Direct speech: Italian grammar lesson 158


Unlock the secrets of expressing yourself in Italian with our guide on direct speech! Learn how to quote accurately, use verbs of utterance, and navigate the nuances of Italian punctuation like a native. 🇮🇹✨

  • Direct Speech: Get to grips with discorso diretto, where you’ll quote someone’s words verbatim, Italian style. It’s like repeating their words with your own Italian flair!
  • Verbs of Utterance: Master verbs like dire and chiedere in the passato remoto tense. It’s a bit of a time travel to the past, but hey, who doesn’t love a good throwback?
  • Punctuation Marks: Dive into the world of colons, caporali, and dashes. Remember, consistency is key, so pick your punctuation partner and stick with ’em!
  • Capitalization and Placement: Start your quotes with a capital letter and keep those pesky commas and periods outside the quotation marks. It’s the Italian way!
  • Stylistic Freedom: Embrace the less standardized nature of Italian punctuation. Feel the freedom, but don’t go too wild – your readers still need to understand you!

My thoughts

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 Quizlet

Here'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.

You could compare articles published in Corriere della Sera and those published in Repubblica, and you’ll notice the difference between the two online newspapers.

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.

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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”.

What is direct speech in Italian, and how is it used?

Direct speech in Italian, or "discorso diretto," is used to quote someone's exact words within a sentence. It typically includes quotation marks and a reporting verb, such as "dire" (to say) or "chiedere" (to ask), to introduce the speaker's words.

How do I punctuate direct speech in Italian?

To punctuate direct speech in Italian, use the "virgolette" (quotation marks) to enclose the quoted words. Place a colon before the opening quotation mark, and use a period, comma, question mark, or exclamation mark before the closing quotation mark, depending on the context. For example: Marco ha detto: "Vado a fare la spesa" (Marco said, "I'm going grocery shopping").

Can I use different reporting verbs for direct speech in Italian?

Yes, you can use various reporting verbs for direct speech in Italian, depending on the context and the type of message being conveyed. Some common reporting verbs include "dire" (to say), "chiedere" (to ask), "rispondere" (to answer), "esclamare" (to exclaim), and "sussurrare" (to whisper).

Italian word of the day
Hai voglia di fare una passeggiata?
Do you feel like going for a walk?
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