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Sans que (+ ne explétif) + Le Subjonctif = Without doing

Look at these sentences:

Il est venu sans que tu le saches.
He came without you knowing.

J'ai réussi sans qu'ils le veuillent.
I managed without them wanting it.

On a tout décoré sans que vous soyez dérangés.
We decorated everything without you being bothered (by it).

Nous sommes rentrés sans que le bébé fasse un bruit.
We came home without the baby making a sound.

 

To express without <someone> + -ing verb (= without you doing) in French, you use:

sans que + subject the verb in Subjonctif présent or Subjonctif passé

 

ATTENTION:
With sans que, the use of the ne explétif is quite tricky, so look at these guidelines:

- If the main verb is NOT used with negations, then you CANNOT use the ne explétif.

- If the main verb is used with a negation, you can use the ne explétif, but it is considered optional:

Je ne partirai pas sans que tu ne m'embrasses pour me dire au revoir.
I won't leave without you kissing me goodbye.

Ils n'ont pas parlé sans que vous ne les encouragiez.
They didn't speak without you encouraging them.

 

When to use Subjonctif présent or Subjonctif passé ?

When the main clause is in Présent indicatif and the action after sans que takes place before it, you will use Subjonctif passé.

Ça fait une journée sans qu'il ait mangé.
It's been a day without him eating.


When the main clause is itself in a past tense, then the question is whether the action after sans que is over at the time of the main clause or not:

* If it's still ongoing at the same time as the main clause, you'll use Subjonctif présent

Il est venu sans que tu le saches.
He came without you knowing.

* If it's over before the action of the main clause, you'll use Subjonctif passé

Il est venu sans que tu l'aies su.
He came without you knowing (at the time).


-> literally "He came without you having known."



See Understanding the 'ne' explétif

as well as other similar subordinating conjunctions:

Sans que (+ ne explétif) + Le Subjonctif = Without doing

À moins que + ne explétif + Le Subjonctif = Unless you do

Avant que + ne explétif + Le Subjonctif = Before I do

De peur que + Le Subjonctif = For fear that

 

Examples and resources

Il est venu sans que tu le saches.
He came without you knowing.


Ils n'ont pas parlé sans que vous ne les encouragiez.
They didn't speak without you encouraging them.


J'ai réussi sans qu'ils le veuillent.
I managed without them wanting it.


Je ne partirai pas sans que tu ne m'embrasses pour me dire au revoir.
I won't leave without you kissing me goodbye.


On a tout décoré sans que vous soyez dérangés.
We decorated everything without you being bothered (by it).


Nous sommes rentrés sans que le bébé fasse un bruit.
We came home without the baby making a sound.


Ça fait une journée sans qu'il ait mangé.
It's been a day without him eating.


Il est venu sans que tu l'aies su.
He came without you knowing (at the time).


Q&A

Jim

Kwiziq community member

9 February 2016

1 reply

Are the following equivalent? Il est venu sans que tu le saches. Il esr

Laura

Kwiziq language super star

9 February 2016

9/02/16

Bonjour Jim,

The second item you're asking about didn't show up - please try again. :-)

Yury

Kwiziq community member

30 January 2016

2 replies

The example for dropping 'ne' explétif in speech

The example in the remark near the end of the lesson does not have a negation in the main verb, so it wouldn't need 'ne' explétif. In fact, it's exactly the same phrase that was used in the first example in this lesson: Il est venu sans que tu le saches.

Laura

Kwiziq language super star

30 January 2016

30/01/16

Bonjour Yury,

The ne explétif is not necessarily related to negation in the main clause. There are certain verbs and expressions, like sans que, that call for the ne explétif. So the point is that you can say both Il est venu sans que tu ne le saches or Il est venu sans que tu le saches.

Yury

Kwiziq community member

20 February 2016

20/02/16

Bonjour Laura,
Merci beaucoup pour votre explication.
However, I am afraid that this point is missing in the explanation in the lesson on "sans que" (How to use ''sans que'' with or without 'ne' explétif + Subjonctif = 'without you doing'). The lesson says: " If the main verb is not used with negations, then you CANNOT use the 'ne' explétif." Please consider amending the lesson's text to cover all the possibilities. Thank you very much!


Mike

Kwiziq community member

8 November 2015

2 replies

is this required, or is it optional in written French?

You seem to imply that it is, but other sources limit it to only highly formal writing.

Laura

Kwiziq language super star

9 November 2015

9/11/15

Bonjour Mike !

The ne explétif is optional - essentially, the more formal the writing/conversation, the more likely it will be used.

Mike

Kwiziq community member

9 November 2015

9/11/15

Understood, but that is not clear from the lesson. It seems to imply that in writing it is required.
Clever stuff underway!