In English, there are two ways to report what someone says. We can report it directly by using quotations or we can report it indirectly by paraphrasing it. Consider the following examples:
Indirect Statement: The students said that they like Latin.
How we differentiate between what someone actually said and a paraphrase of what they said in Latin? The answer is that we change the form that we use for the subject and main verb of the statement. When we replicate what was actually said, we follow the nominative subject and finite verb pattern that we have already met this semester:
Dixit: “pater amavit filias.”
He said: “The father loved his daughters.”
To indicate that we are paraphrasing what the speaker said, we use the accusative to represent the subject of the thought and an infinitive as a main verb:
Dixit patrem amāre filiās.
He said that the father loved his daughters.
Thus, we can recognize indirect statement by the use of accusative subject and an infinitive (be sure to review infinitive formation) following the sentence’s main verb. While the main verb in these constructions is a verb of speaking (e.g. dicō, dicere, dixī, dictus), indirect statements in Latin can also be introduced by what is known as a verb of the head, a verb for any action you can do with your head (i.e speaking, thinking, learning, perceiving, believing, seeing, agreeing).
Here are some examples of indirect statements with different examples of verbs of the head (bolded):
In all of these sentences, notice that we still have the accusative direct object after the accusative subject and infinitive as the main verb. This highlights an important aspect of the structure of indirect statement, aside from the accusative subject - noun usage remains the same.
Identify the verb of the head, the accusative subject, and the infinitive main verb in the indirect statement. Then translate the sentence.
Feminae vīdērunt puerum ambulāre ad urbem.
vīdērunt = verb of head; puerum = accusative subject; ambulāre = infinitive main verb; The women saw that the boy walked to the city.
Credidit mē in monte sedere.
credidit = verb of head; mē = accusative subject; sedere = infinitive main verb; He believed that I sat on the mountain.
Dicunt tē militēs vincere.
dixērunt = verb of head; tē = accusative subject; vincere = infinitive main verb; They say that you are defeating the enemy.
Time in indirect statement is relative to the main verb. What that means is that the tense of the infinitive tells us when the action of the indirect statement happened in relation to the main verb. For instance, the use of a present infinitive tells us that the action of the indirect statement happens at the same time as the action of the main verb (i.e. thinking/speaking/seeing):
The perfect infinitive (morphology) is used to indicate that the action of the indirect statement verb happened prior to the action of the main verb (i.e. thinking/speaking/seeing):
The future infinitive (no need to worry to much about this for now) is used to indicate that the action of the indirect statement verb happened after the action of the main verb (i.e. thinking/speaking/seeing):