Reported Speech

French reported speech
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Discours rapporté

A large part of communicating has to do with reporting what other people have said. This grammatical grapevine comes in two varieties:

  1. Direct speech, aka direct style
  2. Indirect speech, aka indirect style

Direct Speech / Discours direct

Direct speech is very simple. You simply repeat the exact words of the original speaker: you quote them. So, logically enough, written direct speech is set off by quotation marks (guillemets in French).

Par exemple …

Ma fille dit : « Je vais être médecin ».   My daughter says, "I’m going to be a doctor."
Mon fils prononce : « Moi, je veux être prof ».   My son utters, "Well, I want to be a teacher."
Moi, je réponds toujours : « Je suis très fier de vous deux ».   I always respond, "I’m very proud of both of you."

 Note that you can use direct speech to quote yourself as well, such as when recounting the above conversation to your spouse.

Indirect Speech / Discours indirect

Reporting what someone has from said from your own point of view is done with indirect speech. You can skip the guillemets, but must use a specific construction:

Par exemple …

Ma fille dit qu’elle va être médecin.   My daughter says she’s going to be a doctor.
Mon fils prononce qu’il veut être prof.   My son utters that he wants to be a teacher.
Moi, je réponds toujours que je suis très fier des deux.   I always respond that I’m very proud of both of them.

As you can see, indirect speech is immediately more complicated:

  1. It requires a reporting verb
  2. and subordinating conjunction
  3. followed by a subordinate clause.
  4. The subject pronoun in the subordinate clause has to change,
  5. as does the verb conjugation.

For more detail about these and other required changes, go on to the next page: Indirect speech.

 Related lessons

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French reported speech
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