Dire in French: Definition & Conjugation

Instructor: Susan Binkley

Susan has taught college-level French and has a PhD in French studies.

The French verb 'dire' means 'to say' or 'to tell' in English. This lesson will show you how to use that verb. We'll look at a common situation where you might hear it, view the conjugation, and learn a few sentences with the verb.

Using the Verb Dire

What a great opportunity--you've been invited to a party with a lot of people from France. Now's your chance to ask them to help you with your French. Your first question is about all the different ways you've heard to say 'good-bye' in French.

You ask Louis if he says au revoir for good-bye:

Tu dis (pronounced: too dee), 'au revoir'? you ask.

He responds that yes, he says that, but he also says à bientôt for good-bye:

Oui, je dis (pronounced: zhuh dee) 'au revoir', et je dis 'à bientôt' aussi.

Pauline joins the conversation and tells you that Louis says à bienôt, but she says à la prochaine:

Il dit (pronounced: eel dee) 'à bientôt', mais je dis 'à la prochaine'.

Then you ask about another expression you've heard, ciao:

Vous dites (prounounced: voo deet) 'ciao' aussi? ('Do you say, 'ciao' also'?)

Louis tells you, Yes, we say 'ciao' also':

Oui, nous disons 'ciao' aussi.

Did you notice the forms of dire (pronounced: deer) that are used? Dire is the infinitive form of the verb, or the basic, generic form. When we use it with a pronoun such as je to say 'I say,' we use the appropriate form, or conjugation: je dis.

Dire=to say.

Let's take a look at the verb conjugation in the present tense for all the forms.

Forms of Dire

Here's the conjugation chart for dire:

VERB: Dire (deer)

Subject Pronoun Dire Conjugation Pronunciation Translation
je je dis (zhuh dee) I say, I tell
tu tu dis (too dee) you say, you tell
il/elle/on il/elle/on dit (eel/el/ohn dee) he/she says, he/she tells
nous nous disons (noo dee zohn) we say, we tell
vous vous dites (voo deet) you say, you tell
ils/elles ils/elles disent (eel/el deez) they say, they tell

The conjugation of this verb is called irregular because it doesn't follow the same pattern as other verbs. You should especially notice the form for vous: vous dites. You may have already seen that most verb endings for the vous form end with an -ez, but for the verb dire, vous does not end in -ez.

More Examples of Dire

Let's go back to that group of friends to see some more examples of dire.

Now you'd like to know about which expressions for 'good-bye' are used among the group of French friends. You ask Pauline if she says au revoir to her friend Paul:

Tu dis 'au revoir' à Paul?

She answers that she says 'à la prochaine' to Paul, and that Marie and Katherine say 'à bientôt' to Paul:

Je dis 'à la prochaine' à Paul, et Marie et Katherine disent 'à bientôt' à Paul.

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