In today’s online Spanish grammar lesson, we will discuss “direct style” vs. “indirect style” or direct speech / cited speech vs. indirect speech / indirect speech. This topic involves a common grammatical mistake that native English speakers make in both English and Spanish. Interestingly, you will NOT find that Spanish speakers make this grammatical mistake as often in the Spanish language.

I decided to write this email after a customer sent me an email saying:

“Patrick in one of your emails you wrote ‘I asked him how much the fish cost’. Why is he using the price in the past tense? Has it changed?”

Well, the price did not change. The phrase I used turns out to be the correct use of the verb in both Spanish grammar and English grammar. It was not a mistake. Look at my sentence again.

He asked how much the fish cost.

I asked him how much the fish cost.

The above is an example of what is known in English as “indirect speech” (also known as “indirect speech”). The grammatical term for this in the Spanish language is known as “indirect style.”

There are 3 rules that I think are important to mention about “indirect style” or indirect / indirect speech. And these rules apply in English and Spanish.

1. Do not use quotation marks to indicate what a person said.

2. When “reporting” what a person said, “it doesn’t have to be word for word.”

3. When what a person said is reported, the time usually changes.

The reason time changes is because when you report indirect speech, you are usually describing a time in the past. This should be obvious because the speaker actually spoke in the past. For this reason, verbs should also be in the past tense.

On the other hand, with “direct style” or “direct speech / quoted speech” you must say precisely what someone said. And you should also use quotation marks to enclose what someone has said.

For instance:

He asked, “How much does the fish cost?”

I asked him: “How much does the fish cost?”

I think much of this confusion is due to the fact that in conversational English we often ignore the grammar rules for “indirect style” or indirect speech / indirect speech and make grammatically incorrect statements like “She asked you how much the dress cost.”

Like I said, in previous emails, the Spanish language is less forgiving. It is not acceptable in the Spanish language not to adhere strictly to the rules of Spanish grammar. It is not so common that you hear native Spanish speakers make the same grammatical mistakes with their language as we do with the English language.

In a future article, I will give you many examples of the “direct style” vs. “indirect style” or direct speech / cited speech vs. indirect speech / indirect speech in various tenses. That way you will have a good understanding of how this grammar rule works in both languages.