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French Indirect Speech

Discours indirect

Indirect speech is more complicated than direct speech, because it requires certain grammatical changes, in both English and French.

1. Personal pronouns and possessives may need to be changed:

     DS David déclare : « Je veux voir ma mère ». David declares, "I want to see my mother."
  IS David déclare qu'il veut voir sa mère. David declares that he wants to see his mother.

2. Verb conjugations need to change to agree with the new subject:

     DS David déclare : « Je veux voir ma mère ».   David declares, "I want to see my mother."
     IS David déclare qu'il veut voir sa mère. David declares that he wants to see his mother.

3. In the above examples, there is no change in tenses because the statements are in the present. However, if the main clause is in the past tense, the verb tense of the subordinate clause may also need to change:

     DS David a déclaré : « Je veux voir ma mère ».   David declared, "I want to see my mother."
  IS David a déclaré qu'il voulait voir sa mère. David declared that he wanted to see his mother.

The following chart shows the correlation between verb tenses in direct and indirect speech; use it to determine how to rewrite direct speech as indirect speech or vice versa.  Présent/Imparfait to Imparfait is by far the most common - you don't need to worry too much about the rest.

Main verb Subordinate verb may change...

Direct speech  «-»  Indirect speech
Présent or Imparfait Imparfait
Passé composé or Plus-que-parfait Plus-que-parfait
Futur or Conditionnel Conditionnel
Futur antérieur or Conditionnel passé   Conditionnel passé
Subjonctif Subjonctif
Au présent no change


  • The same grammatical changes are required when converting between direct and indirect exclamations.
  • You can report speech even more indirectly with the expressions entendre dire and entendre parler.


Test on Direct and Indirect Speech

Part I: Direct vs Indirect Speech

Direct and Indirect Exclamations

Concordance des temps

Grammar Lessons


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