Indirect Command

Prolegomena

We might begin by identifying the difference between direct and indirect speech. Direct speech is quoted directly and verbatim--word for word:

"Look!" cried Jack, "The hamster is eating my leg!" (Direct statement.)
"Marcus, have you been drinking again?" asked Quintus, indignantly. (Direct question.)
"Students, do not attack my plant!" commanded the teacher, brandishing his scimitar. (Direct command.)



Indirect speech is reported at second-hand as something that someone said, asked, or ordered. As such, it obviates the need for quotation marks.

Jack cried that the hamster was eating his leg. (Indirect statement.)
Quintus indignantly asked if Marcus had been drinking again. (Indirect question.)
The teacher, brandishing his sword, commanded the students not to attack his plant. (Indirect command.)

It is the last-mentioned that concerns us in Chapter 35.

Indirect Command: English vs. Latin

First, a note on nomenclature. Though we label this construction "indirect command," it is not restricted to commands alone. Into this category belongs everything ranging from orders to prayers to polite requests in direct speech.

English can express indirect command with either an infinitve phrase or a subordinate noun clause, as these examples will demonstrate:

The girl begged the teacher to allow her to hydrate.

(Infinitive phrase.)


The girl begged the teacher that he allow her to hydrate.

(Subordinate clause introduced by "that"; the whole clause tells us what the girl begged--hence it functions as a noun clause.)

The former is clearly simpler and better English, but there will be times that the clause is a preferable translation, so keep both in mind.

Latin mirrors this two-fold approach, but it all depends upon the main verb, the one that introduces the indirect command. The verb iubeo, iubere, iussi, iussum (I order) is conspicuous for requring an infinitive phrase, thus:

Themonestus iuvenes tacere pro Bruto iussit.

Theomnestus ordered the young men to keep quiet on Brutus' behalf.

Likewise, the verb veto, vetere, vetui, vetitum (I forbid) requires the infinitive phrase in Latin, though good English idiom will admit either infinitve or gerund:

Theomnestus vetit discipulos in theatro dicere.


Theomnestus forbids students to speak in the theatre.
Theomnestus forbids students from speaking in the theatre.

For our purposes, every other verb that introduces an indirect command requires a subordinate clause beginning with ut or ne and employing either the present or imperfect subjunctive, in accordance with the sequence of tenses.

Quintus Pythiam oravit ne se dimitteret. (oravit, in perfect tense --> secondary sequence --> imperfect subjunctive)


Quintus begged the Pythia not to send him away.
Quintus begged the Pythia that she not send him away.


[Hereafter only the infintive phrase will be used in translation unless the sense precludes its use.]

Pythia Quintum monet ut aquam fontis Castaliae imbibat. (monet, in present tense --> primary sequence --> present subjunctive)

The Pythia advises Quintus to drink in the water of the Castalian spring.

Latin verbs frequently introducing indirect command.

It is useful to memorize the Latin verbs that most often set up indirect command clauses in Latin. They are best learned divided into categories with reference to the case needed to express the recipient of the command.

 + dative + accusative + a/ab & ablative
 impero (1): order  hortor (1): exhort, urge  peto (3): ask, seek
 mando (1): demand, command  moneo (2): warn, advise  postulo (1): demand
 persuadeo (2): persuade  oro (1): beg, pray  quaero (3): ask, seek
   rogo (1): ask  


Do not consider this list exhaustive, but it is a useful starting point. The key should simply be this: any time you run across a verb in Latin whose meaning falls somewhere in the spectrum of asking<-->begging<-->ordering, be on the look-out for a subordinate clause, introduced by ut/ne, with its verb in the subjunctive.

verbum sapienti sat


In form, purpose clauses and indirect commands in Latin are indistinguishable. You must look at the main verb: what does it lead you to expect? E. g.:

Quintus cum Bruto militavit ut mortem Ciceronis vindicaret.


Quintus served with Brutus to avenge Cicero's death.


Brutus Quinto imperavit ut mortem Ciceronis vindicaret.


Brutus ordered Quintus to avenge Cicero's death.



The clauses are identical Latin; the main verbs, however, make manifest which subordinate clause is a purpose clause, and which is an indirect command.

One more thing


Remember that reflexive pronouns (sui, sibi, se, se) and possesive adjectives (suus, sua, suum) used within indirect commands refer to the subject of the main clause.