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The Definitive Guide to the Conjugation of “Dire” in Italian

Dire means “to say” or “to tell”, and it is a common verb in Italian. It is used in numerous situations, for example when reporting who said what, or to ask people to tell you something specific.

It is important to know the conjugation of dire, as it will help you instantly recognize it and all the information it conveys. Dire is an irregular verb, so you will have to put in a little more effort to learn it, but it is all worth it, since the verb is so common. Let’s see how to conjugate dire in all tenses.

The finite moods of Dire

There are 4 finite moods in Italian: indicative, subjunctive, conditional, and imperative.

Dire – Conjugation in the Indicative Mood 

The indicative mood is made up of eight tenses, four simple tenses, and four compound tenses. It is used to express certainty that an action happened or that it will happen.

Simple tenses

Presente

Io dico
Tu dici
Lui / Lei dice
Noi diciamo
Voi dite
Essi dicono

Presente is used to report what someone has just said after the conversation is over.

  • Che dice zia Luigia? (What did aunt Luigia say?)

In this case, you are referring to a conversation that happened in the past. Diciamo is also used to begin hypothetical sentences, it is the Italian equivalent of “let’s say”.

The present tense can also be used to make generic statements, such as:

  • Sto sempre attento a ciò che dico. (I’m always careful about what I say.)

Finally, you can use it express what you are about to tell someone:

  • Lo dico a Giorgio. (I’ll tell Giorgio.)

Imperfetto

Io dicevo
Tu dicevi
Lui / Lei diceva
Noi dicevamo
Voi dicevate
Essi dicevano

Imperfetto is used when you are talking about habits in the past, or when talking about what was told while another action was happening at the time of speaking.

  • Le dicevo sempre di stare attenta quando attraversava la strada. (I always told her to be careful when she crossed the road.)
  • Non ero d’accordo con ciò che dicevate. (I disagreed with what you were saying.)

Dicevamo and dicevo can also be used to refer to what you were talking about just before an interruption.

  • Dicevo? Ah sì, la macchina… (What was I talking about? Ah yes, the car…)

Passato Remoto

Io dissi
Tu dicesti
Lui / Lei disse
Noi dicemmo
Voi diceste
Essi dissero

Passato remoto is used when describing what was said a long time ago.

  • Mi dissero che la promozione era scaduta. (They told me the promotion had expired.)

Futuro Semplice

Io dirò
Tu dirai
Lui / Lei dirà
Noi diremo
Voi direte
Essi diranno

You use this tense when you want to express what is going to be said by the subject in the future.

  • Anna ci dirà domani l’esito dell’esame. (Anna will tell us the exam results tomorrow.)

Compound tenses

These tenses are built by pairing the auxiliary verb with its respective past participle form. There are four compound tenses in the indicative form of dire. To create them, all you have to do is use the simple form of avere in the tense you need, and add the participle detto to it.

Passato Prossimo

Io ho detto
Tu hai detto
Lui / Lei ha detto
Noi abbiamo detto
Voi avete detto
Essi hanno detto

Passato prossimo is the most versatile tense in the Italian language, as already explained in our article about the conjugation of the verb essere. The statement holds true for every other verb as well, dire included. It is used to indicate what was said in the past.

  • Paolo mi ha detto dei tuoi problemi. (Paolo told me about your problems.)
  • Ho detto ad Andrea di comprare del cibo. (I told Andrea to buy some food.)

Trapassato Prossimo

Io avevo detto
Tu avevi detto
Lui / Lei aveva detto
Noi avevamo detto
Voi avevate detto
Essi avevano detto
  • I giornali avevano detto che il prezzo sarebbe crollato. (The newspapers said the price would drop.)
  • Io te lo avevo detto che sarebbe finita male. (I told you it would end poorly.)

This tense is used when you tell someone that the event that happened was previously talked about.

Trapassato Remoto

Io ebbi detto
Tu avesti detto
Lui / Lei ebbe detto
Noi avemmo detto
Voi aveste detto
Essi ebbero detto

This tense does not have an English equivalent, and it is almost completely unused in Italian as well. Like the passato remoto, we use this when we talk about what was said a long time ago.

  • Non appena ebbero detto agli operai del licenziamento, essi se ne andarono. (As soon as they told the workers about the layoff, the workers left.)

It is archaic and being gradually replaced by passato prossimo, so you will only find it in older works of literature.

Futuro Anteriore

Io avrò detto
Tu avrai detto
Lui / Lei avrà detto
Noi avremo detto
Voi avrete detto
Essi avranno detto

Futuro anteriore is used when you want to talk about what is going to happen once you will have said what you wanted to say.

  • Dopo che avrò detto a Giulia cosa ne penso, andrò da Marco a consolarlo. (After I will have told Giulia what I think, I’ll go to Marco’s and console him.)

Both futuro anteriore and trapassato remoto can only be used when the sentence they are in has a temporal function, that is, expressions such as after, as soon as, when etc.

Note:

  • Three out of four compound tenses are only used to describe events in relation to other events. They do not make sense in standalone sentences. Passato remoto is the only compound tense that works by itself.
  • The phrase that follows the one with the compound tense has to be in the corresponding simple tense. So, if you use trapassato remoto, the following phrase has to be in passato remote, and if you use future anteriore, the following phrase has to be in future semplice. This is true for every verb in the Italian language.

Dire – Conjugation in the Subjunctive Mood

The subjunctive (congiuntivo) mood is used to express subjectivity, uncertainty, or doubt. It is always used in subordinate clauses, clauses that cannot exist as a complete sentence because they do not express a complete thought, and they are always introduced by the word che (that). Like the indicative, it has simple and compound tenses. Let’s see how to conjugate essere in the subjunctive mood.

Simple tenses

Presente

Che io dica
Che tu dica
Che lui / lei dica
Che noi diciamo
Che voi diciate
Che essi dicano

Examples:

  • Aspetto che tu mi dica che cosa fare. (I’m waiting for you to tell me what to do.)
  • Spero che i miei amici le dicano la verità. (I hope that my friends tell her the truth.)

Imperfetto

Che io dicessi
Che tu dicessi
Che lui / lei dicesse
Che noi dicessimo
Che voi diceste
Che essi dicessero

Examples:

  • Aspettavo che tu mi dicessi di partire. (I was waiting for you to tell me to leave.)
  • Avrei preferito che te lo dicessero prima di comprare l’auto nuova. (I wish they told you before purchasing the new car.)

Compound tenses

You create these by adding detto to the corresponding auxiliary.

Passato

Che io abbia detto
Che tu abbia detto
Che lui / lei abbia detto
Che noi abbiamo detto
Che voi abbiate detto
Che essi abbiano detto
  • Credo che tu abbia detto un’idiozia. (I think that you said something stupid.)

Trapassato

Che io avessi detto
Che tu avessi detto
Che lui / lei avesse detto
Che noi avessimo detto
Che voi aveste detto
Che essi avessero detto
  • Pensavo gli studenti avessero detto una bugia. (I thought that the students told a lie.)
Note:

  • The word che can be omitted when the verb expresses doubt or uncertainty. It cannot be omitted when expressing will.
  • The subjunctive mood does not have its own conjugation in English.

Dire – Conjugation in the Conditional Mood

Presente

Io direi
Tu diresti
Lui / Lei direbbe
Noi diremmo
Voi direste
Essi direbbero

The condizionale presente is used to either express yourself in a courteous tone:

  • Direi che quel vestito ti sta male. (I’d say that dress looks bad on you.)

Or to ask someone to tell you something in a polite way:

  • Mi direbbe dove si trova il bagno? (Could you tell me where is the bathroom?)

Passato

Io avrei detto
Tu avresti detto
Lui / Lei avrebbe detto
Noi avremmo detto
Voi avreste detto
Essi avrebbero detto
  • Non lo avrei mai detto. (I never would have guessed.)

The English language does not have the conditional mood, to create hypothetical sentences, it uses conditional sentences instead.

Note:

  • The subordinate phrase of a conditional sentence always uses the subjunctive mood.

Dire – Conjugation in the Imperative Mood

The imperative mood is used to give commands and orders. In English, it is rendered with the present simple.

Tu di’
Lui / Lei dica
Noi diciamo
Voi dite
Essi dicano

Di’ and dite are used a lot in colloquial language, while the rest isn’t used at all outside of works of literature or movies to add a dramatic effect to what’s being said, for example:

  • Di’ dove si trovano i prigionieri! (Say where the prisoners are!)

The indefinite moods of Dire

These moods do not have a subject, hence the name “indefinite”. They are used in subordinate sentences, where you can figure out the missing subject from the context.

Infinitive of Dire – Conjugation

Present Past
Dire Avere detto

Participle of Dire – Conjugation

Present Past
Dicente Detto

Gerund of Dire – Conjugation

Present Past
Dicendo Avendo detto
Note:

  • The infinitive present is the base form of the verb, so it is how you are going to find the verb in the dictionary, in this case it is the equivalent in English of “to say / to tell”.
  • As with every other Italian verb, the past participle form is all over the conjugation of dire, while the present form is pretty much unused.
  • The gerund is used to express the contemporaneity or the anteriority, or the causality or consequentiality of one action with respect to another, for example:
    • Avendo detto alla maestra del problema, mi aspettavo mi desse una soluzione. (Having told the teacher of the problem, I expected her to give me a solution.)

Challenge yourself with Clozemaster

Learning how to conjugate dire might seem daunting at first, but don’t worry, it comes naturally with practice.

Test your skills and see what you’ve learned from this article by playing a selection of Italian sentences with conjugated forms of dire.

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