Indirect discourse is a grammatical category of language in which senses are expressed through the filter of a speaker, instead of being said directly. Indirect discourse can come in three forms; the indirect command, question, and statement. In English indirect discourse is mostly accomplished through the use of the subordinating conjunction that. This may sometimes be left out of spoken sentances with its presence understood. Latin has no direct equivalent for 'that' (although ut is often translated as such), so the burden is transfered to the extremely complicated Latin verb system.

Indirect Commands

The indirect command is a command communicated through a declarative statement. For example, "I urge you to consider this proposal," is an indirect command, whereas "Consider this proposal," is its direct counterpart. The indirect command in Latin is formed by constructing a substantive clause with ut. The sentence will begin with a verb of asking, urging, warning, ordering, or begging and continue with a substantive ut clause. The command itself within the substantive clause must be in the Subjunctive mood. Once the tense of the main verb has been set, the indirect command's tense will always be relative to that of the main verb. For verbs in the Present, Future, Perfect (when translated as 'have' or 'has'), and Future Perfect, the command will be in the Present Subjunctive tense. For verbs in the Imperfect, Perfect (when translated as the standard English past), and Pluperfect, the command will be in the Imperfect Subjunctive. Some examples:


Impero ut servos liberes - I order you to free the slaves
Perfect (simple Past)
Oravi ut puellam amares - I begged you to love the girl

Indirect Questions

The indirect question takes the form of a question using an interrogative word and turns it into a declarative sentence. Indirect questions do not actually need to be asking a question at all, they just use the elements of a question to communicate information. The indirect question works very similarly to the indirect command, but in place of the ut comes a question word like quid (what), unde (from where), quam ob (why), or utrum... an (whether... or). Tense correlation is somewhat more complicated for indirect questions, since it's possible to have the question verb occuring before, during, or after the main verb. This is where the sequence of tenses becomes useful. The Primary Sequence of tenses, Present, Future, Perfect, and Future Perfect (remember this from the previous paragraph?) lines up with Present Subjunctive for concurrant action, Perfect Subjunctive for previous action, and the Future Active Participle plus sum in the Present Subjunctive for subsequent action (this construction is called the Periphrastic, it denotes action about to be done). The Secondary Sequence of tenses, Imperfect, Perfect, and Pluperfect, lines up with Imperfect Subjunctive for concurrant action, Pluperfect subjunctive for previous action, and the Future Active Participle plus sum in the Imperfect Subjunctive for subsequent action. Yeah, that's just a tad complicated. Some examples:

Present - Concurrant action

Scio quid gustem - I know what I like
Present - Previous action
Rogo unde veneris - I ask where you came from
Present - Subsequent action
Expono quam ob iturus sit - I explain why he will go

- - - -

Perfect - Concurrant action

Scivi quid gustarem - I knew what I liked
Perfect - Previous action
Rogavi unde venisses - I asked where you had come from
Perfect - Subsequent action
Exposui quam ob iturus esset - I explained why he will go

Indirect Statements

Compared to the the previous two, these are much easier. Making an indirect statement is like wrapping a declarative sentence within a declarative sentence. The subject of the indirect statement will be shifted from Nominative to Accusative. The main verb will be one of saying, thinking, seeing, perceiving, or knowing and the statement verb once again assumes tense relative to that of the main verb. Instead of subjunctive, the statement verb will be in the infinitive, which makes things much easier. All action concurrant, regardless of the main verb, is indicated by the Present Infinitive. Action previous is indicated by the Perfect Infinitive, and action subsequent is indicated by the Future Infinitive. Some examples (the tenses switch around to illustrate how the tense of the main verb doesn't matter, only time relative to the main verb):

Present - Concurrant

Credit me filium eius non scire - He trusts that I don't know his son
Perfect - Previous
Dixi virem Roma venisse - He said that the man had come from Rome
Imperfect - Subsequent
Cogitabam nos templum visurus esse - I was thinking that we were going to see the temple

Moreland, Floyd L., Fleischer, Rita M. Latin: An Intensive Course. Berkely: University of California, 1977.
Traupman, John C. The Bantam New College Latin & English Dictionary. New York: Bantam Books, 1995.
Cawley, Kevin. Latin Dictionary and Grammar Aid.

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