Reported Speech - Indirekte Rede

There are two ways of reporting what somebody said. One way is to use the exact words of the other person. In writing, this is done by putting the original words in quotation marks.

She said: "I am hungry".

The other way is to incorporate the words into a sentence.

She said she was hungry.

In German, reported speech can be introduced by:

Sie behauptete - She claimed

Sie erklärte - She explained

Sie erzählte - She told

Sie fragte - She asked

Sie berichtete - She reported

The introductory phrase can be in any tense: Sie sagte, Sie hat gesagt.

German has a specific verb form Konjunktiv I to indicate what someone said. It is almost exclusively used in the written language, for example in news reports.

Sie sagte, sie habe Hunger. - She said she was hungry.

Sie sagte, sie sei müde. - She said she was tired.

When replacing the original verb with its Konjunktiv equivalent in reported speech, there is a danger that the Konjunktiv form may be identical to the original indicative, particularly in the case of plural -en endings. In order to make it clear that Konjunktiv is used for the reported speech, it is necessary to take a different form of Konjunktiv, commonly known as Konjunktiv II. Thus, the plural haben will be replaced by hätten.

Direct speech: Sie sagten: "Wir fahren nach Hamburg."

Konjunktiv I: Sie sagten, sie fahren nach Hamburg. (identical verb form)

Konjunktiv II: Sie sagten, sie führen nach Hamburg. (different verb form)

For statements in the present tense, use Konjunktiv I form of the verb.

Sie sagte, sie habe Angst. - She said she is scared.

Sie hat gesagt, sie habe Angst. - She said she is scared.

Alternatives to Konjunktiv I

In spoken German, the usage of Konjunktiv I is sometimes regarded as old-fashioned. The following alternatives are possible in contemporary German:

dass + indicative: Sie sagte, dass sie zur Party kommt.

Indicative: Sie sagte, sie kommt zur Party.

Konjunktiv II: Sie sagte, sie käme zur Party.

dass + Konjunktiv II: Sie sagte, dass sie zur Party käme.


Introductory verbs as befehlen (to order), anweisen (to tell), auffordern (to ask), anbitten (to offer) require an infinitive with zu in the statements with reported speech.

Er befahl mir, dich zu beschützen. - He ordered me to protect you.

Sie wies mich an, dir zu dienen. - She told me to serve you.

Bot er Ihnen Geld um mich auszuspionieren? - Did he offer you money to spy on me?

Grammar Patterns

Listening Comprehension