Direct discourse / Indirect discourse
Direct discouse describes the direct reporting of what someone said in another context. It is usually marked by quotes:
Philippe a dit, “Je viendrai si j’ai le temps.” (Philippe said, “I’ll come if I have the time.”)
Mon camarade de chambre a dit, “Fais le ménage, ou décampe!” (My roommate said, “Clean the place up, or get out of here!”)
Indirect discourse consists of reporting such statements indirectly, without using quotes. In French indirect discourse entails a number of differences from direct discourse:
A. If the related statement contains a conjugated verb, the word que must be added, and the subject may have to be changed to retain the logic of the sentence.
Direct discourse: Il m’a dit, “Tu es bête.” (He told me, “You’re stupid”)
Indirect discourse: Il m’a dit que j’étais bête. (He told me [that] I was stupid.)
B. With verbs like dire, permettre, ordonner, demander, when one is being instructed to do something, the related statement may use an infinitive construction:
Direct discourse: Il m’a dit, “Ecris-moi.” (He told me, “Write to me.”)
Indirect discourse: Il m’a dit de lui écrire. (He told me to write him.)
C. Care must be taken to make sure the verb tense reflects the change of context that occurs when one moves from direct discourse to indirect discourse.
Direct discourse: Elle a dit, “Je serai à l’heure.” (She said, “I will be on time.”)
Indirect discourse: Elle a dit qu’elle serait à l’heure. (She said she would be on time.)
Direct discourse: Quand il a téléphoné, il a dit, “Je suis à l’aéroport.” (When he telephoned he said, “I’m at the airport”)
Indirect discourse: Quand il a téléphoné, il a dit qu’il était à l’aéroport. (When he telephoned he said he was at the airport.)