Accusative + Infinitive


English has direct statements and indirect statements, or reported speech. Take a direct statement like “You’re great.” When the compliment is recalled, it can be quoted directly: “You’re great,” Kanye said. It can also be reported, or passed on indirectly: Kanye said that you’re great.

Latin has the same ability. As in English, reported speech starts with a so-called head verb, a verb of thinking, feeling or knowing. Unlike English, Latin has no word for that in sentences like the one above. Instead, it puts the subject of this indirect statement in the accusative case, and the verb of the statement in the infinitive. The tense of the infinitive will, again, be relative to the tense of the main verb.

dicit terram pulchram esse –  She says that the earth is beautiful.

dicit terram pulchram fuisse – She says that the earth had been beautiful (once).

dicit terram pulchram futuram esse – She says that the earth will be beautiful (again).

This is simpler than it may seem. As so often in Latin, it will help to start with a slightly old-fashioned translation, and then render that into a more contemporary style.

dicit terram pulchram esse –  She says the earth to be beautiful. (A verb like declares would be more natural in English.)

“I know him to be a fine fellow” is an example of the accusative and infinitive construction in English. Him is accusative, and to be is the infinitive. If you keep a model like this in mind, you won’t be stumped by the Latin equivalent.

You can find out more about Latin infinitives on the next page.