INDIRECT QUESTION

This is the 3rd of the ‘Indirect’ constructions. With this one fully covered, you will be able to feel confident with three of the biggest language topics you need for GCSE.

    Use the Quick Links box below as usual to move to the different sections of the page.

 

 

 
What is an Indirect Question

Indirect Question in Latin

Common Question Words

Future Subjunctive

Translating Indirect Questions

Practice Sentences

Just For Fun....

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

WHAT IS AN INDIRECT QUESTION?


                    You are hopefully now used to the idea of 'reported speech'. This construction gives a 'second-hand' version of what was originally phrased as a Direct Question:

                   "Why are you laughing?"
                    "Do you want to come to town with me?"
                    "Who was that lady I saw you with last night?"


       
The 'Indirect' version of this comes out as follows:

                     I don't know why you are laughing.
                     He asked if I wanted to come to town with him.
                     My friend wanted to know who the lady was that he saw me with last night.

               
     Notice in particular that the sentence is no longer actually a question; and the original 'Question word' has transferred into the middle of the sentence (the use of 'if' as a question word will be considered later on).

    There are a very limited number of verbs that are likely to introduce this clause, mostly featuring the ideas of knowing or asking.

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

INDIRECT QUESTION IN LATIN


                In fact, this is a very similar construction to that of a Result Clause. Instead of having the word "UT" to introduce the Indirect Question half of the sentence, however, you have a
Question Word itself - the identical ones to those which would have introduced the original spoken Direct version (the only exception to this involves what replaces -NE, NONNE & NUM). Otherwise, you once again just need to use the equivalent English tense corresponding to the tense of the Subjunctive in Latin.

       So, the 'RULE' can be phrased:


  
QUESTION WORD (in the middle of the sentence) + SUBJUNCTIVE, SAME TENSE AS ENGLISH.

       
     Ahead of the question word you will find verbs such as:

                ROGO  -  I ask
                QUAERO   A/AB  - also with the meaning 'I ask' here
                SCIO  -  I know
                NESCIO  -  I don't know
                COGNOSCO  -  I find out, learn
     
even AUDIO  -  I hear


        All 4 of the normal Subjunctives are found in the clause itself - along with (at last!) the so-called
FUTURE Subjunctive.  This however is slightly odd in that although there are two versions of the tense, they are not distinguished by being Active or Passive, but instead correspond to whether in English we would want to say:

                He is asking when we WILL arrive

       or    He was asking when we WOULD arrive.

         (This is strictly a Sequence issue.)

We will set out the formation of these Future Subjunctives in a moment.



 

 

 


 

 

 

COMMON QUESTION WORDS

 
              Most of these will be encountered actually within the Vocab lists, but it may be useful to set them out here all together:

                    QUIS/ QUI   -  WHO
                    QUID  -  WHAT
                    CUR  -  WHY
                    UBI  -  WHERE 
(it keeps this meaning, still connected to a question, even though it has lost its question mark!)
                    QUANDO  -  WHEN
                    QUANTUS -a -um  -  HOW BIG, HOW GREAT
                    QUOT  -  HOW MANY
                    QUALIS -is -e   -  WHAT SORT OF
                    QUOMODO  -  HOW
                    UNDE  -  FROM WHERE
                    QUO  -  TO WHERE, WHERE TO

      There remains the single question word which does the job of standing in the sentence when the original question would have been asked using -NE, NONNE or NUM. All these types of questions become Indirect with the use of NUM - which is here translated as IF or WHETHER:

    e.g.   NONNE  CANES  AMAS?
              Don't you like dogs/Surely you like…/You do like dogs, don't you?

  Indirect version:

         EUM  ROGAVI  NUM  CANES  AMARET.
         I asked him IF/WHETHER he liked dogs


      
It's difficult to know why NUM 'got the vote' to represent all three questions without actual question words. I can't offer any convincing explanation: probably most Romans wouldn't really have known either (or cared…!)

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

      The FUTURE SUBJUNCTIVE


            As already mentioned, this is the one construction where this is actually used. There are two formations (basically a Primary form and a Historic):

      Both start by taking the Future Participle

            e.g.   OPPUGNATURUS  or  MISSURUS

   and then adding, as separate words, the Present or Imperfect Subjunctives of 'SUM', namely SIM etc
                                          and 
ESSEM.


       So, for full examples you might have:


            
OPPUGNATURUS  SIM                 MISSURUS  ESSEM
             OPPUGNATURUS  SIS                   MISSURUS  ESSES
             OPPUGNATURUS  SIT                   MISSURUS  ESSET
             OPPUGNATURI  SIMUS                MISSURI  ESSEMUS
             OPPUGNATURI  SITIS                   MISSURI  ESSETIS
             OPPUGNATURI  SINT                   MISSURI  ESSENT

  

     These are both ACTIVE tenses: Future Subjunctive Passive has not (yet!) been found.

You may notice that the formation of these is very similar to that of the Perfect and Pluperfect Subjunctive Passive: both start with a Participle, and add the Subjunctives of 'SUM'. It therefore seems a bit unfair that these Future tenses are not 'officially recognised' and given space in grammar books!

    We have already mentioned how to translate these (above); it will make more sense when we see them in some examples (below!).

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

         TRANSLATING  INDIRECT QUESTIONS

 

                 As with Result Clauses, the key point is to recognise the TENSE of the Subjunctive, and then mirror this with the equivalent English Indicative. Apart from this, the sentences should cause few extra problems.

 
       
Firstly, let's look at a few straightforward examples:

      e.g.   VOLO  SCIRE  CUR  AD  URBEM   VENERIS.
                I want to know WHY you HAVE come to the city.

               DIC  MIHI  QUIS  IN  SENATU  HODIE  LOQUERETUR.
               Tell me WHO WAS speaking in the Senate today.

               PATER  FILIAM  ROGAVIT  QUID  IN  FORO  EMISSET.
               The father asked his daughter WHAT she HAD bought in the forum. 


       
As you can see, it's just a question of identifying the tense of the Latin Subjunctive correctly.

       Here are a couple more using the FUTURE subjunctive:

 e.g.     NESCIMUS  QUANDO  AMICI  ADVENTURI  SINT.
            We don't know WHEN our friends
WILL arrive.

           DUX  A  CAPTIVIS  COGNOVERAT  UBI  HOSTES  CASTRA POSITURI  ESSENT.
           The general had found out from prisoners WHERE the enemy
WOULD pitch their camp (or WERE GOING TO pitch…).


 

     Finally, one with NUM:

  e.g.    CIVES  COGNOSCERE VOLEBANT  NUM  EXERCITUS  IN  PROELIO  VICISSET.
            The citizens wanted to know IF/WHETHER their army HAD won the battle.

 

 

 

 


 

 

         PRACTICE  QUESTIONS

 

       Time to try a few: as with Result Clauses, things should go fine as long as you are careful with the Subjunctive TENSE - and be warned, I have thrown in a couple of FUTURES!

 

    1.  MILITES  AGRICOLAM  ROGAVERUNT  CUR  UXOREM  E  FORO  TRAHERET.

Answer:  The soldiers asked the farmer why he was dragging his wife out of the forum. 

 

    2.  DIC  MIHI  UBI  GLADIUM  MEUM   POSUERIS!

Answer:  Tell me where you've put my sword!

 

    3.  SCISNE  CUR  FRATER  TUUS  SAXA  AD  ILLUM  CANEM  IACIAT?

Answer:  Do you know why your brother is throwing stones at that dog?

 

    4.  NESCIO  NUM  CRAS  ADVENTURUS  SIM.

Answer:  I don't know if I'll get here tomorrow.

 

    5.  MATER  IRATA  AUDIVIT  UNDE  FILIA  DONA  ACCEPISSET.

Answer:  The angry mother heard from where her daughter had received the presents.

 

    6.  BREVI  TEMPORE  OMNES  SCIEMUS  QUIS  HANC  PUELLAM  PULCHRAM  NECAVERIT.

Answer:  In a moment we will all know who killed this beautiful girl.

 

    7.  DUX  COGNOSCERE  CONABATUR  QUANTAE  ESSENT  COPIAE  HOSTIUM.

Answer:  The general was trying to find out how big the enemy forces were.

 

    8.  MILITES  A IUVENE QUAEREBANT  QUIS  ESSET  ET  QUO  IRET.

Answer: The soldiers were asking the young man who he was and where he was going.

 

    9.  OMNES  SCIMUS  QUALIS  HOMO  SIS,  MARCE.

Answer:  We all know what sort of man you are, Marcus.

 

    10.  HERI  COGNOVI  UNDE  PARENTES  HANC  MENSAM  EMERINT.

Answer:  I found out yesterday where my parents bought this table (from).

 

    11.  AMICI  SE  ROGABANT  QUANDO  ITER  LONGUM  CONFECTURI  ESSENT.

Answer:  The friends were wondering when they would finish the long journey.

 

    12.  NONNE  SCIS  QUOT  ANCILLAS  HABEAS!

Answer:  You must know how many slave-girls you've got...! 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

     JUST FOR FUN….


           
No reason not to go straight for it and try some the other way round….

 

    1.  The soldiers asked the poet why he was lying in the middle of the road.

Answer:  MILITES  POETAM  ROGAVERUNT  CUR  IN  MEDIA  VIA  IACERET.

 

    2.  The Emperor wants to find out who (his) enemies are.

Answer:  PRINCEPS  COGNOSCERE  VULT  QUIS  SINT  INIMICI.

 

    3.  The master asked the slave why he was holding (his) shield.

Answer:  DOMINUS SERVUM  ROGAVIT  CUR  SCUTUM  TENERET.

 

    4.  The inhabitants didn't know when (their) city had been built.

Answer:  INCOLAE  NESCIEBANT  QUANDO  URBS  AEDIFICATA ESSET.

 

    5.  Ask your son if he has had enough dinner. (say 'he has eaten enough')

Answer:  ROGA  TUUM  FILIUM  NUM  SATIS  CENAVERIT (or CONSUMPSERIT).

 

    6.   I don't know how we will ever escape from this danger.

Answer:  NESCIO  QUOMODO  EX  HOC  PERICULO  UMQUAM  EFFUGITURI  SIMUS.

 

    7.  Don't ask me what you ought to do!

Answer:  NOLI  ME  ROGARE  QUID  FACERE  DEBEAS!

 

    8.  Didn't you know when the ship was going to set off? (use Proficiscor)

Answer:  NONNE  SCIEBAS  QUANDO  NAVIS  PROFECTURA  ESSET?

 

       Sorry - they're not getting any easier, are they….


   
On average, of the 3 'Indirect' constructions, this is probably the second most common (after Indirect Statement and before Indirect Command).

Hopefully now you will know if you've got one in your translation passage (and you won't have to ask….)!