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330. Questions are either Direct or Indirect.

  1. A direct question gives the exact words of the speaker.

    Quid est?
    What is it?

    Ubi sum?
    Where am I?

  2. An indirect question gives the substance of the question, adapted to the form of the sentence in which it is quoted. It depends on a verb or other expression of asking, doubting, knowing, or the like.

    Rogāvit quid esset.
    He asked what it was.
    [Direct: Quid est?  What is it?]

    Nesciō ubi sim.
    I do not know where I am.
    [Direct: Ubi sum?  Where am I?]

331. Questions in Latin are introduced by special interrogative words, and are not distinguished by the order of words, as in English.1

Note— The form of indirect questions (in English introduced by whether, or by an interrogative pronoun or adverb) is in Latin the same as that of direct; the difference being only in the verb, which in indirect questions is regularly in the subjunctive (§ 574).

332. A question of simple fact, requiring the answer yes or no, is formed by adding the enclitic -ne to the emphatic word

Tūne id veritus es (Q. Fr. 1.3.1)
Did you fear that?

Hīcine vir usquam nisi in patriā moriētur? (Mil. 104)
Shall this man die anywhere but in his native land?

Is tibi mortemne vidētur aut dolōrem timēre? (Tusc. 5.88)
Does he seem to you to fear death or pain?

a. The interrogative particle -ne is sometimes omitted.

Patēre tua cōnsilia nōn sentīs? (Cat. 1.1)
Do you not see that your schemes are manifest? (you do not see, eh?)

Note— In such cases, as no sign of interrogation appears, it is often doubtful whether the sentence is a question or an ironical statement.

b. When the enclitic -ne is added to a negative word, as in nōnne, an affirmative answer is expected. The particle num suggests a negative answer.

Nōnne animadvertis? (N. D. 3.89)
Do you not observe?

Num dubium est? (Rosc. Am. 107)
There is no doubt, is there?

Note— In indirect questions num commonly loses its peculiar force and means simply whether.

c. The particle -ne often when added to the verb, less commonly when added to some other word, has the force of nōnne

Meministīne mē in senātū dīcere? (Cat. 1.7)
Don't you remember my saying in the Senate?

Rēctēne interpretor sententiam tuam? (Tusc. 3.37)
Do I not rightly interpret your meaning?

Note 1— This was evidently the original meaning of -ne; but, in most cases the negative force was lost and -ne was used merely to express a question. So the English interrogative no? shades off into eh?

Note 2— The enclitic -ne is sometimes added to other interrogative words.



Quantane? (Hor. S. 2.3.317)
How big?

Quōne malō (id. 2.3.295)
By what curse?

333. A question concerning some special circumstance is formed by prefixing to the sentence an interrogative pronoun or adverb as in English (§ 152).

Quid exspectās? (Cat. 2.18)
What are you looking forward to?

Quō igitur haec spectant? (Fam. 6.6.11)
Whither then is all this tending?

Īcare, ubi es (Ov. M. 8.232)
Icarus, where are you?

Quod vectīgal vōbīs tūtum fuit? Quem socium dēfendistis? Cui praesidiō classibus vestrīs fuistis? (Manil. 32)
What revenue has been safe for you? What ally have you defended? Whom have you guarded with your fleets?

Note— A question of this form becomes an exclamation by changing the tone of the voice.

Quālis vir erat!
What a man he was!

Quot calamitātēs passī sumus!
How many misfortunes we have suffered!

Quō studiō cōnsentiunt! (Cat. 4.15)
With what zeal they unite!

a. The particles -nam (enclitic) and tandem may be added to interrogative pronouns and adverbs for the sake of emphasis.

Quisnam est?
Pray, who is it?
[quis tandem est? would be stronger.]

Ubinam gentium sumus? (Cat. 1.9)
Where in the world are we?

In quā tandem urbe hōc disputant? (Mil. 7)
In what city, pray, do they maintain this?

Note— Tandem is sometimes added to verbs.

Ain tandem? (Fam. 9.21)
You don't say so! (say you so, pray?)

Itane tandem Uxōrem dūxit Antiphō. (Ter. Ph. 231)
So then, eh? Antipho's got married.


Double Questions

334. A Double or Alternative Question is an inquiry as to which of two or more supposed cases is the true one.

335. In Double or Alternative Questions, utrum or -ne (whether), stands in the first member; an, anne (or), annōn, necne (or not), in the second; and usually an in the third, if there is one.

Utrum nescīs, an prō nihilō id putās? (Fam. 10.26)
Is it that you don't know, or do you think nothing of it?

Vōsne L. Domitium an vōs Domitius dēseruit? (B. C. 2.32)
Did you desert Lucius Domitius, or did Domitius desert you?

Quaerō servōsne an līberōs. (Rosc. Am. 74)
I ask whether slaves or free.

Utrum hostem an vōs an fortūnam utrīusque populī īgnōrātis? (Liv. 21.10)
Is it the enemy, or yourselves, or the fortune of the two peoples, that you do not know?

Note— Anne for an is rare. Necne is rare in direct questions, but in indirect questions it is commoner than annōn. In poetry -ne . . . -ne sometimes occurs.

a. The interrogative particle is often omitted in the first member; in which case an or -ne (anne, necne) may stand in the second.

Gabīniō dīcam anne Pompêiō an utrīque? (Manil. 57)
Shall I say to Gabinius, or to Pompey, or to both?

Sunt haec tua verba necne? (Tusc. 3.41)
Are these your words or not?

Quaesīvī ā Catilīnā in conventū apud M. Laecam fuisset necne. (Cat. 2.13)
I asked Catiline whether he had been at the meeting at Marcus Laeca's or not.

b. Sometimes the first member is omitted or implied, and an (anne) alone asks the question—usually with indignation or surprise.

An tū miserōs putās illōs? (Tusc. 1.13)
What! Do you think those men wretched?

An iste umquam dē sē bonam spem habuisset, nisi dē vōbīs malam opīniōnem animō imbibisset? (Verr. 1.1.42)
Would he ever have had good hopes about himself unless he had conceived an evil opinion of you?

c. Sometimes the second member is omitted or implied, and utrum may ask a question to which there is no alternative.

Utrum est in clārissimīs cīvibus is, quem, etc.? (Flacc. 45)
Is he among the noblest citizens, whom, etc.?

d. The following table exhibits the various forms of alternative questions.

utrum . . . an . . . an

utrum . . . annōn (necne, see § 335, Note, above)

——— . . . an ( anne

-ne . . . an

——— . . . -ne, necne

-ne . . . necne

-ne . . . -ne

Note— From double (alternative) questions must be distinguished those which are in themselves single, but of which some detail is alternative. These have the common disjunctive particles aut or vel (-ve).

Quaerō num iniūstē aut improbē fēcerit. (Off. 3.54)
I ask whether he acted unjustly or even dishonestly.

Here there is no double question. The only inquiry is whether the man did either of the two things supposed, not which of the two he did.


Question and Answer

336. There is no one Latin word in common use meaning simply yes or no. In answering a question affirmatively, the verb or some other emphatic word is generally repeated; in answering negatively, the verb, etc., with nōn or a similar negative.

Valetne? Valet.
Is he well? Yes (he is well).

Eratne tēcum? Nōn erat.
Was he with you? No (he was not).

Num quidnam novī? Nihil sānē
There is nothing new, is there? Oh! nothing.

a. An intensive or negative particle, a phrase, or a clause is sometimes used to answer a direct question.

1. For YES:

vērō  in truth, true, no doubt, yes ita vērō  certainly (so in truth), etc.
etiam  even so, yes, etc. sānē quidem  yes, no doubt, etc.
ita  so, true, etc. ita est  it is so, true, etc.
sānē  surely, no doubt, doubtless, etc.
certē  certainly, unquestionably, etc.
factum  true, it's a fact, you're right, etc. (lit., it was done)

2. For NO:

nōn  not so

nūllō modō  by no means

minimē  not at all (lit., in the smallest degree, cf. § 329.a)

minimē vērō  no, not by any means, oh! no, etc.

nōn quidem  why, no, certainly not, etc.

nōn hercle vērō  why, gracious, no! (certainly not, by Hercules!)

Examples are:

Quidnam? An laudātiōnēs? Ita.
Why? What? Is it eulogies? Just so.

aut etiam aut nōn respondēre (Acad. 2.104)
to answer (categorically) yes or no

Estne ut fertur forma? Sānē (Ter. Eun. 361)
Is she as handsome as they say she is? (Is her beauty as it is said?) Oh! yes.

Miser ergō Archelāus? Certē sī iniūstus (Tusc. 5.35)
Was Archelaus wretched then? Certainly, if he was unjust.

An haec contemnitis? Minimē. (De Or. 2.295)
Do you despise these things? Not at all.

Volucribusne et ferīs? Minimē vērō. (Tusc. 1.104)
To the birds and beasts? Why, of course not.

Ex tuī animī sententiā tū uxōrem habēs? Nōn hercle, ex meī animī sententiā, etc. (De Or. 2.260)
Lord! no, etc.

337. In answering a double question, one member of the alternative, or some part of it, must be repeated.

Vīdistī an dē audītō nūntiās?
Did you see it or are you repeating something you have heard?

Egomet vīdī.
I saw it myself. (Plaut. Merc. 902) 



1. For a list of Interrogative Particles, see § 217.d.

Suggested Citation

Meagan Ayer, Allen and Greenough’s New Latin Grammar for Schools and Colleges. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Dickinson College Commentaries, 2014. ISBN: 978-1-947822-04-7.