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Korean Language Bank: Indirect Quotation
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Quotations are a part of everyday life. We quote what hear and read almost in almost all conversations. Knowing how to quote someone or something is, therefore, an essential language skill. There are two major quotation forms in any language: direct quotation and indirect quotations. Let’s take a look at indirect quotation.

Indirect quotation is the act of quoting someone without using quotation marks. In general, it implies you are taking liberties so your quotation is not a word-for-word representation, unlike direct quotation. Whereas direct quotation is a rather simple thing, indirect quotation is a behemoth within Korean grammar. It will take a while before you have truly mastered indirect quotation. In the end, though, it is and remains the act of quoting what others have said or written down and because of that these sentences will include verbs like 듣다 (to listen, to hear), 말하다 (to say), 물어보다 (to ask), etc.

Even to Korean grammar standards, these forms are a bit long. In everyday conversations, these forms are therefore hardly used. Instead, Koreans use contracted forms of these forms.

자기 instead of 저 or 나

When you want to use 저 or 나 inside the quotation of an indirect quotation, you have to use 자기 instead.

An example:

가: 민수 씨가 안 왔어요?

나: 아니요, 하지만 방금 전화했고 늦게 올 거라고 말했어요.

A: Isn’t Minsu here?

B: No, but he just called and said he’d be late.

How To Use

As indicated earlier, indirect quotation is a behemoth in Korean grammar. To properly use it, you will need to learn a lot of different forms which you will have to use depending on the type of sentence and, in the case of quoted imperative phrases, depending on the situation. We’ll go over each sentence type for your convenience. Also, don’t stress if you have difficulties memorizing all forms, mastering it takes time.

The final 하다 of the forms mentioned in this article is not part of the actual form. You can replace it with a verb (and more) of your choosing.

Declarative, Indirect Quotation

The first type of phrase we’ll discuss is the declarative sentence. These sentences merely state facts and do little else. When quoting such a sentence, the tense of the quoted sentence is important. Depending on the tense you will have to use a different form and, in case of the present tense, the form also differs depending on word type, verb, adjective or noun. Let’s go over the indirect quotation forms for a declarative sentence.

Present Tense

The present tense declarative form of the indirect quotation differs depending on the verb type. You’ll need to memorize three different forms: one form for verbs, one for adjectives and one for nouns.

When you deal with a verb, the form is -(느)ㄴ다고 하다. When the verb ends in a batchim (consonant), you use the form -ㄴ다고 하다. However, when it ends in a vowel (no batchim), you use -는다고 하다.

Adjectives are a bit easier. For adjectives, you simply use the form -다고 하다. So you needn’t worry over anything like consonants or vowels, you simply attach -다고 하다 to the stem and you are done.

Lastly, there is a form for nouns. With nouns, the form is -(이)라고 하다 and similar to verbs the form depends on whether there is a batchim or not. When the noun ends in a consonant (batchim), you use -이라고 하다. But, when it doesn’t you simply use -라고 하다.

Past Tense

The past tense declarative form of the indirect quotation is a lot simpler compared to the present tense because regardless of the word type the form remains the same: -았/었다고 하다. Here the rule you need to follow is the ‘last vowel’ rule. When the vowel of the last syllable is either ㅏ or ㅗ, you use -았다고 하다. However, when it is any other vowel, you need to use -었다고 하다. Attention: when the verb is the copula verb 이다, the ending is -였다고 하다.

Future Tense

Like the past tense, the future tense declarative form of the indirect quotation has only one form for all word types. That form is -(으)ㄹ 거라고 하다. The rule here is the ‘batchim/no batchim’ rule. When the verb ends in a batchim (consonant), you use -을 거라고 하다, but when it doesn’t the form is -ㄹ 거라고 하다.

Those were all form for declarative sentences you need to know for indirect quotation.

Korean Language Bank Overview: Indirect Quotation - The Declarative Sentence Forms
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Korean Language Bank Overview: Indirect Quotation – The Declarative Sentence Forms

Interrogative, Indirect Quotation

Interrogative sentences, meaning questions, have a different form in indirect quotation. The forms also differ depending on the word type. Verbs, adjectives and nouns have all slightly different forms. So you will need to learn three forms in total.

When you are dealing with adjectives, the form for the interrogative sentence is -(으)냐고 하다. Here you have to follow the ‘batchim/no batchim’ rule. When the adjective stem ends in a vowel (no batchim), the form is -냐고 하다. But, if it ends in a consonant (batchim), you use -으냐고 하다.

The interrogative form of indirect quotation for verbs is -(느)냐고 하다. Here you also simply need to follow the ‘batchim/no batchim rule’. When the verb stem ends in a vowel, you use -냐고 하다, but when it ends in a consonant, you use -느냐고 하다.

Lastly, there is a noun form for the interrogative form of the indirect quotation. That form is -(이)냐고 하다. Again this a ‘batchim/no batchim’ rule form. When the verb ends in a vowel, you use the form -냐고 하다. However, when it ends in a consonant, you have to us -이냐고 하다.

Those were all the forms you need to know for the interrogative form of the indirect quotation. Note that when there is no batchim (vowel ending) involved the form is always -냐고 하다 for all three situations.

Korean Language Bank Overview: Indirect Quotation - The Interrogative Sentence Forms
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Korean Language Bank Overview: Indirect Quotation – The Interrogative Sentence Forms

Suggestive, Indirect Quotation

There is a special form you use when you are quoting suggestions. You use this form when you are quoting someone that used suggestive forms like -(으)ㄹ래요, -(으)ㄹ까요, -(으)ㅂ시다, etc. When this is the case, you need to use the form -자고 하다. By the way, given the sentence type, only verbs can use this form (because suggestive endings are only used with verbs in the first place).

The negative form for the indirect quotation imperative form is -지 말자고 하다.

Korean Language Bank Overview: Indirect Quotation - The Suggestive Sentence Form
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Korean Language Bank Overview: Indirect Quotation – The Suggestive Sentence Form

Imperative, Indirect Quotation

There are also special forms for when you are quoting someone when they are giving an order to someone or requesting something. You use this form when you are quoting someone who used forms like -지 마세요, -(으)세요, -아/어 주세요, etc. There are two forms you need to memorize: -아/어 달라고 하다 and -아/어 주라고 하다. There is an important difference between both of these forms, you need to keep in mind:

  1. When you quote someone making a request for himself, you use the form -아/어 달라고 하다.
  2. When you quote someone making a request for someone else, you use the form -아/어 주라고 하다.

The negative form for the indirect quotation imperative form is -지 말라고 하다.

Korean Language Bank Overview: Indirect Quotation - The Imperative Sentence Forms
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Korean Language Bank Overview: Indirect Quotation – The Imperative Sentence Forms
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