Spanish Grammar


Try these: SubjunctivesVerbsNounsExamsAdjectivesPast TensePronouns

Filter by Categories


Reported Speech in Spanish

Reported speech in Spanish is a concept that linguists use to explain how speakers interpret another person’s words. So, when you need to recount a past conversation, you can use this way of interpreting it.

What does this imply? When you interpret the literal words that another person said in the past, you need to make changes in tenses, pronouns, adverbs and other types of words.

Reported Speech in Spanish: Verbal Changes

First of all, we should understand why we need to change the verbal tenses when using the reported speech in Spanish. To introduce another person’s words, we need to use a verbum dicendi (a verb of speech in Latin), such as decir, comentar, preguntar, declarar… These verbs will affect the subordinate clause depending on whether the conversation took place in the near past (almost present) or remoter.

Conversation in the Present or Very Near Past

If the conversation has just occurred, we can use the introductory verb in the present indicative. In this case, most verbal tenses in the subordinate clause remain unchanged:

  • El profesor: “Hoy vamos a estudiar el estilo indirecto en español.”

  • El profesor dice que hoy vamos a estudiar el estilo indirecto en español.

However, if in the original conversation any imperative or expression is used that indicates obligation or influence on the other person, we must change the verb to the present subjunctive:

  • La madre: “Debes estudiar más. Termina de comer y ponte a estudiar.”

  • Mi madre dice que estudie más. Que termine de comer y me ponga a estudiar.

Conversation in the Past

However, in most situations, when we replay a conversation, we tend to use introductory verbs in the past. In this case, there are many more changes in the verbal tenses. Let’s say, the verbs of the original conversation, “step into the past“.
Let’s look at some examples:



Present indicative = Imperfect indicative

There is a strong relationship between these two tenses in Spanish. The present indicative is used for descriptions and habits and the imperfect of indicative is the same, but in the past. In the reported speech in Spanish we can see these similarities:

  • Mi amigo: “Para mejorar mi español siempre escucho podcasts y leo blogs”

  • Mi amigo dijo que para mejorar su español siempre escuchaba podcasts y leía

The Preterite Imperfect Does Not Change in the Reported Speech in Spanish

There are no options in Spanish for expressing a habit further into the past than the imperfect of indicative. That is why we keep the tense in the reported speech in Spanish:

  • Mi padre: “Cuando yo era joven, no había tanto tiempo para estudiar”

  • Mi padre me comentó que cuando él era joven, no había tanto tiempo para estudiar.

Past Simple = Pluperfect

However, we can take a specific action in the past (past indefinite or simple) one step further into the past (pluperfect).

  • Mi profesor: “Ayer no hiciste los deberes y no estudiaste nada”.

  • Mi profesor me dijo que el día anterior no había hecho los deberes y no había estudiado

Present Perfect = Pluperfect

As with the past simple, an action expressed in the present perfect tense must be taken further into the past by using the pluperfect:

The Pluperfect Tense Does Not Change in the Reported Speech in Spanish

Obviously, the pluperfect expresses a past action that took place before another. Therefore, it cannot be changed in the reported speech in Spanish.

  • Yo: “Nunca me había sentido tan cómodo en una clase de español como en”.

  • Le comenté a mi amigo que nunca me había sentido tan cómodo en una clase de español como en

Futures = Conditionals

The future tenses (imperfect and perfect) should be changed to conditional tenses (imperfect and perfect). The reason is that the conditional is a type of “future in the past”. It can express an action after another action in the past:

  • Mi hermano: “El año que viene iré a la universidad y para entonces, habré aprendido inglés”.

  • Mi hermano me confesó que al año siguiente iría a la universidad y para entonces habría aprendido inglés.

The Conditional Tenses Does Not Change in the Reported Speech in Spanish

As with the imperfect tense, the conditional does not change in the reported speech in Spanish.

The Subjunctive Tenses

As for the subjunctive tenses, the verbal changes are similar to the indicative:

  • Mi padre: “Quiero que vuelvas pronto a casa.”

  • Mi padre me dijo que volviera pronto a casa.

Imperative = Imperfecto subjunctive

When we express a command or request with the imperative, we must transform it to the imperfect subjunctive in the reported speech in Spanish.

  • El profesor: “¡Callaos!”

  • El profesor nos ordenó que nos calláramos.

The Reported Speech in Spanish: Other Changes

In addition to the verbal changes, when we use the reported speech in Spanish, other alterations occur in persons, adverbs and expressions of time and place, and in interrogative sentences. Now, we will analyze them one by one.

Reported Speech in Spanish: Changes in the Marks of Person

Of course, when we use the reported speech, we need to focus on the people who are speaking. Generally, we recreate the words of a third person. In the original conversation, that person was part of the conversation; however, in the reported speech they are absent. Because of this, we will have to make changes to personal pronouns, possessives and verbal endings.

  • Estudiante: “Yo aprobaré mi examen”.

  • El estudiante dijo que él aprobaría su examen.

Changes in Time

The original conversation occurred at a specific time in the past. So, if we need to replicate it, we will have to change the time frame, because we will be speaking in our present. Don’t worry, we won’t need a time machine; we just need to adjust some words: adverbs and time expressions.

Changes in Space

In addition to time, we also need to consider expressions of space and location. We often refer to objects and people being in one place in the original conversation. But, we might be in another location in the reported speech. Consequently, demonstratives and adjectives of place may change.

  • Amigo: “Me encanta España. Aquí siempre puedo comer esta maravillosa comida”.

  • Mi amigo me confesó que le encantaba España; que allí siempre podía comer aquella maravillosa comida.

Changes in Interrogative Sentences

An interrogative sentence also needs some adjustments in the reported speech in Spanish. Actually, they remain as interrogative sentences, but indirectly. If we need to replicate a total question (with a “yes” or “no” answer), we will need the conjunction “si“; on the other hand, if we have a partial question (with an interrogative word such as “qué, dónde, quién…”), that word is kept.

  • Estudiante: “¿Crees que puedo aprender español en un año? ¿Cómo puedo conseguirlo?”.

  • El estudiante me preguntó (que) si creía que podía aprender español en un año y (que) cómo podía conseguirlo.

As you can see, the conjunction que can be omitted when we are dealing with an interrogative sentence.
Now you know the main changes that occur in the reported speech in Spanish. If you need to put them into practice, there is nothing better than reserving a class with our teachers at

Infographic about the reported speech in Spanish