Subjonctif for 50/50 situations



I'm almost done with this CLE International book: Grammaire Progressive du Français avec 600 exercises.
Just 10 pages to go and I'm done with all 271.

I'm finding more errors in these later chapters, most in the correction guide but also typos in the lesson material.
Here's an example of both, unless I'm mistaken.

Répondez en utilisant un subjonctif ou un indicatif.

Je cherche une baby-sitter qui est/soit libre de 4 heures à 6 heures. Ça tombe bien, je crois que ma petite voisine est libre tous les après-midi !

It is actually a fill in the blank. I put est, because she can certainly find somebody, even the second phrase supports it, but the guide with corrections says the answer is soit.
When I put it into Antidote, it underlines soit and writes:

Mode – Dans une proposition relative, le verbe se conjugue le plus souvent à l’indicatif. Assurez-vous que le subjonctif est approprié ici.

I believe the CLE book is trying to make a point about probability vs possibility but they state it a little differently:
  • Il est probable que Paul partira. (+ 50 % de chances: indicatif)
  • Il est possible que Paul parte. (= ou - 50 % : subjonctif)
That would indicate that the subjunctive (since it includes the 50% marker) should be used more often than indicative. :)  More likely, I'm missing a detail in the phrases. Can anybody find it for me?

In the facing page they explain:
L'indicatif renvoie à une réalité donnée ou probable. Le subjonctif à une réalité incertain.
  1. Je cherche une maison qui a un grand jardin. (Je sais que cette maison existe = indicatif)
  2. Je cherche une maison qui ait un grand jardin. (Je ne sais si pas cette maison existe = subjonctif)
Yes, they reversed the words si and pas. Oh well. I trusted them the first few pages of the book and after that I start to check everything. Sort of like here on the web site. What's nice about the site is that I can ask for corrections to help when I come back to the material later and to help other people that need to use it. The book, however is just for me and I can only correct my copy.



p.s. I think there is a scanning service in the US that will take the book, cut the binding, scan it to PDF, run the OCR, send you the PDF, and recycle the book.  Any opinions? Am I allowed to destroy my text books like that without anybody getting upset? I'm just wondering if they can OCR the French. The little characters like à á, ö seem to require a lot of care.  Certainly more useful than the current paper format if I can search it in my Google Drive.


hmm. Those fonts used for the quotes are a bit large... sorry about that - they look a lot better when in edit mode. I'll have to mention it on the main thread about the forum. Still, I'm glad to have the quote option.

toru e

Regarding the exercise: 

Je cherche une baby-sitter qui soit libre de 4 heures à 6 heures. Ça tombe bien, je crois que ma petite voisine est libre tous les après-midi !

I agree with the book that the first is soit, but I agree with you that it is est for the second.

#1 - soit: We don't know if such a baby-sitter exists (there is a doubt): it's a hypothetical/imaginary condition

#2 - est: "Je crois" in the affirmative takes the indicative (like "je pense") because it *is* what you think. It's in the negative that it expresses a doubt and takes the subjunctive.

Here's a section on "assertion toggling" that illustrates this also:

Another example of this:

Je cherche un chat qui soit noir et blanc. - I don't have a cat, but I'm looking for one that would look like this. (I'm sure I can find one, but I don't have one specifically).

Je cherche mon chat. Il est noir et blanc. - I have a cat, but he's missing. He does look like this.


Thanks Torusan,

You are probably right. There is a bit of doubt by the first person, but not enough to not search in the first place. 

I was thinking that it requires some words of doubt or negation to use the subjunctive. I didn't find anything doubtful about je cherche and the support that is given immediately by the other person in the conversation. If I say I am searching Amazon for blue roses, I'm sure to find them. Yep. sure enough. They are there. Plastic, but oh wait, even seeds for blue roses... ok, reality. I can't see using subjunctive for search unless I have an indication of difficulty or not finding it the first try.

Here's another example in the same exercise:

With support: (This is the answer in the book and antidote gives no warnings)
Je suppose que le directeur est dans son bureau. Je vois qu'il y a encore de la lumière.

Without support: (This was my original answer and antidote gives no warnings)
Je suppose que le directeur soit dans son bureau.

So after answering that question wrong, I started reading both phrases. I chose est for the question I posted originally because we see that it is two people talking it seems the result of finding somebody is probable (not just a possibility). The second part causes us to have a little more information.

That's why I chose est for both of the phrases. In the exercise, the two phrases are combined in order to help you tell if it's 25% or 75% chance.  I find that they don't follow the formula very well. In teaching a subject I like the material to be rather irrefutable, which I don't think is the case here.

Does that change your opinion at all about the phrase, or it is pretty clear-cut that we should use soit?  I dont disagree forcefully. They both are possible solutions depending on the situation, of course.


toru e

Ah, okay. In the 50% example, it's more of the nuance between probable que (more likely than not) versus possible que (there's *a* chance).

I probably didn't give a good example on the cat using subjunctive [like more than 50% :)]. I should have an attribute that casts doubt, like:

Je cherche un chat qui n'ait pas de fourrure. (*I'm* not sure it exists.)

In the "search box" example, yes, I agree that it would be in the indicative because the search terms would be specific. This would be like looking for, say, "epoxy".

"Je cherche un collant qui s'appelle «epoxy». {indicative, not subjunctive, since it's spelled the same}

But if you were talking to someone and said you're looking for something that can bond two blocks of wood together, you would say:

"Je cherche quelque chose qui puisse coller deux cubes en bois." {It's not that epoxy doesn't exist, but you are indicating uncertainty that you can find this thing that attaches two blocks of wood together.}

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