Distinguishing Double Questions

A&G have a note that carefully differentiates the double questions from a similar alternative—questions featuring the particles aut or vel / -ve. Let’s look at this distinction.

  • I ask whether he acted unjustly or dishonestly: quaerō num iniūstē aut improbē fēcerit.
  • I ask whether he acted unjustly or dishonestly: quaerō utrum iniūstē an improbē fēcerit. 

In the first question, there are two options on the table, neither of which are necessarily true. It may be that he acted neither unjustly nor dishonestly. In the double question (the second example), it is clear that he either acted unjustly or dishonestly. We have to pick one.

I don’t really like A&G’s example, so here’s another:

  • I ask whether she likes cats or dogs: quaerō num felēs aut canēs amet.
  • I ask whether she like cats or dogs: quaerō utrum felēs an canēs amet.

In the first of these two questions, we know nothing about this girl. We’re merely curious about whether she like animals. We might expect our respondent to say something such as, ‘no, she likes birds.’ In the second example, we asking whether she’s a cat-person or a dog-person, assuming she’s either one of the other.

(For cat-person Latinists, see the Bestiaria Latina Blog.)

These two types of questions are identical in written English, and differentiable only in stress pattern. In the first question, we would stress ‘ask.’ In the second question, we would stress ‘cats’ and ‘dogs.’

The Essential A&G: 335n.

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