Double Questions

Double Questions, AKA Alternative Questions, are yes-no inquiries, or more broadly, questions with a defined set of responses.

  • How many jelly beans are on the table? (Question)
  • Did you see him at the pool hall? (Double Question)
  • Did you see Juan, Julio or Fernando in the pool hall? (Double Question)

In English, we design double questions with the auxiliary ‘do/did/have + past participle,’ but in Latin, we design double questions with a pair of interrogative particles.

  • Utrum or -ne will stand in the first-word position (-ne is an enclitic ending for the first word)
  • An, anne (or) will stand in the second-word position
  • Annōn or necne (or not) will stand in the final-word position

Some examples:

  • Is it that you don’t know, if turtles can fly: utrum nescīs, an testūdinēs volāre possint? 
  • Did you desert Lucius Domitius, or did Domitius desert you: vōsne L. Domitium an vōs Domitius deseruit?
  • Shall I speak with Gabinius, or Pompey or both: Gabīniō dīcam anne Pompeiō an utrīque?
  • I ask, are these your words or not: quaerō, sint haec tua verba necne?

Note that in the third example, we see anne, which is actually quite rare. In the fourth, we see necne within an indirect question, where is it far more common than in a direct question. Also, note that the third and fourth questions feature an omission of the first of two particles, which is a fairly common omission.

Where an stands alone in the first position, we get a jolt of indignation or surprise:

  • Are you getting your hair dyed or not: an comās tingis annōn?!

The Essential A&G: 335

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