Indirect Speech – Past

Reporting Statements

To report what has been said or thought in the past, link the main clause introduced by él dijo, ella afirmó, etc. and the subordinate clause with que. The tense of the verb in the subordinate clause also changes.

Me dijeron que tenía que acabar high school.
They told me that I had to finish high school.

Which Tense in the Subordinate Clause?

When the main clause is in the past, the subordinate clause must also be in the past tense. They belong to the same time frame. This rule is known in Spanish as the concordancia de tiempos, the agreement or concordance of the tenses. Look at this table:

quote reported speech
present => imperfect
imperfect => imperfect
preterit   => pluperfect
imperative => past (imperfect) subjunctive
future => conditional
Me dijo que él nunca había conocido una mujer tan bonita como yo.
He told me that he had never met a woman as pretty as me.

 Reporting Questions

To report yes/no questions, use si.

Le dije que si quería ser mi esposa y aceptó.
I asked her if she wanted to be my wife and she accepted.

To report an information question use an interrogative word like cúando, cómo, dónde, etc.:

Me preguntó dónde vivía. She asked me where I lived.

Reporting Answers

Note that to report yes/no sentences, use que:

Le dije que sí.
I told him yes.