An intro to reported speech in Spanish

An intro to reported speech in Spanish

by Alison Maciejewski Cortez

Updated August 7, 2023

In Spanish, we use estilo indirecto (reported speech) to report on what somebody else has said. You most likely use it all the time, though you may not realize it. For example, you might use reported speech to get out of an awkward situation. If you want to express a strong opinion without taking full responsibility for it, you can use reported speech to express what somebody else thinks.

In this blog, we’ll review the basics of reported speech in Spanish — from how to use it to some real-life examples of reported speech in action. 

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What is “estilo indirecto” (reported speech)?

In English, we use the terms “direct speech” and “reported speech.” In Spanish, we use the terms estilo directo and estilo indirecto. Here’s a refresher on indirect speech in English to make a clear distinction.

Direct speech in Spanish and English occurs when you quote a person. You repeat their words exactly as the person said them. When writing, you must use quotation marks to demonstrate that the words are directly quoted: 

  • El maestro dijo: “La tarea se entrega el viernes.” (The teacher said, “The homework is due on Friday.”)

Reported speech occurs when you report on a speaker’s words without quoting the speaker directly. Reported speech uses some specific verbs that help to report the general message of what someone has said. 

Here are some common Spanish verbs that will alert you that reported speech is being used:

afirmarto assert
comentarto comment
contarto tell
decirto say, to tell
explicarto explain
informarto inform
mencionarto mention

How to use reported speech in Spanish

Now, let’s jump into the rules about how to create reported speech in Spanish. There are five major rules to follow when using reported speech.

1. Reported speech is used with statements, commands and questions

Reported speech is used to report a command (otherwise known as the imperative mood in Spanish). It’s also used to report a statement or question.


  • La maestra quiere que Miguel repita la clase. (The teacher wants Miguel to repeat the class.)


  • Mi mamá me dijo que hiciera la cama y guardara los platos. (My mom told me to make the bed and put away the dishes.)


  • Mi hermana nos preguntó si íbamos a reunirnos para su cumpleaños. (My sister asked us if we were going to get together for her birthday.)

2. A conjunction must follow the reporting verb

The conjunction que (that) or si (if) follows the reporting verb

  • La maestra quiere que Miguel repita la clase. (The teacher wants Miguel to repeat the class.)
  • Mi hermana nos preguntó si íbamos a reunirnos para su cumpleaños. (My sister asked us if we were going to get together for her birthday.)

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3. Check subject agreement

Subject pronouns and possessives need to agree with the new subject in the reported speech. 

  • Direct: Mario dijo: “Quiero mi celular.” (Mario said, “I want my phone.”)
  • Reported: Mario dijo que él quería su celular. (Mario said that he wants his phone.)

Note: Here we must change the first-person subject pronoun in the direct speech (yo) and the possessive mi (my) to él (he) and su (his), respectively. 

4. Check time and location

We must also change the time and location when using reported speech. In the examples below, hoy (today) changes to ese día or aquel día (that day) and aquí (here) changes to allí or ahí (there).

  • Direct: Mary dice: “Llego hoy.”  (Mary says, “I arrive today.”)
  • Reported: Mary dijo que llegaba ese día. (Mary said that she would arrive that day.)
  • Direct: Sara dijo: “Voy aquí. (Sara said, “I’m going here.”)
  • Reported: Sara dijo que iba allí. (Sara said that she is going there.)

5. Changing verb tenses in reported speech

Finally, if the reporting verb is in the present tense, it can stay in the present.

  • Direct: El doctor dice: “No puedo atenderte.” (The doctor says, “I can’t see you.”)
  • Reported: El doctor dice que no puede atenderme. (The doctor said he cannot see me.) 

If the scenario occurs in the past, we need to change the reporting verb to the past tense.

  • Direct: El doctor dijo: “No puedo atenderte.” (The doctor said, “I cannot see you.”)

Reported: El doctor dijo que no podía atenderme. (The doctor said he could not see me.)

Reported speech example sentences in Spanish

You have seen plenty of reported speech example sentences in Spanish above, but let’s look at how to structure a question: 

  • Direct: Mi hermano preguntó: “¿Tienes dinero?” (My brother asked, “Do you have money?”)
  • Reported: Mi hermano preguntó si tenía dinero. (My brother asked if I had money.)

Notice that here we do not use the conjunction que (that). Instead, we use the conjunction si (if) because the direct question expects a “yes/no” answer.

But, if we are reporting a question that has a question word (who, what, when, where, why) we keep the question word and do not use que:

  • Direct: Erica quiere saber: ¿Cuándo es la película? (Erica wants to know, “When is the movie?”)
  • Reported: Erica quiere saber cuando es la película. (Erica wants to know when the movie is.)

Did you hear what she said?

Knowing how to use reported speech in Spanish is a very important skill. Communicating somebody else’s words or messages to others is a scenario that comes up everywhere, from the staff meeting to a hallway gossip session. In this blog, we’ve covered the basics of reported speech — but an in-person Spanish class wouldn’t hurt if you need some extra practice. 

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Alison Maciejewski Cortez

Alison Maciejewski Cortez is Chilean-American, born and raised in California. She studied abroad in Spain, has lived in multiple countries, and now calls Mexico home. She believes that learning how to order a beer in a new language reveals a lot about local culture. Alison speaks English, Spanish, and Thai fluently and studies Turkish. Her consulting business takes her around the world and she is excited to share language tips as part of the Lingoda team. Follow her culinary and cultural experiences on Twitter.

Alison Maciejewski Cortez
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