Degrees of Certainty – Probability, Possibility

Continuing on from last week’s part 1 post, we’ll continue with probability and possibility.


The chance that something will happen. To convey that something is probable in a word or short phrase:

Tu assisteras au concert ? – Sans doute.|You’ll go to the concert? _ Most likely./Probably.

C’est Christine qui a téléphoné ? – Probablement.|Was it Christine who called? – Probably.

Christophe fait du théâtre maintenant ? – Paraît-il.|Christophe is doing some acting now? – So it seems.

Vous allez poser le tapis vous-même ? – En principe.|Are you going to lay the carpet yourself? – That’s the idea.

The combination of the verb pouvoir with the verb bien provides the basis for a number of expressions of probability:

Je peux bien prendre le train.|I may well take the train.

Ils pourraient bien téléphoner ce soir.|They’re likely to call this evening.

Other ways to form probability expressions:

Il est très/fort probable qu‘elle jouera le rôle de la reine.|It’s very/highly likely that she’ll play the role of the queen.

Il y a de fortes chances que j’obtiendrai une bourse.|There’s a very good chance that I’ll get/obtain a grant.

Ils sont censés arriver par le train de six heures.|They’re meant to arrive on the six o’clock train.

Ils devraient vous rembourser tout de suite.|They should reimburse you immediately.


Most constructions expressing “the possibility that…” or “doubt that…” are followed by the subjunctive.

Brief responses to indicate that something is possible include:

Il est malade ? C’est possible.|Is he sick? – Possibly./Maybe.

Tu as besoin de la voiture ? – Ça se peut.|Will you need the car? – Possibly./I might.

Tu pourrais le remplacer ? – Oui, éventuellement.|Could you replace him? – Possibly.

More elaborate expressions often use the verb pouvoir:

Ils ont pu perdre leur chemin.|They may have lost their way.

Il se peut que la voiture soit tombée en panne.|It’s possible the car’s broken down.

A la limite, on pourrait croire qu‘il l’a fait exprès.|You might almost think he did it deliberately.

Possibility can also be expressed by idiomatic phrases:

Il est possible que je sois en mesure de vous aider.|It may be that I’m in a position to help you.

Nous vous soutiendrons dans la mesure du possible.|We shall support you as far as we can.

Ce que vous proposez, c’est très faisable.|What you’re suggesting is quite possible/do-able.

Tu crois que c’est un projet réalisable ?|Do you think the plan could work/is feasible?

Come back next week for the final installment of this three part topic. Have a great week, everyone!

A la prochaine…


Degrees of Certainty


Affirmative expressions of certainty and probability take the indicative – the indicative is used to express most statements and questions.

To convey certainty by a single word or a short phrase:

Il viendra demain ? – Certainement. | Will he come tomorrow? – Definitely.

On les invitera ? – Ah, oui, sûrement. | Will they be invited? – Yes, of course.

Ce candidat sera élu, c’est sûr. | This candidate is sure to be elected.

Fuller expressions of certainty rely mainly on adjectives or verbs. The most useful expressions based on adjectives are those with a personal subject:

Je suis sûr que vous réussirez. | I’m sure you’ll succeed.

Elle est convaincue que c’est la meilleure solution. | She’s convinced it’s the best solution.

Ils sont persuadés qu‘il y a eu une erreur. | They’re convinced there’s been a mistake.

Impersonal subjects ce and il also convey certainty:

Il n’y aura pas de session d’été. C’est formel. | There won’t be a summer session. That’s final.

Il est sûr maintenant que le président va démissionner. | It’s now certain that the president is going to resign.

The word doute can be used in expressions to make an affirmation, but take note that sans doute means “probably”.

Il n’y aucun doute qu‘elle l’emportera la prochaine fois. | Of course she’ll win next time.

Sans aucun doute ils le payeront plus cher en Angleterre. | No doubt they’ll pay more for it in England.

Similarly to doutecertitude conveys a similar degree of affirmation:

J’ai la certitude qu‘il m’a déjà posé la même question. | I’m absolutely sure he’s already asked me the same question.

Elle sait avec certitude qu‘elle sera envoyée aux Etats-Unis. | She knows that she’ll definitely be sent to the United States.

Next week there will be a part 2 to this post, and it will be on the degrees of probability and possibility. This is the first in a little series of French “in action” posts that I’ll be doing, where there will be somewhat real life situations and how to use it in speech. Not like those generic “The mouse is under the chair” type of non-useful phrases.

I am also working on a requested post one of my followers asked for, and I think I will make it a page at the top of my blog.

Have a great week, everyone!

A bientôt !


The Pronoun ‘En’

We’re going to dig a bit deeper into the pronoun ‘en’ this week. I touched on the subject awhile ago.

The basic function of the French pronoun ‘en’ is to replace complements that consist of de + noun. In most cases (but not all) en can replace complements consisting of de + either an animate object or inanimate noun.

En can can replace de + any noun when de + the article is a partitive article or a plural indefinite article. En is often translated as some or any in English, but in many cases it has no English equivalent.

Vous avez des livres ? | Do you have (any) books?

Vous en avez ? | Do you have any?

Tu veux des frites ? | Do you want any fries/chips?

Tu en veux ? | Do you want any?

Elle a des cousines en Californie. | She has cousins in California.

Elle en a en Californie. | She has some in California.

Ce magasin ne cherche pas d’employées. | This shop isn’t looking for employees.

Cette magasin n’en cherche pas. | This shop is not looking for any.

En can replace both animate and inanimate nouns that follow a quantity word (most of which contain de) or a numeral.

J’ai beaucoup de travail. | I have a lot of work.

J’en ai beaucoup. | I have a lot.

Elle fait tant de voyages. | She takes so many trips.

Elle en fait tant. | She takes so many.

Nous avons résolu la plupart des problèmes. | We have solved most of the problems.

Nous en avons résolu la plupart. | We have solved most of them.

Ce prof enseigne cinq cours. | This prof teaches five classes.

Ce prof en enseigne cinq. | This prof teaches five.

When a noun following quelques is replaced by enquelques becomes quelques-uns or quelques-unes.

Nous avons lu quelques articles. | We read some articles.

Nous en avons lu quelques-uns. | We read some.

Je peux te donner quelques fleures. | I can give you some flowers.

Je peux t’en donner quelques-unes. | I can give you some.

En also replaces inanimate nouns when de means from.

Elle est revenue de la campagne. | She came back from the country.

Elle en est revenue. | She came back (from there).

Cheers, everyone!

A la prochaine…


Declarative & Interrogative Sentences

A declarative sentence makes a statement, and consist of a subject and a predicate. They can be simple or compound, and end with a period. (So basically, a declarative sentence is everything but a question or an exclamation.) The structure of a declarative sentence is standard: subject, verb, object.

Nous avons passé un bon séjour. | We had a pleasant stay.

An interrogative sentence asks a question. A declarative sentence may be turned into a question in three simple ways in French.

🔵  The word order of the declarative sentence may be retained, but with the voice raised at the end of the sentence to mark a question. This form of interrogation is common in colloquial speech.

Tu as déjà invité Charles pour demain ? |Have you already invited Charles for tomorrow?

🔵  The declarative sentence may be prefaced by est-ce que. This form is more common in spoken than written French.

Est-ce que vous avez vu ce film ? | Have you seen that movie?

🔵  Inversion – this form is more characteristic of formal spoken or written French, and may sound unnatural in normal conversation. It is rare to use inversion with the subject je and a verb in the present tense, with the exception of puis-je and suis-je.

When the subject of a verb is a pronoun, the inversion is straightforward:

Savez-vous si le train sera à l’heure ? | Do you know if the train will be on time?

With verbs ending in a vowel, -t- must be placed between the inverted verb and the subject pronouns il/elle/on. This is for pronunciation reasons:

A-t-il répondu ? | Has he responded?

Apprécie-t-on jamais les richesses de la vie ? | Does one ever appreciate the treasures of life?

When the subject of a verb is a noun, simple inversion cannot be used. Instead, the noun stands at the start of the phrase, followed by the verb + the pronoun corresponding to the subject:

L’étudiant savait-it qu’il est défendu de fumer dans les salle de classe ? | Did the student know that it is forbidden to smoke in the classroom?

Have a great week, everyone!

Merci à vous !


Moods in Hypothetical Clauses

First off, I must apologise; I meant to post this part 2 from my Conditional Mood post last week, but I somehow thought I already did. (Oups.) Anyhow, let’s continue from where we left off from two weeks ago.

All true conditional sentences follow one of three patterns:

🔵 If … happens (present)

  • …stay at home (imperative)
  • …people always stay at home (present)
  • …we’ll stay at home (future)

French uses identical tenses to the above English example:

Si + present

S’il y a une tempête, reste chez toi! | If there is a storm, stay home!

S’il y a une tempête, les citoyens de la ville restent chez eux. | If there is a storm, the town’s citizens will stay home.

S’il y a une tempête, je resterai chez moi. | If there is a storm, I will stay home.

🔵 If … happened (simple past), X would stay at home (present conditional)

Here, French uses the imperfect, not the simple past like in English, after si.

Si + imperfect … present conditional:

S’il y avait une tempête, est-ce que vous resteriez chez vous ? | If there was/were a storm, would you stay at home?

🔵 If … had happened (pluperfect), X would have stayed at home (conditional perfect)

Si + pluperfect … conditional perfect:

Si j’étais tombé malade, je serais resté chez moi. | If I had fallen ill, I would have stayed at home.

When si is followed by two hypothetical statements, the first should be put in the indicative (present/imperfect/pluperfect), and the second should be introduced by et que + subjunctive:

Si ce parti gagne/gagnait l’élection et qu‘il tienne ses promesses…

If this party wins/won the election and keeps/kept its promises…

There are ways of expressing hypotheses without using a conditional sentence introduced by si.

🔵 In colloquial usage, to emphasize the hypothetical nature of a statement, the first clause can be introduced by quand (même) + conditional, and the second clause also in the conditional:

Quand (même) tu me le dirais, je ne le croirais pas.

Even if you told me so, I wouldn’t believe it.

🔵 In colloquial usage, the first and second clauses can be conditional, joined by que:

Vous chercheriez toute la soirée que vous ne le trouveriez pas.

If you searched all evening, you still wouldn’t find it.

I’m liking revisiting older posts for verb tenses and going a bit deeper and more advanced. What do you think? I hope everyone has a great week!

Merci à vous !


4 Years!

Learn French Avec Moi is 4 today! This journey began for my love of the French language, my passion for teaching, my love for helping people, and also my fear of public speaking, which is why this blog was born.

Thank you to everyone that follows this blog, including those that stop by when they need help. I see my stats, and I see what people are viewing and what they are looking for. So let me help you. 🙂

Tell me about yourself and your journey with this language. How did you start, and where do you hope to end up? What do you like the most about French or francophone culture?

I’ll see you tomorrow for Learn French Thursday!

A demain,