Richard Rufus of Cornwall

On Quicksilver, Sulfur, and the Elements

Latin Grammar: Indirect Questions

45. Dubitatur:

Terra quae maxime sicca est quiescit in superfice plana, siccitas ergo in vivo argento non erit causa quare non quiescat in superficie plana.

Dicendum quod siccitas in vivo argento est valde subtilis, et ideo non terminat aqueitatem vivi argenti in tantum ut possit quiescere in superficie plana.

Indirect Questions
Why does Rufus use both the indicative and the subjunctive of quiesco in the second sentence of the text above? If you look carefully, you will see that Rufus is really asking a question in the second half of the sentence: “why does it not congeal on a flat surface?”

This is an indirect question: “dryness is not the reason why it does not congeal on a flat surface.” In Latin, indirect questions always take the subjunctive. When the indirect question is introduced by a primary-sequence verb, as in the examples and exercises below, it will use a corresponding tense of the subjunctive (present tense for present action, perfect for past action).

The “question word” (like quare above) will usually remain the same in the indirect question as in the direct question, though some changes can be made.

  • -ne will generally become num in an indirect question, so that it acts like whether in English. In an alternative question (i.e. an “either... or not” question), utrum... an non will frequently become utrum... necne when it is asked indirectly.

Turn direct questions into indirect questions. The first sentence has been converted for you.

1. Quare argentum vivum non quiescit in superficie plana? (quaerere)

Rufus quaerit quare argentum vivum non quiescat in superficie plana.

2. Quare non est argentum tanti ponderis sicut aurum? (exponere)

Bartholomeus quare non argentum tanti ponderis sicut aurum.

3. Quam ob rem calidum non consumebat valde humidum illius vaporis? (rogare)

Avicenna quam ob rem calidum non valde humidum illius vaporis.

4. Utrum sunt ductilia liquabilia an insolubilia? (scire)

Philosophus utrum ductilia liquabilia an insolubilia.

5. Estne siccitas in vivo argento valde subtilis? (rogare)

Rufus num siccitas in vivo argento valde subtilis .

6. Utrum Aristoteles an Avicenna hoc tractatum fecit? (nescire)

Philosophus utrum Aristoteles an Avicenna hoc tractatum .

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