Direct and Reported speech in Russian

For a start compare these two images and say, where the person says with the direct speech (прямая речь) and where with the reported speech (косвенная речь).

что такое прямая и косвенная речь

She said, “I’ll think about this”.        She said that she will think about this

As you can see from the example the direct speech is when we quote somebody. For example:

  • Мама сказала: “Сегодня я не хочу работать!” – My mom said, “I don’t want to work today”.
  • Папа сказал: “Вставай! Хватит спать!” – My father said, “Get up! Stop sleeping!”
  • Друг спросил: “Ты пойдёшь со мной в бар?” – My friend asked, “do you go to the bar with me?”

In the reported speech we change people’s  words a little.  It is not a quote anymore:

  • Мама сказала, что она не хочет сегодня работать. – My mom said that she doesn’t want to work today..
  • Папа сказал, чтобы я вставал.  – My father said to me to get up.
  • Друг спросил, пойду ли я в бар с ним. – My friend asked me if I go to the bar with him.

So as you can see from the examples above  to make  reported speech in Russian you need to use the conjunction “что” (that) for retelling somebody else’s speech.

  • Ты сказал мне, что  хочешь пойти со мной. – You told me  that you wanted to go with me.

But if they talked to you using a verb in the Imperative Mood, you should use the conjunction “чтобы” (that for imperatives).

  • Мама сказала, чтобы я купил хлеб. – My mom told me to buy a bread.

If they asked something, it is better to use the particle “ли” after the verb:

  • Мама спросила, хочу ли я ужинать. – My mom asked me if I want to have dinner.

But if they asked something using the question word  (кто? что? где?когда? почему? как? etc.) – do not use “ли”,  just use the question word:

Мама спросила, почему я не хочу есть. – My mom asked me, why I don’t want to eat.

 

4 thoughts on “Direct and Reported speech in Russian

  1. My father said me to get up. – incorrect use of the word SAY. Should be TOLD ME or SAID TO ME. Please, correct it.

  2. Can I ask you a question?
    Купить is a perfective verb. So why did you use “чтобы”.
    Please explain this:
    “But if they talked to you using a verb in the Imperative Mood, you should use the conjunction “чтобы” (that for imperatives).

    Мама сказала, чтобы я купил хлеб. – My mom told me to buy a bread.”

  3. Hi, Linh! Thank you for your question! You are right, “купить” is a perfective verb. And I used the conjunction “чтобы” to express the imperative mood in the reported speech.
    This is an example of the direct speech:

    My brother said to me, “Do it!” –
    Мой брат сказал мне: “Сделай это!”

    “Cделай” – this is the imperative mood. You use the imperative mood when you tell other people what to do. For example, “do it”, “tell me”, “pass the salt” etc.).

    So if I want to say what my brother told me, using the reported speech, I say:

    My brother said to me to do it” –
    Мой брат сказал мне, ЧТОБЫ я сделал это.

    Now it is a reported speech, I just retell what he said to me.

    As you can see we use “чтобы” for showing the imperative mood in the reported speech. And regarding the imperfective or perfective aspects we can use both here depending what we are focusing on. For example,

    Он сказал, чтобы ты работал (imperfective).
    Он сказал, чтобы ты сделал это (perfective).

    More about aspects of verb read in my article “Aspects” here http://www.russian-blog.com/aspects/

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