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Indirect speech is a subclause that repeats the contents of someone's statement, thought, opinion, decision, question, remark, and so forth. Often, the form of the original statement or thought must be changed somewhat. Indirect speech differs from direct speech, that is, a direct quote without changes, which isn't a subclause, and therefore, which doesn't have a subjunction (subordinate conjunction). Direct speech is often preceded by a colon and surrounded by quote marks.

Direct speech: Petro diris: "Mi volas doni ion al vi." - Peter said: "I want to give you something."
Indirect speech: Petro diris, ke li volas doni ion al mi. - Peter said that he wanted to give me something.
Direct speech: Karlo demandis: "Ĉu vi volas iri kun mi?" - Karlo asked: "Do you want to go with me?"
Indirect speech: Karlo demandis, ĉu mi volas iri kun li. - Karlo asked whether I wanted to go with him.

Indirect speech is usually in a clause starting with ke or in an interrogative relative clause. These relative clauses often act as the object of a verb like say, yell, think, know, decide, write, understand, note, see, ask, want, hear etc.: He said, that he was happy. She thought, that she was happy.

Indirect speech can also appear as a suplement to words like thought, decision, question, fear etc.: He had the thought, that he was happy. The decision was, that Peter be president. They asked the question, whether they could participate.

Indirect speech can also appear as the subject of to seem, to be evident, to be doubtful, to be clear, to be (im)possible, to be likely etc.:It seemed, that it was raining. It was evident that he was not happy.

Verb forms in indirect speech

In some languages, the verb form must be changed in some circumstances of indirect speech. In Esperanto, the original verb form is always conserved.

  • Li diris: "Mi volas manĝi".Li diris, ke li volas manĝi. - He said: "I want to eat". → He said that he wanted to eat. (In colloquial English you may also hear 'He said that he wants to eat'. This is closer to the Esperanto structure.)

    The AS in volas is the present of the original statement. Don't change to IS.

  • Li diris: "Mi tiam loĝis en Ĉinujo."Li diris, ke li tiam loĝis en Ĉinujo. - He said: "At that time I lived in China." → He said that at that time he had lived in China.

    The IS in loĝis shows a time earlier than the original statement. It would be a mistake to change it to estis loĝinta.

  • Ŝi demandis: "Ĉu vi iros kun mi al kinejo?"Ŝi demandis, ĉu mi iros kun ŝi al kinejo. - She asked: "Will you go to the movies with me?" → She asked whether I would go to the movies with her.

    The OS in iros shows a time after the original question. It would be a mistake to change it to estis ironta or volis iri. Let's say the original question was "Ĉu vi volas iri kun mi?", one would say: Ŝi demandis, ĉu mi volas iri kun ŝi.

  • Li ne komprenis: "Kial ŝi ne volas partopreni?"Li ne komprenis, kial ŝi ne volas partopreni. - He did not understand: "Why does she not want to participate?" → He did not understand why she didn't want to participate.

    The AS in volas reflects the time indicated in the the orginal sentence.

  • Ili ordonis: "Paku tuj vian valizon!" → Ili ordonis, ke mi tuj paku mian valizon. - They ordered: "Pack your bag!" → They ordered that I should immediately pack my bag.
  • Ŝi esperis, ke ŝi ilin trovos. - She hoped that she would find them.

    The original thought was: "Mi ilin trovos."

  • Ŝi estis plena de timo, ke la infano mortos. - She was full of fear that the child would die.

    She feared and thought: "La infano mortos!"

  • Li metis la kondiĉon, ke oni ne instruu al ŝi la Kristanan religion. - He put forth the condition that one not instruct her in the Christian religion.

    He said: "Ne instruu al ŝi..."

  • Ŝajnis al ŝi, ke ŝin ĉirkaŭas unu sola densa barilo el traboj. - It seemed to her that a single dense fence of planks surrounded her.

    She thought: "Min ĉirkaŭas...", because that's how it appeared to her.

Relative subclauses normally do not retell a statement or a thought. In these subclauses, the verb tenses relate to the absolute present:

  • Mi ne konis tiun, kiu venis. - I did not know the one who came.

    Konis and venis both show a time before the present. Likely they refer to the same time.

  • Mi ne konis la personon, kiu estis baldaŭ venonta tra la pordo. - I didn't know the person who was about to come through the door.

    Both konis and estis show a time before the present. Venonta shows a time after that in the past.

Temporal and locative words in indirect speech

If there is an expression indicating time in the sentence being quoted, it can normally remain unchanged in indirect speech. Some temporal particles, however, depend on the absolute present, and must sometimes be changed to avoid confusion. These words are hodiaŭ (today), hieraŭ (yesterday), antaŭhieraŭ (the day before yesterday), morgaŭ (tomorrow) and postmorgaŭ (the day after tomorrow). Sentences in which the time word must be changed are relatively uncommon:

  • Pasintan lundon li diris: "Mi ne laboros hodiaŭ!"Pasintan lundon li diris, ke li ne laboros tiun tagon. - Last Monday he said: "I will not work today!" → Last Monday he said that he would not work that day.

    If hodiaŭ is kept in the relative clause, then we are talking about the day in which the whole sentence was said.

  • Morgaŭ li verŝajne diros: "Mi estis malsana hieraŭ!"Morgaŭ li verŝajne diros, ke li estis malsana hodiaŭ. - Tomorrow he will likely say: "I was sick yesterday!" → Tomorrow he will likely say that he was sick today.

    If yesterday is used in indirect speech then we are talking about the day before the whole sentence was said. So in fact he is talking about the present day, and so we change it to today.

  • Antaŭ unu semajno li demandis al mi: "Ĉu vi venos al mi morgaŭ?"Antaŭ unu semajno li demandis al mi, ĉu mi venos al li la postan tagon. - One week ago he asked me: "Will you come to me tormorrow?" → One week ago he asked me whether I would go to him the next day.

In stories, however, the words today, yesterday and tomorrow are kept as is: Li renkontis konaton, junan poeton, kiu rakontis al li, ke morgaŭ [= la postan tagon] li komencos sian someran vojaĝon.This sentence appears in a fable, and can hardly be confused with the real tomorrow.

Forms like hieraŭo (a yesterday), hieraŭa tago (a day yesterday, a previous day), morgaŭo (a tomorrow), morgaŭa tago (a future day, a day tomorrow) are often used independently of the absolute present.

The time indicating word nun can sometimes be changed for clarity into reported speech, but usually this is not necessary: Hieraŭ li diris: "Mi volas fari tion nun kaj ne poste!"Hieraŭ li diris, ke li volas fari tion nun kaj ne poste.It can be changed to tiam, tiumomente or perhaps tuj, but also nun is suitable.

A locative expression in a cited sentence must sometimes be changed in indirect speech, if the story is being told again in another place. In other cases, this change can be natural, but not required.

  • Karlo and Eva are in Paris. Karlo talks about Beijing, and says to Eva: Mi iros tien.
  • Later Eva is with Peter in Beijing and repeats to Peter: Karlo diris, ke li iros ĉi tien. (Aŭ: li venos ĉi tien.)
  • Peter and Eva are in Tokyo, and Peter says to her: Mi iam estis en Berlino.
  • Eva and Karlo are later in Berlin and she repeats to him: Petro diris, ke li iam estis ĉi tie. Aŭ: Petro diris, ke li iam estis en Berlino.

Pronouns in indirect speech

In indirect speech, personal and possessive pronouns must often change, if the speaker or the listener has changed.

  • Karlo says: Mi estas tre feliĉa.
  • Peter tells Eva:Karlo diris, ke li estas tre feliĉa. Mili.
  • Karlo says to Eva: Mi amas vin.
  • Peter asks Eva: Ĉu li vere diris, ke li amas vin? Mili, vin
  • Peter asks Karlo: Ĉu vi vere diris, ke vi amas ŝin? Mivi, vinŝin.
  • Peter tells Elizabeth: 1} Mili, vinŝin.
  • Karlo talks to Peter about Eva: Mi amas ŝin.
  • Peter tells Eva: Li diris, ke li amas vin. Mili, ŝinvin.
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