I'm enquiring about the translation of this sentence:

I ordered the soldier, who was walking in the garden, to collect flowers.

Using 'imperare' as the verb to order, my question is whether 'walking' should go into the subjunctive or indicative, i.e. 'ambulabat', or 'ambularet', thus:

Militi imperavi, qui in horto ambularet/ambulabat, ut flores colligeret.

On the one hand, 'soldier' is the subject of the indirect command clause in Latin, which would suggest the subjunctive, but it's also the indirect object in the main clause, which would be the indicative. My guess would have been indicative, but the exercise I'm doing gives the answer as subjunctive. Which one is right?

  • 2
    You can choose whether to have the subordinate clause inside or outside indirect speech. Imperavit militi in horto ambukanti ut (iste) colligeret flores. /or/ Imperavit ut miles in horto ambulans colligeret flores. The first would surely be indicative (qui ambulabat); the second possibly subjunctive.
    – Hugh
    Mar 11, 2017 at 21:11

1 Answer 1


The basic sentence structure can broken down into three component parts:

  1. imperavi militi, "I ordered" - main clause, indicative
  2. ut flores conligeret, "the soldier to collect flowers" - indirect command, subjunctive
  3. qui in horto ambulabat/ambularet - relative clause inside the indirect command, also subjunctive.

Inside the ut flores conligeret is another subject, the subject of the verb. It's off that subject that I presume your exercise is leaning toward subjunctive.

However, if we look at some similar examples, we find in Caesar the indicative here:

L. Domitio Ap. Claudio consulibus discedens ab hibernis Caesar in Italiam, ut quotannis facere consuerat, legatis imperat quos legionibus praefecerat, uti quam plurimas possent hieme naves aedificandas veteresque reficiendas curarent.

Lucius Domitius and Appius Claudius being consuls [54 B.C.], Caesar, when departing from his winter quarters into Italy, as he had been accustomed to do yearly, commands the lieutenants whom he appointed over the legions to take care that during the winter as many ships as possible should be built, and the old repaired.

Additionally, if you look at Gildersleeve and Lodge §628 at the end, you find examples where it does not go into subjunctive. I think here could be one of those parts, if you so wished.

You could also use a different verb (like censeo) that doesn't introduce the ambiguity, or, if you're intent on keeping imperare, turn the relative clause into a participle: militi in horto ambulanti ut...

  • Thanks for the response. I meant indirect object in that the object of 'imperare' will be in the dative case. I would have gone about it by saying 'militi imperavi, qui in horto ambulabat/ambularet, ut flores colligeret'. In addition, is there a grammatical reson for the choice of tenses or is that a question of style?
    – Cataline
    Mar 11, 2017 at 20:33
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    @Cataline The tenses follow secondary sequence, and therefore take the imperfect subjunctive since the main verb is a perfect with a past tense aspect (I ordered v. I have ordered).
    – cmw
    Mar 11, 2017 at 20:52
  • @Cataline Last time! Found an indicative for ya.
    – cmw
    Mar 11, 2017 at 21:29
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    I wouldn't say the relative clause is part of the indirect command here at all -- it's modifying militi, but the indirect command begins with ut. Indicative seems to me to be the only option, as in the G&L examples involving "explanations of the narrator".
    – TKR
    Mar 11, 2017 at 23:17
  • 1
    It's a difficult thing to search for, but it isn't at all clear to me that the subjunctive is possible here -- I can't find any examples in either G&L or A&G where a relative clause modifying a noun that isn't syntactically part of an indirect construction takes a subjunctive because of an indirect construction that follows later, which would be the case here.
    – TKR
    Mar 12, 2017 at 1:36

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