At the trial, after the testimony had been concluded, the foreman of the jury (a lawyer by profession) inquired of the court whether the jury might not find a special verdict, leaving it to the court to say whether on the facts as found the defendants were guilty.

I have problem understanding the bold text. I already assume it means that the foreman of the jury announced to the court that they might be unable to find a special verdict ... However, I doubt if this is true. Use of inquire+of and followed by negative whether they might not find seems weird to me. So, generally, I thought that "whether" here might convey some type of possibility.

2 Answers 2


The phrase "to inquire of a person" simply means to "to ask a person"; the word "whether" simply means a hypothetical "if", as it usually does; while the "not" is a matter of politeness. So if I get it right, the jury in your sentence wasn't happy about making the verdict (either the members of the jury weren't sure whether the defendeants were guilty, or they did not want to take responsiblity for the verdict for some other reason). Hence, the foreman asks the court whether the jury could avoid giving the verdict themselves, and instead leave the decision to the court by using some 'special' verdict.


I read it as "whether the jury couldn't (just) find a special verdict"; just a may with the value of can.

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