Module 17 - Indirect Questions

Indirect Question |

Indirect Question

As we discussed last semester, 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.

While we use accusative and infinitive for paraphrasing declarative sentences, things get more complicated when we move beyond simple sentences. In this module, we will examine how Latin signals that it is paraphrasing a question, a grammatical construction known as indirect question.

Indirect questions consist of four key features:

Take, for instance, the following sentence:

Here inquisivit is verb of the head introducing the indirect question that follows. Quid is the interrogative word and dei is the subject. Dixissent is the verb in the subjunctive. (NB: Indirect questions frequently do not contain a question mark.)

When translating an indirect question, the only tricky thing is the subjunctive verb. Since the subjunctive mood is the marker of the fact that the question is indirect, we translate the subjunctive verb as an indicative verb, paying close attention to the sequence of tenses. In this case, we see that dixissent is in the pluperfect subjunctive illustrating that the verbs action happened prior to a past action. Thus we translate the above sentence as follows:

Below are some more examples of indirect questions:

To avoid the ambiguity regarding contemporaneous (present) and subsequent time (future) in indirect statement, indirect question use a periphrastic future to express future time. The periphrastic future consists of the future active participle of the verb and the present or imperfect subjunctive of sum (depending on sequence of tenses). This distinction can be seen below:

Additional Practice

Identify all the constituent parts of the indirect questions in the sentence below and translate.

  1. quaerebant ab rege quis donum ei dedisset.

  2. dubitabant ubi regina aurum posuisset.

  3. Cur Cicero carmina scribere velit exponam.