italian verb dire grammar & conjugation lesson

Italian Verb Dire Grammar Lesson & Conjugation For Beginners



If you want to speak Italian, you need verbs. One of the most common and useful verbs is “dire”, which means “to say”. This lesson will teach you everything you need to know about “dire” – how to conjugate it in different tenses, how to use it in sentences, and some handy expressions with “dire”. Whether you’re a total beginner or have some knowledge of Italian, this guide will improve your understanding of this fundamental verb.

Italian Verb Dire Overview

Let’s get to know the Italian verb dire. It’s another of those common verbs that you’ll use a lot when speaking Italian, so this lesson will be useful as part of your journey to learn the Italian grammar and language.

Dire Meaning

Dire means to say in English. 

Type of verb

Dire it’s an irregular transitive verb.

It’s irregular because the root changes when conjugating certain tenses like the passato remoto.

Since the verb dire (to say) can answer the question what, it takes the auxiliary avere.

If you need to revise that rule, here it is again.

Most transitive verbs, that is those verbs that can answer the what question (eating what, doing what, giving what), take the auxiliary verb avere.

Intransitive verbs can’t answer the question of who/what. These verbs normally take the auxiliary verb essere.

With this rule in mind, once I tell you the type of verb, you’ll automatically know which helper verb to use for your passato prossimo and other compound past tenses.

Italian verb dire example 1
The girl on the right is asking the other two kids “tell me what you see”.

Dire Pronunciation

Listen to me, if you want to practice how to say dire in Italian. I am also pronouncing the conjugation of the present tense, which you’ll see in the section after the next one.

Italian Verb Dire Pronunciation

Prepositions After Dire

Usually dire implies to say something, which means that it’s followed by a noun rather than a preposition. Other times it can act as a complete verb that doesn’t imply the use of a preposition.


Dimmi la verità. – Tell me the truth. (truth is the noun)

Fabrizio ha detto la sua. – Fabrizio had his say. (sua acts as a pronoun in place of the noun)

Ho già detto ciò che dovevo dire. – I have already said what I needed to say. (ciò acts as the pronoun).

When the sentence implies to tell someone or to tell something about someone, we use the prepositions a (to) and di (about).


Di alla mamma di essere pronta alle 6. – Tell mum to be ready at 6.

Cosa mi dici di Laura? – What can you tell me about Laura?

Dire Conjugation in Italian

Dire Present Tense

When you want to use say in the present, use this conjugation.

Io dico
Tu dici
Lui/lei dice
Noi diciamo
Voi dite
Loro dicono

Translates to: I say, you say, he/she says, we say, you say, they say.

Dire Imperfetto

When you want to speak about saying something in the past, use the imperfect.

Io dicevo
Tu dicevi
Lui/lei diceva
Noi dicevamo
Voi dicevate
Loro dicevano

Translates to: I said, you said, he/she said, we said, you said, they said.

Dire Passato Prossimo

When you want to refer to having said something in a very recent past, maybe earlier that day or yesterday, use this tense and conjugation. 

Io ho detto
Tu hai detto
Lui/lei ha detto
Noi abbiamo detto
Voi avete detto
Loro hanno detto

Translation: I have said, you have said, he/she has said, we have said, you have said, they have said.

Dire Future Tense

If you want to say I will say in Italian, this is the correct conjugation of the verb dire.

Io dirò
Tu dirai
Lui/lei dirà
Noi diremo
Voi direte
Loro diranno

This translates to: I will say, you will say, he/she will say, we will say, you will say, they will say.

Italian verb dire example 2
The husband is asking the wife: “Tell me. What do you want to watch?”.

Dire Verb Full Conjugation

Dire Indicative Mood

io dico
tu dici
lui dice
noi diciamo
voi dite
loro dicono

Meaning 1st person:
I say
io ho detto
tu hai detto
lui ha detto
noi abbiamo detto
voi avete detto
loro hanno detto

Meaning 1st person:
I have said


io dicevo
tu dicevi
lui diceva
noi dicevamo
voi dicevate
loro dicevano

Meaning 1st person:
I said
io avevo detto
tu avevi detto
lui aveva detto
noi avevamo detto
voi avevate detto
loro avevano detto

Meaning 1st person:
I had said
(historical perfect)
(past anterior)
io dissi
tu dicesti
lui disse
noi dicemmo
voi diceste
loro dissero

Meaning 1st person:
I said
io ebbi detto
tu avesti detto
lui ebbe detto
noi avemmo detto
voi aveste detto
loro ebbero detto

Meaning 1st person:
I had said

Dire Indicative Mood

Understanding the Passato Remoto

In Italian, when you want to talk about actions that took place and were completed in the remote or distant past, you use the passato remoto. It’s like looking at events from a historical perspective. This tense is commonly found in written narratives, literature, or when discussing events that happened a long time ago.

For example:

What About the Trapassato Remoto?

The trapassato remoto is the Italian past perfect tense and is used to express actions that occurred before another past action, often in the passato remoto. It’s a further step back in the past. So, if you’re already using the passato remoto to talk about a completed past action, you would use the trapassato remoto to describe an action that happened even earlier in relation to that past event.


Trapassato Remoto: “Non appena Giovanni ebbe sentito la notizia, corse al negozio.” (As soon as John heard the news, he ran to the store.)

(future perfect)
io dirò
tu dirai
lui dirà
noi diremo
voi direte
loro diranno

Meaning 1st person:
I will say
io avrò detto
tu avrai detto
lui avrà detto
noi avremo detto
voi avrete detto
loro avranno detto

Meaning 1st person:
I will have said

Dire Indicative Mood

Italian verb dire example 3
Time to take a break. Tell me, what do you know about Vernazza?

Dire Conditional Mood

io direi
tu diresti
lui direbbe
noi diremmo
voi direste
loro direbbero

1st Person Meaning:
I would say

io avrei detto
tu avresti detto
lui avrebbe detto
noi avremmo detto
voi avreste detto
loro avrebbero detto

1st Person meaning:
I would have said

Conditional of Verb Dire

Dire Subjunctive Mood

che io dica
che tu dica
che lui dica
che noi diciamo
che voi diciate
che loro dicano

1st person meaning:
that I say
che io abbia detto
che tu abbia detto
che lui abbia detto
che noi abbiamo detto
che voi abbiate detto
che loro abbiano detto

1st person meaning:
that I’ve said


che io dicessi
che tu dicessi
che lui dicesse
che noi dicessimo
che voi diceste
che loro dicessero

1st person meaning:
that I said

che io avessi detto
che tu avessi detto
che lui avesse detto
che noi avessimo detto
che voi aveste detto
che loro avessero detto

1st person meaning:
that I had said

Dire Subjunctive Mood

Imperative Mood



2nd person meaning: Say

Dire Imperative Mood

Infinitive Mood


Meaning: to say
avere detto

Meaning: to have said

Dire Infinitive Mood

Participle Mood


Meaning: saying

Meaning: said

Dire Participle Mood

Gerund Mood


Meaning: saying
Avere detto

Meaning: having said

Dire Gerund Mood

Italian verb dire example 4
The teacher is telling the student: “Dimmi, sai la risposta?”.

Let’s Practice Using The Italian Verb Dire

  1. Luca dice sempre la verità.
    • Luca always tells the truth.
  2. Giovanni dice che arriverà presto.
    • Giovanni says he will arrive early.
  3. Il professore ha detto che il compito è facile.
    • The teacher said that the homework is easy.
  4. Maria dice a Paolo di non preoccuparsi.
    • Maria tells Paolo not to worry.
  5. Mi ha detto di chiamarlo domani.
    • He told me to call him tomorrow.
  6. Laura dice di aver già mangiato.
    • Laura says she has already eaten.
  7. Il film mi è piaciuto molto, devo dirtelo.
    • I really liked the movie, I have to tell you.
  8. Lorenzo dice a sua madre che è arrivato.
    • Lorenzo tells his mother that he has arrived.
  9. Ti dirò la mia opinione più tardi.
    • I will tell you my opinion later.
  10. Gli amici ci hanno detto di venire alla festa.
    • Our friends told us to come to the party.

Dire vs Parlare

Dire and parlare are both communication verbs, which show that someone is speaking.

The key to understanding the difference between these verbs is this: dire is an action that can start with one person and stop there, while parlare involves two or more people.

I can say something without someone replying to me.

If I am speaking, there’s usually someone who’s also listening and taking part in the conversation.

PS: While in English you have to speak and to talk, in Italian parlare fulfills the functions of both of those verbs.


Vanessa dice di stare male. – Vanessa says she’s feeling bad.

That doesn’t imply the other person is talking too.

Vanessa parla a suo padre del suo malore. – Vanessa is talking to her dad about her sickness.

This time that sentence implies two people are talking.

15 Italian Expressions With Dire

So far you might have thought dire is a boring verb. Well, think again. Once you read and learn these expressions, you’ll fall in love with this verb and want to use it all the time.

  1. Modo di dire: Expression or Saying
  2. Diciamo che: Let’s say that
  3. Ma non mi dire: But don’t tell me
  4. Che ne dici?: What do you say? / What’s your opinion?
  5. Dire la propria: To speak one’s mind
  6. Dirne quattro: To say a few (harsh) words
  7. Voler dire: To mean
  8. A dir poco: To say the least
  9. Come si suol dire: As they say / As the saying goes
  10. A dire il vero: To tell the truth
  11. Detto fra noi: Between us / Just between us
  12. Dirne di tutti i colori: To say all sorts of things / To speak ill
  13. Tra il dire e il fare c’è di mezzo il mare: Between saying and doing, there is the sea in the middle. (Actions speak louder than words.)
  14. Non farselo dire: Don’t make me tell you. (You should already know or understand without being told.)
  15. Puoi dirlo forte: You can say that for sure (Forte means aloud and emphasizes that you agree with what is being said).

italian quiz time

Test Your Knowledge of Dire in Italian

1. What does “dire” mean in English?
a. To go
b. To say
c. To eat

2. Which auxiliary verb does “dire” take in compound past tenses?
a. Avere
b. Essere
c. Fare

3. In the sentence “Marco dice di stare male,” what does Marco say?
a. He’s going home.
b. He’s feeling bad.
c. He’s talking to his friend.

4. How do you say “I will say” in Italian using the verb “dire”?
a. Io dirò
b. Tu dici
c. Lui dice

5. When “dire” is followed by a preposition, what does it usually imply?
a. A question
b. A command
c. Saying something about someone

6. Complete the sentence: “Non farselo dire” means…
a. Don’t make me tell you.
b. Tell me more.
c. I will tell you.

7. Choose the correct form of “dire” in the imperfect tense: “Io _____ (dire) sempre la verità.”
a. dicano
b. dicevo
c. dico

8. What does “A dir poco” mean?
a. To say a few words
b. To say the least
c. To say loudly

9. In the sentence “Mi ha detto di chiamarlo domani,” what did he say?
a. Call him tomorrow.
b. He’s coming tomorrow.
c. He called tomorrow.

10. Translate “Voler dire” to English.
a. To speak loudly
b. To mean
c. To go


Final Thoughts

Now you have a solid grasp of the Italian verb “dire” – its meaning, conjugations, sentence examples, and common expressions. With this vital communication verb in your toolkit, you’ll be able to describe what people said, tell someone to do something, and express opinions more naturally in Italian. Refer back to this guide whenever you need a refresher on “dire”. Understanding basic building blocks like these is essential as you progress on your Italian learning journey.

Next, you should learn the Italian verb andare and the very important one – avere.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the conjugation of Dire?

The conjugation of the Italian verb dire in the present tense is: io dico, tu dici, lui/lei dice, noi diciamo, voi dite, loro dicono.

What is the dire command in Italian?

The imperative form for giving a command with the Italian verb dire would be di’ (informal singular), dica (formal singular), diciamo (first person plural), dite (informal plural).

How do you pronounce dire in Italian?

Dire is pronounced “DEE-reh” in Italian. The stress is on the first syllable.

Is Dire a regular verb?

No, the Italian verb dire is an irregular verb.

What is the past tense of dire in Italian?

The passato prossimo (recent past) of dire is: ho detto, hai detto, ha detto, abbiamo detto, avete detto, hanno detto.

What is the Latin word for dire?

The Latin word for “to say” is dicere, which is related to the Italian dire.

What are 2 synonyms for dire?

Two synonyms for dire in Italian are raccontare (to tell) and affermare (to state/assert).

What does dire someone mean?

That’s not something you would say in Italian, since “dire someone” includes an Italian and an English word. However, the two words mean to tell a person something. 

What does very dire mean?

That’s a wrong expression, at least in Italian, as it’s using an English word and an Italian one.

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