Reported Speech Spanish Guide: Examples + Verb Changes 

Coverage Image Reported Speech

Reported speech is an overlooked yet crucial feature in everyday conversations. In short, it allows you to convey what someone else said adequately. Since mastering this topic can boost your fluency, in this reported speech Spanish guide, you’ll learn: 

In addition to this, I’ve also included different examples of how to apply this concept in real-life situations. Let’s do this! 

What Is the Reported Speech in Spanish?

Reported speech in Spanish, also known as indirect speech, conveys what someone else said without quoting their exact words. 

Graphic showing the difference between direct and indirect speech in Spanish

Simply put, Spanish indirect speech allows you to rephrase and report what someone said. On the contrary, direct speech involves quoting the exact words a person used. For instance: 

Direct speech sentenceIndirect speech sentence
Alba dijo: “Lava y dobla la ropa”
Alba said, “Wash and fold the clothes” 
Alba dijo que lavaras y doblaras la ropa.
Alba said to wash and fold the clothes. 

In Spanish, decir is the most common verb to form the reported speech. However, you can also use the following verbs: 

  • Aclarar: Clarify / Explain
  • Afirmar: Affirm / Clair
  • Anunciar: Announce
  • Contar: Tell
  • Explicar: Explain
  • Pedir: Ask 
  • Preguntar: Ask
  • Prometer: Promise
  • Recordar: Remember 
  • Recomendar: Recommend 
  • Sugerir: Suggest

Spanish indirect speech allows you to share information and someone’s thoughts or opinions with different people. As a result, it’s commonly used in news and writing environments, but also in daily conversations. 

How to form indirect speech 

To report what someone said, we use one of the previous verbs followed by que: 

[Verb] + que + [statement]

Direct speech Indirect speech 
Dile a Marco que abra las ventanas. 
Tell Marco to open the windows.
Mi mamá dijo que abrieras las ventanas.
Mom said that you should open the windows.
Chicos, no podré ir.
Guys, I will not be able to go.
Rubén nos dijo que no podría ir.
Ruben told us that he couldn’t come.
Le sugiero que haga más ejercicio.
I suggest you exercise more. 
El doctor le sugirió que hiciera más ejercicio.
The doctor suggested that she exercise more. 

When using reported speech in Spanish you’re repeating what another person said, we must do some modifications to preserve the meaning of the original sentence. These changes include: 

  • Adjust the pronouns and adjectives
  • Change the verb tense (if applicable)

Take this graphic as an example: 

Graphic explaining how reported speech works in Spanish

Spanish Reported Speech: Verb Backshifting 

When it comes to reported speech, verb conjugations are one of the major adjustments you must make. In simple words, we must change the tense of the original verb to maintain a logical sequence. In Spanish grammar, this is known as backshifting

To help you understand and apply backshifting in reported speech, I’ve prepared this table that compares the original tenses with their backshifted equivalents: 

Original TenseBackshifted Direct S. ExampleReported S. Example
Present indicativeImperfect tense“No puedo ir”Dijo que podía venir.
PreteritePast perfect“Ya compró todo”Dijo que ya habías comprado todo.
Present perfectPast perfect“No he comido nada”Dijo que no había comido nada. 
Future simpleConditional “Llegaré a las 2”Dijo que llegaría a las 2. 
ImperativePresent subjunctive“Cierra la puerta”Dijo que cierres la puerta. 
Present subjunctiveImperfect subjunctive“Quiero que venga”Dijo que quería que vinieras

We only change the tense of a verb when the original action already took place. Let me break this down for you. 

Let’s say you’re traveling and you call me today to tell me when you arrive. You’ll say: 

Llegaré a las dos. 
I will arrive at two. 

But the time comes, and you’re not here. Everybody is asking me what time you’re supposed to arrive and I repeat what you said: 

Me dijo que llegaría a las 2. 
He said he would arrive at 2. 

In this case, I backshifted the verb because the original action (arrival time) had already passed. The same happens with other tenses. 

However, the tense of the original statement doesn’t change when talking about facts or when the action is still relevant (it just happened). 

Take this sentence as an example: 

Original statementReported speech 
No puedo ir porque estoy ocupada.
I can’t go because I’m busy.
Dice que no puede ir porque está ocupada.
She says she can’t go because she’s busy. 

This example implies that I’m immediately telling you what our friend said. 

Reported Speech: Additional Spanish Resources

Transforming from direct and indirect speech requires knowledge of diverse grammatical elements. For starters, you must have a good command of Spanish pronouns so you know which pronoun to use for your sentence. 

On that same note, you should also get familiar with possessive adjectives in case you need to mention someone’s belongings. And, of course, you must be comfortable conjugating verbs in different Spanish tenses

Make sure you know how to form the:

Download the Spanish Reported Speech PDF

Download a free PDF made for this guide including the graphics for reported speech as well as the backshifting verbs table so you can learn how to convert direct into indirect speech.

Daniela Sanchez

¡Hola! Soy Daniela Sanchez, I've been studying Spanish professionally as well as teaching it in Mexico and online for over 10 years. I’ve taught Spanish to a wide array of foreigners from many backgrounds. Over the years, I've made it my mission to work hard on refining many challenging to understand grammar topics to make my students' learning experiences easier, faster and more enjoyable. Read More About Me

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