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Chapter 25

RULE 1: Indirect Statement = Accusative Subject + Infinitive Verb [There is no "that" in Latin!]

I. Grammar

A. Formation of Infinitives

Unlike with participles, Latin has a full set of infinitives, that is, all six which are possible, encompassing both voices (active/passive) and all three tenses (past/present/future). Out of these, we have encountered in whole or in part all but one, the perfect active infinitive which is formed by adding -isse to the perfect active base (the third principal part minus -i). Because it is so rare, you may ignore for the time being the future passive infinitive.

The formation underlying all the others has already been covered (present active and passive) or are combinations of forms we have studied previously. The latter constitute the periphrastic infinitives ( i.e. involving two words)—the perfect passive and the future active—which entail the union of the appropriate participle (giving the infinitive its tense and voice) and esse (representing the "mood"). Note that, since the periphrastic infinitives involve the use of participles which are by definition adjectives and thus must agree with an antecedent, the participle part of the infinitive will decline and agree with whatever the participle refers to (i.e. usually who or what is the "subject" of the infinitive).

Click here for a worksheet on the formation of infinitives. Do the top half of the first page of the worksheet.

B. Indirect Statement

1. Indirect Statement in English

Indirect Statement is a form of subordinate clause, in this case "a subordinate clause which relates a thought or statement indirectly" (e.g. "He said that he was very good."). It is the opposite of direct statement, which entails quoting a person's words or ideas directly ("He said, "I am so good!").

There are the two essential ingredients in an indirect statement:

1. The first is a verb of perception or, as my old Latin teacher used to say, "verbs of the head" (i.e. verbs which encompass things most often done from the neck up: thinking, speaking , hearing , sensing, etc.). For a list of verbs which can introduce indirect statement, see Wheelock, p.119 (bottom of the page).

2. The second is a a subordinate clause with its own subject and verb. This clause is the indirect statement itself.

The most significant difference between indirect statement in English and Latin is that the classical Romans lacked a conjunction equivalent to the English word "that," that is, not the demonstrative or relative pronoun "that," but the "that" that introduces many English indirect statements and calls for a finite verb (e.g. "I said that . . . "). Instead, Latin uses an accusative plus an infinitive to express the same, in the same way that English does with some verbs, for instance, "believe":

1. I believe him to be a good man.

2. I believe that he is a good man.

This use of "believe" with (1) an accusative plus an infinitive and (2) a "that" clause demonstrates the essential difference between Latin and English.

2. Indirect Statement in Latin: No "that" in Latin!

Classical Latin has nothing equivalent to sentence 2 above. All indirect statements are formed by using an equivalent of the clause in sentence 1 which has an accusative subject and infinitive verb:

I consider him to be a good man.

When writing in Latin, you must learn to change the nominative subject of an English "that" clause into an accusative form in Latin and the English indicative (finite) verb into a Latin infinitive, the same way that "that he is" in sentence 2 is equivalent to "him to be" in sentence 1.

3. Relative Tense in Indirect Statement

This entails another important change, the difference between relative and absolute time (tense). Infinitives, like participles, operate on relative time—that is, their tense is relative to that of the main verb—thus, the true time of the infinitive in indirect statement depends on the tense of the main verb. As with participles, the present infinitive shows contemporaneous action, the perfect prior action and the future subsequent action.

Whereas this change involves participles only when one chooses to translate them from their literal Latin meaning into English clauses, there is no choice but to convert the infinitive ("him to be") into a finite verb ("that he is") in indirect statement since all Latin verbs use infinitives in this construction but few English verbs. Now you must master how to effect this exchange, recognizing that the majority of complications come with a past-tense main verb.

With a present-tense main verb (time +0), there is no problem with the conversion from accusative-infinitive indirect statement to the English "that" construction, because infinitive tenses (in relative time) correspond directly to their finite equivalents (in absolute time):


("I say")

[time = +0]

1. I say that he is good
I say him to be a good man (present infinitive = +0)
Dico eum esse bonum
2. I say that he will be good
I say him to be about to be good (future infinitive = +1)
Dico eum futurum esse bonum
3. I say that he was/has been good

I say him to have been good (perfect infinitive = -1)
Dico eum fuisse bonum

The same is true if the main verb is future tense (+1):


("I will say")

[time = +1]

4. I will say that he is good
I will say him to be good (present infinitive = +0)
Dicam eum esse bonum
5. I will say that he will be good
I will say him to be about to be good (future infinitive = +1)
Dicam eum futurum esse bonum
6. I will say that he was good
I will say him to have been good (perfect infinitive = -1)
Dicam eum fuisse bonum

Problems arise when the main verb is past-tense (-1):


("I said")

[time = -1]

7. I said that he was good
I said him to be good (present infinitive = +0)
Dixi eum esse bonum
8. I said that he would be good
I said him to be about to be good (future infinitive = +1)
Dixi eum futurum esse bonum
9. I said that he had been good

I said him to have been good (perfect infinitive = -1)
Dixi eum fuisse bonum

Note the following:

In sentence 7, was is contemporaneous with the main verb—both are past tense (-1)—so the proper infinitive to use is the present or contemporaneous infinitive (esse) which is +0 in time.

In sentence 8, would shows subsequent action (+1), and the proper Latin infinitive to use is, therefore, the future infinitive (futurum esse) which is +1 in time. [As far as you know now, would is a signal in English that the Latin sentence contains an indirect statement with a past-tense main verb and a future infinitive.]

In sentence 9, had which is the English modal signifying the pluperfect tense (-2) is the result of a past-tense infinitive (-1) compounded onto a past-tense main verb (-1); so, the proper infinitive to use in this case is the perfect infinitive (fuisse) which is -1 in time.

Remember "to believe"! With certain verbs like "believe," English can tolerate an interchange between "that" and accusative/infinitive constructions and so native English speakers are used to making this transition in tenses. Consider the last three examples:

7. I believed that he was good = I believed him to be good

8. I believed that he would be good = I believed him to be about/going to be good

9. I believed that he had been good = I believed him to have been good

Thus, mastering relative versus absolute time is really only a matter of expanding one's knowledge of English infinitive usage. Remember that Latin indirect statement introduces no syntactic forms entirely foreign to English and that there are three important things to bear in mind here: (1) leave out "that," (2) change nominative subjects into the accusative and (3) turn absolute-tense main verbs to relative-tense infinitives.

Now, do the second half of the first page of the worksheet (click here) which focuses on relative versus absolute time constructions.

4. The Subject in Indirect Statement

Because the verb of indirect statement is an infinitive—not a finite verb which takes a nominative subject—the subject will be accusative, just as in English: "I believe him to be good." That means that, if the verb is linking, the predicate noun or adjective will be accusative also, to agree with the subject: "I believe the teacher to be him."

Finally, when the subject of the indirect statement is the same as that of the main sentence, it will be reflexive: "I believe myself to be a good person," "You believe yourself to be a good person," etc. Here, Latin uses the first- and second-person pronouns which, you will remember, are identical to the first- and second-person reflexives, e.g. "I believe me to be a good person."

In the third person, however, sense demands a distinction between "him(self)" and "him" (someone else). In Latin, the reflexive se is used for "him(self)" when the subject in indirect statement is the same as that of the main sentence. This is true for both singular ("him/her/it[self]")and plural ("them[selves]"):

SINGULAR: He believes himself to be (se esse) a good person.
PLURAL: They believe themselves to be (se esse) good people.

When the third-person subject of indirect statement is non-reflexive, Latin uses a demonstrative pronoun:

SINGULAR: He believes him (i.e. someone else) to be (eum esse) a good person.
PLURAL: They believe them (i.e. some other people) to be (eos esse) good people.

The same holds true for suus, -a, -um and eius/eorum/earum: "He believes me to be his (own) friend (= suum)" versus "He believes me to be his (i.e. someone else's) friend (= eius)."

Practice turning "that" clauses into accusative-infinitive constructions, and vice versa, by doing the next two pages of the worksheet. Click here for that worksheet.

C. Reading and Recitation

Here is a link to the Reading for this chapter, a poem by Catullus.

II. Vocabulary

hostis: An i-stem noun. The Latin plural corresponds to an English collective singular, "the enemy" (versus the singular "an enemy").

ait: This is a defective verb used mainly in the third person and restricted to the present and imperfect tenses.

nego: In Latin, this verb is used as the main verb to negate an indirect statement (which then, of course, does not have a negator), where English uses "say" and puts a negator in the indirect statement. In other words, Latin says, "He denied (negavit) that he was bad", where English says, "He said that he was not bad." Students should learn to negate an indirect statement which is introduced with "say" this way, for instance, in the English-to-Latin sentence (P&R 13) on page120.

hîc: The long mark—which is mandatory!—distinguishes this adverb from hic, the nominative singular masculine form of the demonstrative pronoun.


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