Yes and No Questions

Summary of -ne, Nōnne and Num

Origin of -ne

ne began with the force of nōnne (v.i.), expecting a yes response, but later “the negative force was lost and -ne was used merely to express a question” (AG, 332c N1)

Summary of Use

The enclitic -ne is attached to the emphatic word of a question, making the question a yes-no proposition.

When nōnne appears (viz. nōn ne), the force of the question expects a yes response

When the particle num appears, the force of the question expects a no response

Basic Uses

-ne

  • Did she fear that: eane id veritus est?
  • Does she seem to fear death or pain: ea mortemne vedētur aut dolōrem timēre?

Nōnne

  • Do you no observe: nōnne anamadvertis?

Num

  • Is there any doubt: num dubium est?

Advanced Notes on -ne

Occasionally, yes-no propositions are given without –ne

These are often ironic questions

  • Do you not feel that your schemes are revealed: patēre tua cōnsilia nōn sentīs?

Often, when –ne is attached directed to the verb, it shares the expectation of nōnne, a yes response

  • Do you not recall [what] I said in the Senate: meministīne mē in sentātū dicere?

ne may participate in double questions, where -ne…an should be translated as or

  • I ask whether slaves or free: quaerō servōsne an liberōs.

In poetry, -ne…-ne sometimes occurs, and should be translated whether…or.

The compounds anne…an and necne are rare alternatives

  • Shall I talk to Gabinius, or Pompey, or both: Gabīniō dīcam anne Pompeiō an utrīque?
  • Are these your words or not: sunt haec tua verba necne?

The enclitic –ne is scanned short in Latin poetry

The Essential AG: 332a-b

Famous Phrase: Num negāre audēs? Quid tacēs? (Do you dare deny it? Why are you silent?) [Cicero, In Catilinam, 1.4]

yesno_grammar.pdf

3 comments on “Yes and No Questions

  1. Wtrmute says:

    Very good, but the “num” example in “Basic uses” actually uses “nónne”… 😉

    • vivalapluto says:

      I’m finding it extremely challenging to wrap my head around the whole “expects a negative/positive answer” concept (English is not my first language). Once translated into English, the sentence that expects a positive answer has a “not” in it??

      • rsmease says:

        That’s correct. In English, this is given with a tone of sarcasm. “Are we not free men?” would expect a response, “Of course we’re free! Huzzah!” or something of the like.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s