What is direct speech in Italian?
Discorso indiretto (direct speech) is a spoken or written text that reports speech or thought in its original form phrased by the original speaker.
Compare these two examples:
Marco mi disse: “Ti voglio bene”.
Marco said to me: “I love you”.
Marco mi disse che mi voleva bene.
Marco said to me that he loved me.
The first sentence is an example of direct speech, whereas the second one is an example of indirect speech.
Let’s dive deeper into the topic!
What are some common verbs used in direct speech?
In the Italian narrative, verbs of utterance (that express speech or introduce a quotation) tend to be in passato remoto(remote past tense).
You may not be familiar with this tense since it’s not widely common in spoken Italian and is not usually taught to foreign students.
We mainly find it in written texts, such as in literature and historical texts.
The passato remoto is common in the South of Italy since some Southern dialects don’t have the equivalent of the passato prossimo (which is the most common past tense in Italian) so they’re more used to the passato remoto.
Let’s have a look at the most common verbs of utterance in the passato remoto:
- Chiedere (to ask):
|Io chiesi||I asked|
|Tu chiedesti||You asked|
|Lui/Lei chiese||He/She asked|
|Noi chiedemmo||We asked|
|Voi chiedeste||You asked|
|Loro chiesero||They asked|
- Dichiarare (to state):
|Io dichiarai||I stated|
|Tu dichiarasti||You stated|
|Lui/Lei dichiarò||He/She stated|
|Noi dichiarammo||We stated|
|Voi dichiaraste||You stated|
|Loro dichiararono||They stated|
- Dire (to say):
|Io dissi||I said|
|Tu dicesti||You said|
|Lui/Lei disse||He/She said|
|Noi dicemmo||We said|
|Voi diceste||You said|
|Loro dissero||They said|
- Esclamare (to exclaim):
|Io esclamai||I exclaimed|
|Tu esclamasti||You exclaimed|
|Lui/Lei esclamò||He/She exclaimed|
|Noi esclamammo||We exclaimed|
|Voi esclamaste||You exclaimed|
|Loro esclamarono||They exclaimed|
- Rispondere (to reply):
|Io risposi||I replied|
|Tu rispondesti||You replied|
|Lui/Lei rispose||He/She replied|
|Noi rispondemmo||We replied|
|Voi rispondeste||You replied|
|Loro risposero||They replied|
- Ripetere (to repeat):
|Io ripetei||I repeated|
|Tu ripetesti||You repeated|
|Lui/Lei ripeté||He/She repeated|
|Noi ripetemmo||We repeated|
|Voi ripeteste||You repeated|
|Loro ripeterono||They repeated|
Practice with QuizletHere's a set of flashcards and quizzes to practice this grammar topic.
Are there rules for using the direct speech?
In writing, direct speech in Italian is usually preceded by a colon (:) and enclosed in guillemets («») or quotation marks (“”) or delimited by a long dash (—).
The guillemets are called caporali in Italian and are the traditional Italian quotation mark glyphs. Quotation marks are called virgolette and frequently replace the traditional caporali.
All of the above-mentioned signs are equally acceptable as long as they are used consistently.
Italian is much less standardized than English, and this particularly affects punctuation. These stylistic decisions are left to the taste, style, and tradition of individual publishers.
In contemporary Italian, especially in more ‘free’ text types (journalistic writing, literary prose, etc.), these signs might even be omitted.
Like in English, we capitalize the first letter of the first word inside a quote.
However, unlike in English, commas and periods are placed outside the quotation marks when writing in Italian.
Have a look at this example and its translation keeping in mind all the rules we just mentioned:
Marcello mi disse: «Vorrei andare in Francia».
Marcello said to me: “I’d like to go to France”.
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