Verbs Grammar Index Page

Indirect Statements

Part I

A common use for infinitives in Latin is in a grammatical construction called indirect statement. First, let's define what a direct statement is in English:

Puer librum portat. The boy carries a book. This is a simple and direct statement.

When one introduces the direct statement with a clause such as Caesar dixit/scit/putat/vidit [that someone is doing something]. The subordinate clause is written differently. The subject in the subordinate clause is written as an accusative and verb as an infinitive:

Caesar dixit puerum librum portare Caesar said that the boy carried a book
Marcus scit puerum librum portare Marcys knows that the boy carries a book.
Cornelius putat puerum librum portare Cornelius thinks that the boy carries a book.
Aurelia vidit puerum librum portare Aurelia saw that the boy carried a book.

Note the introductory verbs dixit, scit, putat, vidit.

These belong to categories of introductory verbs: dixit - verb of saying, scit - verb of knowing, putat - verb of thinking, and vidit - perceiving.

The present infinitive always has the same tense as the introductory verb. In the examples above, the introductory verb is present tense, and so the infinitive is. If the verb is imperfect, then the present infinitive is still used, but is translated as past tense, the same tense as the main verb:

However, if we wish to express a time other than when we are speaking, we use a different tense of the infinitive:

The perfect infinitive is used here to put the indirect discourse before the time of the main verb. The opposite can be achieved simply by using the future infinitive:

It can get more complex that that, but always remember these rules for infinitives in indirect statements:

  • Present Infinitive - happens at the same time as the main verb
  • Perfect Infinitive - happens before the main verb
  • Future infinitive - happens after the main verb

So no matter what the tense of the main introductory verb is, the infinitive will either be at the same time, before it, or after it. Look at another example:

The main verb is perfect, so the perfect infinitive needs to have happened before Caesar said something about it, so the pluperfect is used in English. It can be confusing because this is a perfect infinitive and is being translated in the pluperfect, but infinitives are about aspect and order. Also, there is no pluperfect infinitive in Latin.

Practice Sentences

  1. Eucleides dicit ludum optimum esse.
  2. Scio Cornelium esse senatorem Romanum.
  3. Scimus Corneliam puellam Romanam esse.
  4. Puto Sextum puerum temerarium esse.
  5. Audivi Corneliam ad tabernam ire.
  6. Video viam longam esse.
  7. Putavimus servos in agris laborare.
  8. Audiebat servos in culina clamare.
  9. Credo Aureliam in urbem descendere.
  10. Dixerunt Marcum dormire.
  11. Cicero audivit Milonem Clodium interfecisse.
  12. Octavianus dicit imperatorem esse facturus.

Hint - in the last sentence, the fourth principal part of the verbs facio and fio are the same - factus. The context should make it easy to pick the right verb.

Answer Key - Check your work

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