spanish equivalent of Present Perfect. And guess what?
When reporting on an action in this verbal tense, you’ll also transform it into Pluscuamperfecto.
🇪🇸 “Te he comprado un regalo” – Dijiste que me habías comprado un regalo.
🇬🇧 “I’ve bought you a gift” -You said you had bought me a gift.
🇪🇸 “Aún no he almorzado” – Raúl se quejó de que aún no había almorzado.
🇬🇧 “I haven’t had lunch yet” – Raúl complained he hadn’t had lunch yet.
🇪🇸 “Las ventas han bajado últimamente” – El gerente informó que las ventas habían bajado últimamente.
🇬🇧 “The sales have dropped lately” – The manager reported that the sales had dropped lately.
🇪🇸 “¿Has terminado por hoy?” – Queríamos saber si ya habías terminado por hoy.
🇬🇧 “Have you finished for today?” – We wanted to know if you had finished for today.
🇪🇸 “¿Alguna vez te han asaltado?” – Luis preguntó si alguna vez me habían asaltado.
🇬🇧 “Have you ever been mugged?” – Luis asked if I had ever been mugged.
🔔 If you pay close attention, you’ll realize that the last 2 examples are, again, Spanish conditionals. Don’t forget to apply the correct “one-step-back” rule!
Pretérito Imperfecto in Spanish Reported Speech
As you (hopefully) know, Pretérito Imperfecto describes past habits, routines, and other repetitive actions from the past.
🔔 Given that “repetitive” aspect, it steps into the reported speech unchanged. Trying to replace it with Pluscuamperfecto would make it sound like a single, one-time event or action.
🇪🇸 “Antes fumaba mucho” – Lucas dijo que antes fumaba mucho.
🇬🇧 “I used to smoke a lot” – Lucas said he used to smoke a lot.
🇪🇸 “Veía esta serie cuando era niña” – Ignacia dijo que veía esa serie cuando era niña.
🇬🇧 “I used to watch this series as a kid” – Ignacia said she used to watch that series as a kid.
🇪🇸 “A tu edad no tenía celular” – Mi madre dijo que a mi edad no tenía celular.
🇬🇧 “I didn’t have a cell phone at your age” – My mom said she didn’t have a cell phone at my age.
🇪🇸 “¿Con qué jugabas cuando chico?” – Quería saber con que jugabas cuando era chico.
🇬🇧 “What did you play with as a child?” – I wanted to know what you played with as a child.
🇪🇸 “¿Tu mamá te leía cuentos?” – Enrique preguntó si mi mamá me leía cuentos.
🇬🇧 “Would your mom read you tales?” – Enrique asked if my mother would read me tales.
Spanish Reported Speech – The Imperative Mood
In one of my recent posts, I explained what imperative mood is and how it is created in Spanish. It’s loaded with examples and you are more than welcome to use it as your reference.
How do commands expressed in the imperative mood behave when reported on?
In English, all you do is to drop the imperative and replace it with “TO” + infinitive:
🇬🇧 “Wash your hands”
🇬🇧 Mom is asking me to wash my hands.
🇬🇧 Mom told me to wash my hands.
It couldn’t get any easier, could it?
Unfortunately, converting the imperative mood into reported speech in Spanish is slightly more complex than that. Have a look:
🇪🇸 “Lávate las manos”.
🇪🇸 La mamá me dice que me lave las manos.
🇪🇸 La mamá me dijo que me lavara las manos.
“Lave”? “Lavara? Do you recognize these verb forms?
That’s right. They are present and past subjunctive (subjuntivo). The Spanish subjunctive is used in a variety of situations, one of them being the reported speech.
Do you want to see more examples of how to report on simple commands or prohibitions?
Here you go:
Reporting on Commands With The Reporting Verb in Present
🇪🇸 “Traigan sus libros mañana” – La maestra pide que traigamos nuestros libros mañana.
🇬🇧 “Bring your books tomorrow” – The teacher is asking us to bring our books tomorrow.
🇪🇸 “Ven a verme a mi oficina” – El jefe dice que vayas a verlo a su oficina.
🇬🇧 “Come see me in my office” – The boss tells you to go see him in his office.
🇪🇸 “Bajen la música” – El vecino pide que bajemos la música.
🇬🇧 “Turn down the music” – The neighbor is asking us to turn down the music.
🇪🇸 “No cierres la puerta” – La secretaria dice que no cierres la puerta.
🇬🇧 “Close the door” – The secretary is telling you to close the door.
🇪🇸 “No me grites” – Ignacia pide que no le grites.
🇬🇧 “Don’t yell at me” – Ignacia is asking you not to yell at her.
🇪🇸 “Juntémonos mañana” – Pedro sugiere que nos juntemos mañana.
🇬🇧 “Let’s get together tomorrow” – Pedro suggests we get together tomorrow.
Reporting on Commands With The Reporting Verb in Past
🇪🇸 “Lava los platos” – Le dije a mi hija que lavara los platos.
🇬🇧 “Wash the dishes” – I told my daughter to wash the dishes.
🇪🇸 “No me hables así” – Le dije a Pedro que no me hablara así.
🇬🇧 “Don’t talk to me like this” – I told Pedro not to talk to me like that.
🇪🇸 “¡Ayúdame, Luis!” – Le pedí a Luis que me ayudara.
🇬🇧 Help me, Luis!” – I asked Luis to help me.
🇪🇸 “¡Apúrate, amor!” – Mi esposa me dijo que me apurara.
🇬🇧 “Hurry up, sweetheart!” – My wife told me to hurry up.
🇪🇸 “Niños, no hablen con la boca llena” – Les pedí a mis hijos que no hablaran con la boca llena.
🇬🇧 “Don’t speak with your mouth full, kids” – I asked my kids not to speak with their mouths full.
🇪🇸 “No vayamos allí” – Sugerí que no fuéramos allí.
🇬🇧 “Let’s not go there” – I suggested we didn’t go there.
Spanish Reported Speech – Time and Place expressions
Some of the sample sentences I’ve shown you included certain time expressions, like “anoche”, “ayer”, “acá”, “ahora”, “la semana pasada”, “mañana”, etc.
When reporting on a statement that contains such phrases, don’t forget to adjust them, if the logic requires it. Here’s how it is done:
Hoy 🠊 Ese día
🇪🇸 “Hoy es mi cumpleaños” – Pablo dijo que ese día era su cumpleaños.
🇬🇧 “Today is my birthday” – Pablo said it was his birthday that day”.
🔔 However, if the reporting happens on the same day, you can keep the word “hoy” unchanged. Apply the same rule for all the other expressions from the list:
Ayer 🠊 El día anterior
🇪🇸 “Ayer tuve mucho trabajo” – Luis dijo que había tenido mucho trabajo el día anterior.
🇬🇧 “I had a lot of work yesterday” – Luis said he had had a lot of work the day before.
Mañana 🠊 El día siguiente
🇪🇸 “Mañana vamos a la playa” – El papá prometió que el día siguiente iríamos a la playa.
🇬🇧 “We’re going to the beach tomorrow” – Dad promised we would go to the beach the following day.
El año pasado 🠊 El año anterior
🇪🇸 “Nos conocimos el año pasado” – Laura se acordó que nos habíamos conocido el año anterior.
🇬🇧 “We met last year” – Laura remembered we had met the year before.
El próximo mes 🠊 El mes siguiente
🇪🇸 “El próximo mes viajo a Asia” – Juan dijo que el mes siguiente viajaría a Asia.
🇬🇧 “I’m traveling to Asia next month” – Juan said he was traveling to Asia the following month.
Anoche 🠊 La noche anterior
🇪🇸 “Anoche dormí muy mal” – Alex se quejó de que había dormido muy mal la noche anterior.
🇬🇧 “I slept badly last night” – Alex complained that he had slept badly the night before.
Ahora 🠊 En ese momento
🇪🇸 “Ahora estoy ocupada” – Carmen dijo que en ese momento estaba ocupada.
🇬🇧 “I’m busy now” – Carmen said she was busy at that moment / then.
Acá – Allá
🇪🇸 “Mis abuelos viven acá” – Jorge dijo que sus abuelos vivían allá
🇬🇧 “My grandparents live here” – Jorge said his grandparents lived there.
En este lugar 🠊 En ese lugar
🇪🇸 “¡Juntémonos en este lugar a las 4!” – Sugerí que nos juntáramos en ese lugar a las 4.
🇬🇧 “Let’s meet in this place at 4 PM” – I suggested we met in that place at 4 PM.
Hace 2 años 🠊 2 años antes / hacía 2 años
🇪🇸 “Vivo acá hace 2 años” – Ana dijo que vivía allá hacía 2 años.
🇬🇧 “I’ve lived here for 2 years” – Ana said she’d lived there for 2 years.
🇪🇸 Ana dijo que se había mudado allá 2 años antes.
🇬🇧 Ana said she had moved there 2 years ago.