alternative usages for si

RobertC106

RobertC106

Bonjour.

 

So, in reviewing Level 1, I am reacquainted with the use of si to mean oui. Funny, but, ok. The lesson illustrates this use with an example of denying a negative affirmation, which I presume is meant to provide some sort of emphasis. 

 

I also dug up another use, which is to answer a negative question. (i.e., Aren't you going?) I'm assuming someone is familiar with this additional usage, and my question is, is it the case that, using si to reply, oui, would eliminate the need to repeat the negative question in the affirmative, as is commonly done in English (i.e., yes, I'm going) - unless, of course, you want to hear, “Yes, what?”  If so, it would be brilliant, because negative questions are so lame in the first place.

 

Also, Et si, to mean I'm afraid it is, as opposed to, and if   … . I can't find any other reference to this usage anywhere. Are there many other, um, little-known alternative uses for si in French expressions?

 

Merci

Robert

 

Mitchell-Rocket-Languages-Tutor

Mitchell-Rocket-Languages-Tutor

Bonjour Robert!

 

The word ‘si’ in this context is simply used to contradict a negation. For example:

  • Il n'a pas de soeur. - He doesn't have a sister.
  • Si. - Yes (he does).
  • N'as-tu pas faim? - Aren't you hungry?
  • Si. - Yes (I am hungry).

Both of these situations are exactly the same, they are denying a negation. They can be both questions or statements, it doesn't matter. I wouldn't say it is designed for emphasis, rather that the act of simply contradicting a negation so shortly, in one word is in itself emphatic. In both cases, using the word ‘si’ avoids the need to repeat the sentence in the affirmative. 

Side note: this is one of the most amazing words in French because it avoids so much confusion by simply contradicting the previous (negative) sentence concisely and without doubt. Whereas in English, replying to a negative sentence can change depending on the country you're in. For example in Australia/New Zealand (not sure about elsewhere) you'd rather say something like this:

  • Aren't you going?
  • No no, I am going. (or)
  • Yeah, I'm not going.

This causes a lot of confusion, so the word ‘si’ is a godsend. 

 

Right, back to business. Et si, or mais si, can mean ‘I’m afraid it is', but this is highly dependent on context and what it is you're contradicting. For example:

  • La crise financière ne peut pas s'aggraver, n'est-ce pas? The financial crisis can't get any worse, can it?
  • Et si / mais si. I'm afraid it can.

Et’ and ‘mais’ are used to soften the contradiction, which is why we translate it as ‘I’m afraid…' because that is also used to soften the reply. 

 

I hope this helps!

   -   Mitchell

RobertC106

RobertC106

Merci, Mitchell.

Yes, I see the common thread in the three examples now. And, since you've confirmed what I was hoping, that Si can be used by itself to respond positively to a negative question without the need to repeat the negative question in the affirmative, I'll repeat - Brilliant!

 

Speaking of expressions that are difficult to comprehend literally, can you shed any light on,

alors c'est tout juste ? (so, did you get all of it?)

 

 

p.s. Why isn't, ne t'inquiète pas, ne t'inquiètes pas

 

Merci encore.

Robert

 

Mitchell-Rocket-Languages-Tutor

Mitchell-Rocket-Languages-Tutor

Bonjour Robert,

 

Right, two expression to get through here. Let's start with:

 

1. Alors c'est tout juste? (So, did you get all that?)

I'm not entirely convinced about the translation but it may make sense depending on the context. It might be better to break it up and concentrate on the key expression here which is ‘tout juste’. Tout juste is an adverb or adverbial idiom which means either a) almost not/didn't, or b) certainly/surely. For the above translation, we would go with the second definition, giving us a rough meaning of, ‘so, is it for sure/clear/certain’.

I could imagine that is this phrase followed an explanation of something, then the given translation would make sense.

 

2. Why isn't, ne t'inquiète pas, ne t'inquiètes pas?

This is a negative imperative/command meaning ‘don’t worry'. To create the imperative, we tend to use the 3rd personal singular which does not have an ‘s’.

 

I hope this helps!

   -   Mitchell

RobertC106

RobertC106

Merci, Mitchell.

 

In regards to 1), the only place I've seen that exact expression and translation was in Lesson 9.1, and no context was provided. I don't believe it was referenced in the audio portion, so it's not clear what the rationale was.

 

2. Sorry. I should have asked about this contrast at the outset, but I didn't think of it. Why, then, is the second person used in,  ne t'en fais pas  ?  Seems equivalent to me.

 

Robert

 

Mitchell-Rocket-Languages-Tutor

Mitchell-Rocket-Languages-Tutor

Bonjour Robert,

 

1) Aha, I see. Yes, that isn't super helpful that there is no more context to the expression, but we will just have to imagine something. Generally, when it comes to idioms, it helps to have some context because they often use common words in an unusual order/structure, so that context helps us to pigeonhole its specific use.

 

2) Imperative

The imperative is only used for tu, nous and vous. When I explained it above, it was for that specific verb and I fear I explained it carelessly. The form it took, looks the same as the 3rd person singular, but but officially it takes the 2nd person and drops the ‘s’.

Here are the rules:

PATTERN No. 1 - all -er verbs (regular, stem-changing, irregular and -frir and -vrir verbs)

Tu takes the present tense form, minus the final ‘s’, while nous and vous take their present tense form with no alterations.

 donnerappeleralleroffrircouvrir
Tudonneappellevaoffrecouvre
Nousdonnonsappelonsallonsoffronscouvrons
Vousdonnezappelezallezoffrezcouvrez

Note that when tu is followed by an adverbial pronouns such as en or y, the final ‘s’ is kept:

  • Vas-y

PATTERN No. 2 - all other -ir and -re verbs use their present tense forms (tu keeps its ‘s’)

 choisirpartirvendreboire
Tuchoisisparsvendsbois
Nouschoisissonspartonsvendonsbuvons
Vouschoisissezpartezvendezbuvez

 

IRREGULAR IMPERATIVES - there are 4 irregular verbs

 avoirêtresavoirvouloir
Tuaiesoissacheveuille
Nousayonssoyonssachonsn/a
Vousayezsoyezsachezveuillez

So, to answer your question, the verb faire fits into pattern number 2, so we simply use the present tense conjugation for tu.

 

I hope this helps,

   -   Mitchell

RobertC106

RobertC106

Merci, Mitchell. Sorry there's so much legwork involved in what appears on the surface to be such a simple question.  One just never knows, in French, whether there's a rule (hopefully a simple one), or it's just one of those things that has no rhyme or reason.

 

Robert

 

Mitchell-Rocket-Languages-Tutor

Mitchell-Rocket-Languages-Tutor

Bonjour Robert,

 

No worries about the legwork, that is just French and I personally would rather fully expand the grammar point just so that everything is clear before we circle back to whatever the original question happens to be. 

 

French is known as the language of exceptions, that is true. However, whether there is a rule or not, often there is a story or reason behind its existence which helps us rationalise the concept. Language is a very organic and fluid thing, yet at the same time grammar rules and structures are man-made, written down to standardise the language around a particular dialect of a language and limiting its natural evolution. For me, the friction between the two is very interesting to study and how one is able to overpower the other.

 

I digress. In short, no worries.

   -   Mitchell

RobertC106

RobertC106

Well said, Mitchell. The earth was sculpted long before the topo maps and geological surveys. While, as in the case of grammar, the latter are mainly for the benefit of strangers and scholarly pursuits, people who are thoroughly familiar with the territory can still benefit from the broader perspective. On the other hand, and also, as with language and it's grammar, a knowledge of the existing landscape makes reference to the documentation much simpler.

 

To continue with the analogy, the friction you mention might be seen as grammar's attempt to keep people on the existing trails, rather than having them wandering aimlessly and boogering up the beauty of the existing landscape. And while the exploration and extension of boundaries are inevitable, they're much better done in an orderly fashion.

 

Thanks for your help.

 

Robert

Mitchell-Rocket-Languages-Tutor

Mitchell-Rocket-Languages-Tutor

Bonjour Robert,

 

This is far off topic from the original question but this post is something I am somewhat passionate about and not at all a rebuke to your above post.

While solid grammar rules are hugely important for people not only to learn their own language but to learn others as well, I am in two minds about it. Of course, it is always helpful to have a clearly defined lattice work of grammar to build your language acquisition on top of and I am thankful many time for it.

My problem is with linguistic imperialism and the affect that has on other languages or dialects. While grammar rules are super helpful, under linguistic imperialism the also act as elevate (unjustly) the dominant language over the others, thereby rendering all other languages or dialects inferior. As someone who is passionate about languages and the diversity of thought and perspective they bring, I value dialects and minority languages equally. 

I've experienced linguistic imperialism in France, particularly in the North where I used to live and speak Ch'ti and in China where I lived, studied and learned a Shandong dialect. These countries are particularly ruthless with their imposition of a standard language and while many countries do this to varying degrees for the greater good of easy communication, I find it a hard pill to swallow as so much history, culture, thought and knowledge is lost with their slow linguicide.

 

Okay, that is the end of my rant.

   -   Mitchell

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