qu'ils soient secrets ou publics

Discussion in 'French-English Vocabulary / Vocabulaire Français-Anglais' started by James Bates, Dec 27, 2013.

  1. James Bates Senior Member

    English America
    "Et j’ai encore des péchés que je ne connais pas * Allah les connaît, qu’ils soient secrets ou publics"

    This is from a French translation of an Arabic poem. The first half is fairly easy to translate: "And I have more sins that I don't know of"
    The "qu'ils soient" in the second half, however, is a bit problematic. I'm guessing the second half means "Allah knows them, whether they are secret or public."
     
  2. pepper1 Senior Member

    English - Ireland
    .. oui...

    "... whether they be secret or public"
     
  3. James Bates Senior Member

    English America
    Thanks! But what's wrong with "are"? The subjunctive isn't used that much in modern English except in such set phrases as "Perish the thought" and "Enter Hamlet/four clowns/whatever"
     
  4. pepper1 Senior Member

    English - Ireland
    Whoa, now hang on a second before we pack the subjunctive off to oblivion!

    We're talking about hypothetical situations in your poem - sins that the person does/doesn't even know that he has... but that Allah may (or may not) know about. This hypothetical context is the perfect 'environment' for the subjunctive.

    The subjunctive is alive and kicking in English:

    • I wish that he were here…
    • It is important that a distinction be made between [A] and
      [*]I insist that she arrive on time from now on…

    … etc.
     

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