Dire – to say, to tell

Dire - French verb
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A Telling French Verb

Dire is one of the most common and useful French verbs and has irregular conjugations. Dire literally means "to say" or "to tell," and is also found in many idiomatic expressions.

Dire = to say / to tell

Dire can mean either "to say" or "to tell." For English speakers learning French, this is easy: you can use dire for either. For French speakers learning English, however, it’s a bit more difficult.*

Par exemple…

J’ai dit « bonjour » trois fois.   I said "hello" three times.
Elle a quelque chose à dire.   She has something to say.
Je te dis non !   I’m telling you no!
Dites-nous ce qui s’est passé.   Tell us what happened.

Dire que = to say (that)

Elle dit que nous pouvons commencer.   She says (that) we can start.
A-t-il dit qu’il allait pleuvoir ?   Did he say (that) it was going to rain?

Dire de + noun = to have an opinion about

Que dites-vous de cette proposition ?   What do you think about this proposal?
Qu’est-ce que tu dis de mon chapeau ?   How do you like my hat?

Dire de + infinitive = to feel like

Ça te dit de prendre un café ?   Do you feel like having a coffee?
Ça vous dit de sortir ?   Do you feel like going out?

Ne pas / rien dire = to not feel like

Non, ça ne me dit pas.   No, I don’t feel like it.
Rien ne me dit en ce moment.   I don’t feel ilke doing anything right now.

Se dire

Se dire can be reflexive, reciprocal, or passive.

a) Reflexive: to say to oneself; to claim to be

Il s’est dit de se tenir tranquille.   He told himself to keep quiet.
Elle se dit princesse.   She claims to be a princess.

b) Reciprocal: to say to each other

Nous nous disons tout.   We tell each other everything.
Elles se sont dit adieu.   They said farewell to each other.

b) Passive: to be said

Ça ne se dit pas.   That isn’t said.
Comment ça se dit en italien ?   How is that said in Italian?

Idiomatic expressions with dire

Dire is found in many idiomatic expressions, including

  • c’est-à-dire – that is (to say)
  • comme on dit – so to speak, as they say
  • comment dit-on … ? – how do you say … ?
  • dis donc / dites donc – my goodness, listen
  • entendre dire – to hear (it said that)
  • vouloir dire – to mean; que veut dire … ? – what does … mean?

Dire in action

Do these French expressions need the subjunctive?

 Related lessons

* Difference between "say" and "tell"

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Dire - to say, to tell
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