Lost your password? Please enter your email address. You will receive a link and will create a new password via email.

What is the capital of Tunisia?

Please type your username.

Please type your E-Mail.

Please choose the appropriate section so the question can be searched easily.

Please choose suitable Keywords Ex: question, poll.

Type the description thoroughly and in details.

What is the capital of Tunisia?

Comprehension problem: inversion and pronoun meaning

I think that’s the usual¹ contraction of the seldom found form “alors que”, meaning² “while”. From the Wiktionary :

Alors que : (Vieilli) Synonyme de lorsque, dans le sens de au moment de.
Alors que je mangeais, le téléphone a sonné.

So this sentence could be rephrased into :

Nous redoutons de n’être pas entendus alors que nous allons à l’extérieur.

Meaning something like :

When we go outside, we fear not to be heared/understood.

¹ I think nowadays, being said it’s very uncommon, it’s more often contracted than not (the full form sounds old, the short one doesn’t).
² “Alors que” is a lot more often used to say “whereas” — especially in oral speech.

It seems to have the sense of a question So why not translating it with

Do we go outside fearing not be listened ?

This is an unusual sentence construction. It is recognizable, but at least in France sounds somewhat affected, even in writing (I don’t know if it’s any different in Québec).

I understand the meaning, but I don’t know the name of this construction.

The meaning is roughly equivalent to Dès que nous allons à l’extérieur, nous redoutons de n’être pas entendus or à peine allons-nous à l’extérieur que nous redoutons de n’être pas entendus. With à peine, putting the subject after the verb is standard written French (see Inversion du sujet avec peut-être in the Banque de dépannage linguistique.). Here is another contemporary example:

Nos 4 aventuriers/Vétetistes n’étaient-ils pas encore parti vers le Portugal que déjà se présentait la première difficulté

(The highbrow construction of the opening sentence contrasts with the resolutely informal language of the rest of the article.)

There’s probably no perfect translation for that kind of language quirk. Something like “should we venture outside, we fear not being heard” or “were we to venture outside, we fear remaining unheard” should be in the right ballpark.

It seems to me that we have what Grevisse described as pseudo-propositions (Le Bon Usage, 12ième édition, §1067):

Lorsque des sous-phrases sont coordonnées d’une manière implicite, il y a entre elles une liaison logique. La langue semble ne pas se satisfaire de cette absence de lien visible, et elle tend à le marquer au moyen de la conjonction que, ce qui a souvent pour effet d’inverser la hiérarchie logique : la sous-phrase devenue proposition par l’introduction du que est souvent la partie la plus importante du message.

And he gives examples in several contexts, some of the more pertinent for this question:

J’étais gamine, QU’elle achetait déjà des navets à mon père. (Zola, Ventre de P., I) — Tout s’était envolé QUE les Français tiraient toujours. (Barrès, Union sacrée, p. 216) — Le diable entrerait dans la maison QU’on le laisserait faire (Hugo, Misér., I, I, 9). […]

Edit: I forgot the first part of the question. It’s an inversion of the subject and the verb (it isn’t an imperative, the subject would be absent). That may occur in French in a few more situations than for questions. There are about ten pages on the subject in the Bon Usage, the relevant case here is the one of verbs expressing movement such as entrer, passer, arriver, … one situation where it is done nearly systematically is in stage directions.


Leave a comment

What is the capital of Tunisia?