Legonium is full of Indirect Questions. And it is fair to say that, compared to other aspects of Latin grammar, the rules around Indirect Questions are quite complex.
If I had to summarise those rules I would probably break it down to these three:
1) The Verb within the Indirect Question is in the Subjunctive (not the Indicative) Mood.
2) The Tense of the Subjunctive Verb is PARTIALLY decided by the time period the Indirect Question is about (Present, Past or Future).
3) The Tense of the Subjunctive Verb is PARTIALLY decided by the Tense of the Main Verb in the Sentence.
Let’s begin with Rule 1. A Direct Question like ‘What is Alan buying?’ will have a Verb in the Indicative Mood. quid Alanus emit? What is Alan buying? The Verb in an Indirect Question is in the Subjunctive Mood. scio quid Alanus emat. I know what Alan is buying. Just to be clear, emat is a Subjunctive Verb. scio, which sits outside of the Indirect Question, is Indicative.
Now let’s move onto Rule 2. The Tense of the Subjunctive is partially decided by the time period the question is about. There are only three possible time periods –
i) consecutive with the main sentence
ii) previous to the main sentence, or
iii) after the main sentence.
That might sound confusing, but hopefully some examples will clear it up;
i) I know what Alan is buying. scio quid Alanus emat. emat is Present Subjunctive.
ii) I know what Alan bought. scio quid Alanus emerit. emerit is Perfect Subjunctive.
iii) I know what Alan is going to buy. scio quid Alanus empturus sit. empturus is a Future Participle which means about to buy. sit is a Present Subjunctive that means is.
So, according to Rule 2, there are three possible choices for the Tense of the Subjunctive in an Indirect Question; i) Present, ii) Perfect and iii) A Future Participle with the Present Subjunctive of am, are, is etc.
If that were the whole story, things would not be so bad. But Rule 3 tells us that the Tense of the Subjunctive is ALSO partially decided by the Tense of the Main Verb in the Sentence. eheu! Alas! Fortunately for us, however, Latin divides this into only two categories; a) Present or Future and b) Past. Take a look at what follows. In each Sentence the Indirect Question is (i) consecutive with the Main Verb, and yet the Tense of the Subjunctive changes based on the Main Verb’s tense.
Main Verb refers to the Present or Future
scio quid Alanus emat. I know what Alan is buying. emat is Present Subjunctive.
sciam quid Alanus emat. I will know what Alan is buying. emat is Present Subjunctive.
Main Verb refers to the Past
scivi quid Alanus emeret. I knew what Alan was buying. emeret is Imperfect Subjunctive.
What this means, says Math, is that there are a total of six possible Subjunctive Verb Forms in an Indirect Question. But this post is already getting out of hand. We will return to this topic tomorrow. See you then.
After the film Alan leads his son out of the theatre. Alan has in mind to buy a gift for Scipio. Do you wish to know what Alan is going to buy for his son?