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Indirect Commands

Watch this to appreciate Indirect Commands (and why some teachers are nicer than others)

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When I was at school my least favorite teacher, the dreaded Signor Rossi, would bark his orders for the completion of the homework task: “do it by Tuesday!”.

My Maths teacher, the fantastic Signora Bianchi, would be softer and gentler in her tone: “I would like you to complete it by Tuesday”.

Both statements convey the same amount of information and the same sense of urgency. But Signor Rossi’s tone made us hate the task and resent him and his subject. As I look back, I think he was pretty rude.

Signora Bianchi provided a conciliatory tone, leaving the door open for possible adjustments. It is no wonder we all liked her more.

Her approach is what we might call an indirect command: a statement where a request is clearly conveyed, although indirectly.

Let’s see if it works on you: “I would like you to listen carefully as I unpack indirect commands in Latin”.

This is ThinkFour.

The following sentence, “Milites, impetum in hostes facite!” is a direct command and means “soldiers, launch an attack against the enemies!”.
If we wished to turn this statement into an indirect command, that would be:
Caesar imperavit ut milites impetum in hostes facerent.
As we can see, I had to alter the sentence significantly to make it an independent command.
First, I had to add some information (Caesar imperavit, which means “Caesar ordered”). Then, I introduced the conjunction –ut and changed the original imperative (facite) into an imperfect subjunctive (facerent).

The indirect command, in Latin, always presents the same construction:
the conjunction –ut followed by a subjunctive.
Unlike the purpose clause, however, the indirect command is introduced by verbs such as “to order”, “command”, “request” or “impose”.
For this reason, two relatively similar sentences might well need to be translated quite differently.

Let’s analyse this example:
Caesar Aegyptum lustravit ut Cleopatra ad se perveniret.
Here, we have a clear example of the ut + subjunctive construction. So, one might assume that this is an indirect command.

Yet, does our Caesar impose or require anything of Cleopatra? No, he does not.
Therefore, we will translate this sentence as a purpose clause: “Caesar visited Egypt so that Cleopatra might come to him”.
What about this other example:
Caesar iussit ut Cleopatra ad se perveniret.
Again, ut + subjunctive. But how do we translate this? Is this a purpose clause or an indirect command?
Here, we do have a command verb (iussit). Thus, we will need to translate the sentence as an indirect command:
“Caesar ordered Cleopatra to come to him”

I think the pupils I teach would agree that the indirect command is a useful linguistic device, and one that they would prefer me to use when setting homework.

Unlike the dreaded Signor Rossi, I am very keen to continue using indirect commands in class... of course, as long as my pupils submit their assignments in time!

This was thinkfour; thanks for watching.