Translation:It seems that she is not able to come.
It's called the "ne littéraire", and there are seven verbs that do not need «pas» (it's optional, you can still use it).
By itself "ne" does not mean a thing.
"Ne" can be used in negations in conjunction with other words: ne... pas, ne... plus, ne... jamais, ne... aucun, ne... personne
"Ne" can be used together with "que" to mean only: "Je n'ai que des fleurs jaunes" = I have yellow flowers only.
"Ne" can be expletive which means "optional and not negative" to smooth a sentence in a few cases, like this one: "Je me prépare avant qu'elle ne vienne" (I'm getting ready before she comes).
In the sentence here, "il semble qu'elle ne puisse (pas) venir", because the verb is "pouvoir", "pas" is optional for a stylistic effect, but the sentence is negative.
Why does this speaker do something I've never heard a French speaker do? He pronounces "puisse" as "puiss -uh", here and consistently. Without context, it makes him very hard to understand. Is there a region where this is done? The overemphasis makes it sound like "puisse souvenir."
This is the French schwa:
Thanks. I work with loads of native French speakers, primarily from France and Switzerland, and not a single one of them speaks like the oft-used person by DuoLingo. I'd argue their speaker isn't using a schwa - too much stress on the vowel! It may be regional, but it doesn't seem to be very common.
The schwa was the reason I thought it said "Il semble qu'elle ne puisse souvenir." If I may say so, I read all your comments in this thread as always. You are a really good teacher Sitesurf. I have learned so much about French from your comments. Please accept a verbal bouquet of roses.
I understand that the subjunctive has more use in American English than in British English nowadays, which I imagine is why most speakers of BrE would not know what you're talking about. I still say "If I were you" but many of my contemporaries in this part of SE England do a double-take when they hear it. But then the local default is "We was there yesterday. Was you?".
If I were you is probably the only (relatively) common use of the subjunctive left in the UK. I have heard " I may come, if it be possible" but this use is regarded as eccentric, if not deranged.
I think the most common use of the subjunctive in common english is the second part of statements that begin "it is important that" or words to that effect.
like "it's important that he try to attend tomorrow" "it's vital that i be there before 1pm" etc etc.
usually using a slightly different conjugation of the present tense version of the verb. But that is a very common use of subjunctive in the English nowadays.
Very useful conversation site. I learned the subjunctive back in high school though Latin, which is structured somewhat like French. This use of "pas" (or not) is a good example of small chaotic differences in a less than perfect world. I look forward to my daily lessons, in French especially. Ah! life's uncertainties!
Unfortunately, even if you are right on this rule, the verb "pouvoir" is an exception, because in any mood or tense, it can be negative with a simple "ne" (so, "pas" is optional) with a negative meaning.
However, just note that "je ne peux le trouver" is rather formal or literary and people do use "pas" - even without "ne" in speech, like "je peux pas le trouver".
This may help you to get started with the French subjunctive: http://www.frenchtoday.com/blog/understanding-french-subjunctive
Greetings Sitesurf, hope all is well with you!
After reading up on the expression il semble que, it seems to me that
a) the given French phrase, using the subjunctive, should be translated as "It seems that she might not be able to come; and
b) Duo's preferred English translation "It seems that she is not able to come" (factual statement) would back translate as "Il semble qu'elle ne peut venir".
Have I understood this properly?
"Il semble que" needs the subjunctive because the degree of uncertainty is high:
- Il semble qu'elle ne puisse venir (might not be able to come)
"Il me semble que" used the indicative because I say it when I'm pretty sure she will not come (I remember she or sb else told me she is not coming):
- Il me semble qu'elle ne peut pas venir.
Hi Sitesurf, you can find examples of "il semble que" in the Larousse
("Il semble que tout va bien.")
See also :
Indeed, there are only examples in the affirmative form. That's a good question and I did not find any references that could confirm or infirm that. I would say that indicative could also be used with a negated verb :
il semble qu'il n"est pas chez lui
seems correct for me. However, I would always used the subjunctive after the negation of "semble" :
Il ne semble pas qu'il soit chez lui.
Thank you Sitesurf.
The problem is that the given English phrase does not carry doubt. It is what I would answer to "Where is Alice?" ... "It seems that she is not able to come". If there were a doubt, I would use the "... she might not be able to..." formulation.
Regarding the French, I wonder, with DiazJulien, if the fact that it is not "sembler" but "pouvoir" that is being negated allows for both "puisse" and "peut", depending on context?
I suspect that I was also translating 'seems that' as the idea 'feels like' which admittedly is a huge problem among english-native youth. Furthermore, it's always nice to understand or have a reason as to why something is the way it is rather than just having a guess esp when trying to learn!
English seems not to use the subjunctive in this construction. However, we could say 'it seems as though she were not able to come', where we would use the subjunctive to compare the actual state of affairs with a hypothetical situation introduced by 'as though'. But the subjunctive in English is a slippery beast, at best.
No, the "ne" is not pleonastic, since it would mean that it is superfluous, which is not the case.
This sentence is negative (she cannot come), but instead of having "ne... pas" to form the negation, you only have "ne".
With the verb "pouvoir" (and a small list of other verbs), when you use a negative formula, you can omit the "pas".
- Il semble qu'elle ne puisse (pas) venir: with or without "pas" the sentence has the same meaning.