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.
|Lui / Lei dice|
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.)
|Lui / Lei diceva|
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…)
|Lui / Lei disse|
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.)
|Lui / Lei dirà|
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.)
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.
|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.)
|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.
|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.
|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.
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.
|Che io dica|
|Che tu dica|
|Che lui / lei dica|
|Che noi diciamo|
|Che voi diciate|
|Che essi dicano|
- 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.)
|Che io dicessi|
|Che tu dicessi|
|Che lui / lei dicesse|
|Che noi dicessimo|
|Che voi diceste|
|Che essi dicessero|
- 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.)
You create these by adding detto to the corresponding auxiliary.
|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.)
|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.)
Dire – Conjugation in the Conditional Mood
|Lui / Lei direbbe|
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?)
|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.
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.
|Lui / Lei dica|
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
Participle of Dire – Conjugation
Gerund of Dire – Conjugation
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.
Sign up here to save your progress and start getting fluent with thousands of Italian sentences at Clozemaster.
Clozemaster has been designed to help you learn the language in context by filling in the gaps in authentic sentences. With features such as Grammar Challenges, Cloze-Listening, and Cloze-Reading, the app will let you emphasize all the competencies necessary to become fluent in Italian.