Decir in Spanish: Conjugations, Meanings & Uses


In this short guide, we will cover the following topics for ‘decir’ in Spanish:

  1. What does ‘Decir’ mean?
  2. ‘Decir’ Conjugations
  3. How to Use ‘Decir’ in Spanish
  4. Expressions & Idioms with ‘Decir’
  5. Synonyms of ‘Decir’ in Spanish

What does ‘Decir’ mean?

Definition – In Spanish, ‘decir’ means ‘to say’ or ‘to tell’. As a result, this verb expresses that someone is giving or communicating certain information. In its pronominal form, decir is used to talk about rumors, beliefs or common knowledge. 

Depending on the context, ‘decir’ can have different meanings in Spanish. Below are some of the most popular contexts where you can use this verb along with their corresponding translation. 

  1. When talking about information, ‘decir’ means ‘to say’ or ‘to tell’.
  2. If referring to rumors, myths or common knowledge, decirse means ‘it is said’ or ‘it is rumored’. 
  3. When asking how a word is said, ‘decirse’ means ‘to say’

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‘Decir’ Conjugations 

‘Decir’ is an irregular verb and like any Spanish irregular verb, you’ll find that the stem of this verb changes depending on both the tense and subject that you’re conjugating. 

These irregularities include spelling changes such as: 

  • Replacing an ‘e’ for an ‘i’. 
  • Replacing a ‘g’ for a ‘j’.
graphic explaining decir stem changes in spanish

If that sounds complicated, don’t worry. I’ll explain the proper stem to use for ‘decir’ for each conjugation tense, mood and subject in the sections below.

Indicative

Present tense conjugation

Notice that when conjugating decir in the present tense, you’ll use three different stems. For the first person (“I” in English or “yo” in Spanish), you’ll use ‘dig’. Nosotros and vosotros don’t have spelling changes, as a result, use the stem ‘dec’. Finally, , ella, él and their plural forms, will work with ‘dic’. 

Once you have the proper stem, make sure to add the corresponding endings for each subject.  

PersonConjugationTranslation
YodigoI say
dicesYou say
Él / Ella / UsteddiceHe/She say
NosotrosdecimosWe say
VosotrosdecísYou say
Ustedes / Ellos / EllasdicenThey/You say

Preterite tense conjugation

In the preterite tense, decir changes its stem to ‘dij’. This stem is applied to all the subjects and you just need to add their corresponding endings. 

PersonConjugationTranslation
YodijeI said
dijisteYou said
Él / Ella / UsteddijoHe/She said
NosotrosdijimosWe said
VosotrosdijisteisYou said
Ustedes / Ellos / EllasdijeronThey/You said

Imperfect tense conjugation

Notice that in the imperfect tense, decir is regular. This means that you only need to delete the -IR ending from the infinitive form and add the appropriate endings to the stem ‘dec’. 

PersonConjugationTranslation
YodecíaI said
decíasYou said
Él / Ella / UsteddecíaHe/She said
NosotrosdecíamosWe said
VosotrosdecíaisYou said
Ustedes / Ellos / EllasdecíanThey/You said

Future tense conjugation

In the future tense, decir is an irregular verb. This means that, instead of conjugating based on the infinitive form, you’ll use the stem dir. Use the endings underlined below for each person. 

PersonConjugationTranslation
YodiréI will say
dirásYou will say
Él / Ella / UsteddiráHe/She will say
NosotrosdiremosWe will say
VosotrosdiréisYou will say
Ustedes / Ellos / EllasdiránThey/You will say

Conditional tense conjugation

Decir is an irregular verb in the conditional tense. In other words, you won’t be working with the verb in its infinitive form like you would do with a regular verb, but rather with the irregular stem ‘dir. 

PersonConjugationTranslation
YodiríaI would say
diríasYou would say
Él / Ella / UsteddiríaHe/She would say
NosotrosdiríamosWe would say
VosotrosdiríaisYou would say
Ustedes / Ellos / EllasdiríanThey/You would say

Progressive Tenses

Te estoy diciendo que no has eso.
I’m telling you not to do that.

Le estábamos diciendo a Harry que nos vamos a ir de vacaciones.
We were telling Harry that we are going on vacation.

Perfect Tenses

Mi mamá nos había dicho que no habláramos con extraños.
My mom had told us not to speak to strangers.

La maestra le ha dicho a los alumnos que guarden silencio.
The teacher has told the students to be quiet.

Decir Subjunctive Conjugations

Present subjunctive conjugation

To create the present subjunctive with ‘decir’, you’ll use the stem ‘dig’ for all the subjects. Add the endings underlined below to complete your conjugation. 

PersonConjugationTranslation
YodigaTo say
digasTo say
Él / Ella / UsteddigaTo say
NosotrosdigamosTo say
VosotrosdigáisTo say
Ustedes / Ellos / EllasdiganTo say

Imperfect subjunctive conjugations

To conjugate decir in both forms of the imperfect subjunctive, it works with the same stem that you use in the preterite conjugation: ‘dij’. 

PersonConjugationTranslation
Yodijera / dijeseI said
dijeras / dijesesYou said
Él / Ella / Usteddijera / dijeseHe/She said
Nosotrosdijéramos / dijésemosWe said
Vosotrosdijerais / dijeseisYou said
Ustedes / Ellos / Ellasdijeran / dijesenThey/You said

Perfect subjunctive

Ojalá no les hubiera dicho nada.
I wish I hadn’t said anything to you.

Si te haya dicho, no habrías venido.
If I had told you, you wouldn’t have come.

Imperative

Imperative conjugation

Notice that ‘decir’ in the imperative form uses the ‘dec’ stem for the person ‘vosotros’. Nosotros and ustedes work with the stem ‘dig’ while tú is completely irregular. 

PersonConjugationTranslation
diSay
NosotrosdigamosLet’s say
VosotrosdecidSay
UstedesdiganSay

Below there is an example with both affirmative and negative imperative. Remember that to build the negative imperative we’ll use the conjugations of the present subjunctive. 

No digas groserías.
Do not swear

Chicas, díganme qué quieren hacer.
Girls, tell me what you want to eat.

How to Use ‘Decir’ in Spanish with Examples

‘Decir’ is used in Spanish:

  1. As the direct translation of ‘to say’
  2. When talking about rumors, myths or common knowledge
  3. When asking how something is said 

In the following sections I’ll explain to you how to use this verb and what elements you need to use in each context. Additionally, I’ll provide you with examples that you can use as guidance. 

As the direct translation of ‘to say’

Given that ‘decir’ is the direct translation of ‘to say’, this Spanish verb is used when expressing that a person is talking or communicating certain information. Notice that, depending on the elements that you include in your sentence, you might need to use different phrase structures. 

If you want to mention to whom someone says or said something to, you’ll need to follow the next formula. Notice that, if we’re not completely sure about the person we’re referring to, you can introduce this information with the preposition ‘a’. Check example #3. 

(Person) + [indirect object pronoun] + [decir conjugated] + [information]

Adrián me dijo que vendría a las 5 pm
Adrian told me he would come at 5 pm

Julián nos dijo que no era necesario hacer la llamada
Julian told us that it was not necessary to make the call

Gina le dijo a su prima que cerrara la puerta
Gina told her cousin to close the door

On the other hand, if the speaker is repeating the information that somebody else said, you can use this phrase structure.

[Subject] + [‘decir’ conjugated] + que + [information]

Dice mi mamá que le bajes a la tele.
Mom says to turn the TV down.

Jorge y Naila dijeron que la casa estaba muy sucia.
Jorge and Natalia said that the house was very dirty.

Miguel dijo que mañana iremos a desayunar con su abuela.
Miguel said that tomorrow we’ll have breakfast with his grandmother.

Mi abuela decía que, cuando era niña, no había tantos carros en las calles.
My grandmother said that, when she was a kid, there weren’t so many cars on the streets.

Take Note: Repeating what other people say is grammatically known as indirect or reported speech. Since the real message is not delivered at the same time that you repeat it, you need to combine different tenses in your sentences.   

Talking about rumors, myths or common knowledge

In Spanish, another common use of the verb decir is to express that the information that is being shared is a saying, rumor, common knowledge or something that hasn’t been confirmed. In this context, this verb is translated as ‘it is said’, ‘as they say’ or ‘it is rumored’.

Notice that, in order to use this meaning, you’ll need to work with the pronominal form decirse. Check the examples below

[Pronoun se] + [decir conjugated] + que + [rumor/saying]

Se dice que esa casa está embrujada.
It is said that this house is haunted.

Se dice que cerca de ese parque, se escucha la voz de una niña.
It is said that near that park, you can hear the voice of a little girl.

Como se dice, más vale prevenir que lamentar.
As they say, better safe than sorry.

Asking how something is said

As the direct translation of ‘to say’, in Spanish, you can also use ‘decirse’ when asking about a translation or how a word is pronounced. This is especially useful for students or people learning Spanish. Notice that, in this context, you can also use this verb to explain how something is said in Spanish.

[Pronoun ‘se’] + [decir conjugated] + [Spanish word/phrase]

¿Cómo se dice ‘perro’ en inglés?
How do you say ‘dog’ in English?

¿Cómo me dijiste que se dice dude’ en español de México?
How did you tell me to say ‘dude’ in Mexican Spanish?

En México, también se dicequé onda’ para saludar entre amigos
In Mexico, people also say ‘qué onda’ to greet friends

Related Resource: 
Mexican Greetings

Decir Expressions & Idioms

There are some common expressions that use the verb decir and that you could use to improve your communication. 

Decir cuatro cosas: It means to say things in a clear and concise way, although perhaps with a certain aggressive tone. It can be translated as ‘to get an earful’ or ‘to give a piece of your mind’.

Decir tacos: This Castilian informal expression describes someone swearing or cursing. In this context, the word ‘tacos’ refers to blasphemous or insulting words. So, ‘decir tacos’ means to swear or ‘to curse’. 

Decir pestes de: This phrase expresses that a person says bad or awful things about another person or thing. It can be translated as ‘to bad mouth’ or ‘to say nasty things about’. 

Synonyms of ‘Decir’ in Spanish

Contar: If talking about telling a story or recounting a tale, we can use this verb instead of ‘decir’. It is translated as ‘to tell

Hablar: Being the translation of ‘to talk’ or ‘to speak’, this verb can be used when we are referring to communicating information to someone else.

Opinar: In Spanish, this verb means to give or say an idea, judgment or concept that a person has or forms about something or someone. It is translated as ‘to give an opinion’.

Declarar: Translated as ‘to declare’ or ‘to state’, this verb can be used as a synonym of ‘decir’ when saying something in a solemn and emphatic manner.

Expresar: This verb also means ‘to say’. As a result, it’s used when sharing or communicating something. It doesn’t necessarily imply the use of words, but it can also refer to signs as a way to communicate your thoughts, feelings or desires. It is translated as ‘to express’.

Related Resources
What’s the difference between ‘hablar’, ‘decir’ and ‘contar’.
How to use the pronoun ‘se’ in Spanish

Daniela Sanchez

¡Hola! Soy Daniela Sanchez, I’ve taught Spanish in Mexico to a wide array of foreigners. From students and tourists to doctors and soldiers who’ve moved and visited here over the years. During the day I’m a freelancer and marketer, while at night I’m here writing for students of the world wide web looking to learn Spanish. I hope you find what you’re looking here during your journey into Español 🙂 Read More About Me

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