Complete post:




Il me semble qu’il n’y ait pas beaucoup de réflexion…

It seems to me that there isn’t much thought…”

This morning, we received a question regarding a sentence in Lesson 159 on the subject of Twitter. Our listener wondered about the use of the subjunctive after the expression “sembler que”. Our listener’s message was this:

From: Neil
In Lesson 159 there is a sentence:

Il me semble qu’il n’y ait pas beaucoup de réflexion dans ce que l’on peut lire sur Twitter.

My French textbooks say this: although 'il semble' requires the subjunctive, 'il me semble', when used affirmatively, does not.

However, I don’t really understand it…
Thanks in advance for your explanation.

So, why then is the subjunctive (qu’il n’y ait pas) preferable to the indicative (qu’il n’y a pas) in this context?…

Explication / Réponse

The expression sembler que is frequently followed by the indicative… and less frequently by the subjunctive.

This does not have to do with the inclusion or omission of the object pronoun me. Rather it has to do with the degree of certainty in whatever context, as well as whether a sentence is constructed negatively or interrogatively.

In our dialogue on Twitter, the context was very subjective and was framed in the negative (with ne… pas):

  • Il me semble qu’il n’y ait pas beaucoup de réflexion dans ce que l’on peut lire sur Twitter.

It was Amandine’s own subjective view that there does not appear to be much forethought involved in “tweeting”. (There is considerable uncertainty in her stance on this – it is simply what she thinks, from her own personal experience.) Therefore, in this case, the subjunctive is preferable.

To add to the above, we can say in general that in negative or interrogative situations, the subjunctive is preferable:

  • Il ne me semble pas que Roger soit particulièrement doué.
  • Te semble-t-il que Jacques soit intelligent?

When used affirmatively, and when there is more certainty, the indicative is used frequently:

  • Il semble que Roger est la meilleur de la classe.

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