Looking for Accelerated Spanish? We've rebranded!

Click here to learn more.

Decir in the past

Let’s conjugate Decir in the past, as well as learn Decir’s imperatives, so that we can say things like “I said it”, “she will say something”, and “tell him this”.

Full Podcast Episode


Como decía…

Intro: Join us on a rigorous, step-by-step journey to fluency. I’m Timothy and this is LearnCraft Spanish.

Let’s learn how to conjugate Decir in the past, future, subjunctive, and imperative, so that we can use it to say things like “I said it”, “she will say something”, and “tell him this”.

The most common way to put Decir in the past is with the preterite. That’s because saying something is typically a one-time event, not an ongoing thing. The most common preterite conjugation is dijo, which is the word for “he/she/usted said”. For example:

She said something when we were at home.

Ella dijo algo cuando estábamos en casa.

This word, dijo, is a bit weird. It’s spelled d-i-j-o, with this unexpected J in the middle. The word for “I said” is similar; it’s dije, spelled d-i-j-e. For example:

I told her that.

Le dije eso.

Note that although these words, dijo and dije, are pretty irregular, they follow a similar pattern to what we’ve seen in Hacer (with hizo and hice) and in Poder (with pudo and pude).

Let’s practice these a bit.

I told him what they had told me that day.

Le dije lo que me habían dicho ese día.

I didn’t want to do it and he told it to his brother.

No quería hacerlo y se lo dijo a su hermano.

Your mother said that during the night but I didn’t say anything.

Tu madre dijo eso durante la noche pero yo no dije nada.

The rest of the preterite forms of Decir rhyme with the preterite forms of Ir. So “they said” is dijeron, the informal “you said” is dijiste, and “we said” is dijimos. For example:

We didn’t say it, you said it.

Nosotros no lo dijimos, tú lo dijiste.

Let’s practice all the preterite forms of Decir.

He said what you (formal) said.

Él dijo lo que usted dijo.

What do you mean you told it to your sister?

¿Cómo que se lo dijiste a tu hermana?

They said they hadn’t done that since the party.

Dijeron que no habían hecho eso desde la fiesta.

We told the father that her daughter had a baby.

Le dijimos al padre que su hija tuvo un bebé.

I already told him what you wanted to tell him.

Ya le dije lo que tú le querías decir.

Sometimes the imperfect past tense of Decir is used, but not very often. One way this is used is if saying something (or telling someone something) happened frequently in the past. For example:

I used to say those things.

Yo decía esas cosas.

So the most common form is decía, which can mean “I used to say” or “he/she/usted used to say”.

Here’s another way it might be used:

As I was saying, she isn’t around.

Como decía, no está.

Let’s practice this a little bit. In this first example, to say “between the ages of 2 and 3”, you actually say “between the 2 and 3 years”, or entre los dos y tres años. See if you can predict the entire sentence.

I used to say those things between the ages of 2 and 3.

Yo decía esas cosas entre los dos y tres años.

You(formal) used to say that when you were here.

Usted decía eso cuando estaba aquí.

When he was alive, he used to say that his daughter was the best.

Cuando estaba vivo, decía que su hija era la mejor.

Now let’s start putting Decir in the future. You might expect the conjugations to be “deciré” and “decirá”, but Decir is a very irregular word, and its future-tense forms have been extremely shortened, all the way down to simply diré and dirá. For example:

I will say what you(formal) will say.

Yo diré lo que usted dirá.

Let’s practice these.

I will tell my brother what you said.

Le diré a mi hermano lo que dijiste.

Whatever it is, he will not tell the truth.

Sea lo que sea, él no dirá la verdad.

I will not tell you(all) what I know.

No les diré lo que sé.

The subjunctive forms of Decir are all based on the word diga. The only other conjugation that’s like this, with a G in there, is digo, the word for “I say” or “I tell”. Incidentally, you’ve probably noticed that this is common to all the verbs that have a weird G in them like this; in Tener, we had tengo for “I have”, and all the subjunctive forms were based on tenga. In Hacer, we had hago, and all the subjunctive forms were based on haga.

One way or another, the subjunctive forms are diga, digas, digan, and digamos. For example:

I don’t want them to say that.

No quiero que digan eso.

Let’s practice these.

The dude wants me to tell him what I know.

El tipo quiere que le diga lo que sé.

He wants us to say that the party was his.

Quiere que digamos que la fiesta era suya.

He’ll do it so that you tell it to him.

Lo hará para que se lo digas.

Mom will be there when they tell her the truth.

Mamá estará ahí cuando ellos le digan la verdad.

How nice that you (formal) tell me that! I didn’t know it.

¡Qué bueno que usted me diga eso! No lo sabía.

Another very common way to use Decir is as an imperative. In Spanish, just like in English, it’s very common to tell someone to say something, or to tell someone something.

The informal imperatives are all based on the word di, spelled D-I. For example:

Say something!

¡Di algo!

Say that it isn’t the truth.

Di que no es la verdad.

But actually, it’s much more common to tell someone to tell someone something. For example, “Tell her not to go there” or “Tell me what you did that day”. In these cases, you’ll use contractions, with an indirect object at the end of the word di. The most common are dime, which means “tell me”, and dile, which means “tell (him/her)”. So:

Tell me what you did that day.

Dime qué hiciste ese día.

This next one is an imperative to order someone to do something, so we have an imperative in the first half, and then a subjunctive order in the second half.

Tell her to go home.

Dile que vaya a casa.

Here’s another example that uses the same template.

Tell me to do something else this year.

Dime que haga algo más este año.

But when what you’re telling someone to say is simply a fact, not an order, there won’t be any subjunctive. For example:

Tell me that those things are mine!

¡Dime que esas cosas son mías!

Let’s practice the words di, dile, and dime.

Tell him what you did that day.

Dile lo que hiciste ese día.

Tell him to say something this instant.

Dile que diga algo ya mismo.

Say what you did! Dad will not be happy when he knows.

¡Di lo que hiciste! Papá no estará feliz cuando sepa.

Tell me what you would do without me.

Dime qué harías sin mí.

Tell him to do this at the party.

Dile que haga esto en la fiesta.

Speaking of contractions, it’s also very common to put indirect objects at the end of the infinitive, decir. In fact, the contractions decirme, decirle, and decirte all occur in the top 1000 most frequently-used words in the Spanish language! So it’s worth practicing these a little bit.

You have to tell me what they did.

Tienes que decirme lo que hicieron.

The girl is going to tell the dad.

La niña va a decirle al papá.

I can’t tell you that now, there are a lot of people.

No puedo decirte eso ahora, hay mucha gente.

Remember that you can get more practice with any of this at LCSPodcast.com/82. Or if you’re ready, let’s go on to today’s final quiz. This quiz is a bit challenging, so you may need some extra time on it; feel free to go over it as many times as you need to. But the good news is that this quiz uses no Spanglish at all! So see if you can predict all the Spanish of every sentence.

Tell me what you want them to say.

Dime lo que quieres que digan.

They say that because they are opposed to you.

Dicen eso porque están en tu contra.

Her son is where he always is.

Su hijo está donde siempre está.

My husband has to tell you the truth.

Mi esposo tiene que decirte la verdad.

We’re telling you everything, especially what you wanted to know.

Te estamos diciendo todo, sobre todo lo que querías saber.

He wants us to tell him that we’re opposed to him.

Quiere que le digamos que estamos en su contra.

I told my father: “you have to tell me that!”

Le dije a mi padre: “¡tienes que decirme eso!”

Your brother will do it when you say it to him.

Tu hermano lo hará cuando se lo digas.

We’re telling you in advance that we aren’t going to be able to go.

Te decimos desde ya que no vamos a poder ir.

We can say that you did that years ago.

Podemos decir que hiciste eso hace años.

My wife says that what is under that thing is yours.

Mi esposa dice que lo que está bajo esa cosa es tuyo.

She used to say things like that when she was here with us.

Decía cosas así cuando estaba aquí con nosotros.

As far as I know, my mother doesn't want me to tell anything to my father.

Que yo sepa, mi madre no quiere que le diga nada a mi padre.

We’re going to be able to do it when our sister tells us that.

Vamos a poder hacerlo cuando nuestra hermana nos diga eso.

We told them what you told us that night.

Les dijimos lo que nos dijiste esa noche.

We always tell our son that he can do whatever he wants.

Siempre le decimos a nuestro hijo que puede hacer lo que quiera.

The family will say that to the girl.

La familia le dirá eso a la niña.

Where is your father going? Say something!

¿Adónde va tu padre? ¡Di algo!

They said that they are going toward the place where your sister is.

Dijeron que van hacia el lugar donde está tu hermana.

The girl hasn’t told us anything.

La chica no nos ha dicho nada.

I was saying that I want to go, what do you say?

Decía que quiero ir, ¿tú qué dices?

My sister says that it’s above the other thing.

Mi hermana dice que está sobre la otra cosa.

Tell her the truth.

Dile la verdad.

We went from that place because we had to say that to the boy.

Fuimos desde ese lugar porque teníamos que decirle eso al niño.

I always tell it all to my family, but now I won’t say anything.

Siempre se lo digo todo a mi familia, pero ahora no diré nada.

He told the truth, that is, that he had gone to the party without her.

Dijo la verdad, o sea, que había ido a la fiesta sin ella.

For more practice with all of this, go to LCSPodcast.com/82.

In tomorrow’s episode, we’ll get more practice with all these conjugations of Decir, plus we’ll learn a bunch of new adverbs related to time, including the words for “today”, “tomorrow”, “later”, and “meanwhile”.

This show is brought to you by LearnCraftSpanish.com. The Spanish voice in this episode was our coach Michael Agudelo. Our music was performed by the Seattle Marimba Quartet, and I’m Timothy, encouraging you to do the hard work of learning Spanish. Acquiring a second language is one of the most fulfilling things you can do, so start your fluency journey today at LCSPodcast.com.

Get the Free Podcast Materials
Sign up for instant access to the free course that goes with the podcast!
Access the Free Materials