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French Direct and indirect speech

Discours direct et indirect

In French, there are two different ways to express the words of another person: direct speech (or direct style) and indirect speech (indirect style).

Direct speech is very simple: the exact words of the original speaker are reported in quotes.

   Paul dit : « J'aime les fraises ».
   Paul says, "I like strawberries."

   Lise répond : « Jean les déteste ».
   Lisa replies, "Jean hates them."

   « Jean est stupide » déclare Paul.*
   "Jean is stupid" Paul declares.

*Inversion with direct speech

In indirect speech, the original speaker's words are reported without quotes in a subordinate clause (introduced by que).

   Paul dit qu'il aime les fraises.
   Paul says that he loves strawberries.

   Lise répond que Jean les déteste. 
   Lisa replies that Jean hates them.

   Paul déclare que Jean est stupide.
   Paul declares that Jean is stupid.

There are many verbs, called reporting verbs, that can be used to introduce indirect speech:

affirmer to assert
ajouter to add
annoncer   to announce
crier to shout
déclarer to declare
dire to say
expliquer to explain
insister to insist
prétendre to claim
proclamer    to proclaim
répondre   to answer
soutenir to maintain

Indirect speech tends to be more complicated than direct speech, because it requires certain changes (in both English and French). Go on to Part II.

Part II: Indirect Speech Changes

Test on Direct and Indirect Speech

Inversion with Direct Speech

Direct and Indirect Exclamations

Grammar Lessons


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