How does one write something like this in German:

I said to myself, Don’t give too much for the whistle.

where one is addressing oneself, with an imperative voice?

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    What is your own try? And why do you feel insecure with your own result? – Shegit Brahm Jun 11 at 7:06
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    That is direct speech (indirect would be "I told myself not to give too much for the whistle"). – psmears Jun 11 at 9:56

Both versions are possible:

  1. Ich sagte zu mir selbst: »Mach dir nicht zu viel aus dem Pfiff.«
  2. Ich sagte zu mir selbst, dass ich mir nicht zu viel aus dem Pfiff machen sollte.

I think #1 sounds better, because direct speech always sounds more vivid and alive than indirect speech.

Also consider another begin:

Ich dachte mir: »Mach dir nicht zu viel aus dem Pfiff.«
Ich dachte mir, dass ich mir nicht zu viel aus dem Pfiff machen sollte.

Most people don't really often speak to themselves. They more often just think. And a construction where you can use »mir« without »zu« sounds more private and less offensive.

»Ich sagte zu mir selbst« is the grammatically most similar translation form the English text, but it also sounds like a direct translation from English.

Also consider the usage of another tense when this text is not part of a written story, but when it is spoken German, mainly in southern regions. Then you should better use Perfekt than Präteritum:

Ich habe mir gesagt ...
Ich habe mir gedacht ...

  • Out of interest, is there ever a natural situation where someone would address themselves with Sie? – dbmag9 Jun 11 at 10:19
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    @dbmag9: When people think or talk about themselves, they usually use the grammatical 1st person (»I« or German »ich«), and then the problem doesn't exists. I'm 56 years old now, and in my whole life I never ever talked to myself or was in a situation when it was necessary to use 2nd person for myself, so I can't really answer this question. But I think in this very un-natural situation it's more natural to use »du«. Maybe some people might use »Sie« in a situation when they reflects on themselves in their role as an official person. – Hubert Schölnast Jun 11 at 11:02
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    See also "Majestätsplural". Somewhat out of style these days :-) Use of 1st person plural in publications, German and English. I frequently talk to myself in 2nd singular (du) or 1st plural (wir), e.g. when pondering things ("Da müssen wir noch mal bei"). Little children talk about themselves in 3rd singular ("Hansi muß mal !"). For a grown up, it is sometimes regarded as mentally unstable if they openly talk about themselves in 3rd person singular. His 2 cent. I mean, ours :-) – a_donda Jun 11 at 21:53
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    @dbmag9: I might address myself ironically that way, as in: "Da sind Sie aber ganz schön ins Fettnäpfchen getreten, Herr Schmidt." The distanced Sie would increase the ironic height. – Tilman Schmidt 2 days ago

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