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 + ne explétif + Le Subjonctif = For fear that

 

Examples and resources

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).


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.


Q&A Forum 5 questions, 9 answers

RobC1Kwiziq community member

Clarification of grammar guideline from the lesson

I don't understand the following guideline given in the lesson: "If the main verb is NOT used with negations, then you CANNOT use the ne explétif." Could you possibly clarify? 
Asked 3 months ago
TomC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor Correct answer

Hi Rob,

It's a simple case of subordinate clauses introduced by "sans que" cannot contain a "ne explétif" EXCEPT, optionally,  when the principal clause is negative. e.g.:

Il le fera sans que vous le demandiez - He will do it without asking

BUT

Il ne fera pas sans que vous N'y autorisiez. - He won't do it without permission.

The use of the "ne explétif"  after "sans que" is optional and is a great source of disagreement among the grammarians, some consider it optional and others consider it erroneous.

Even the  Académie francaise equivocates. On the one hand it considers it optional but recommends it for "langue soutenue"(formal language) in its " Emplois fautifs" blog  but elsewhere it condemns  it use : "sans que doit se construire sans négation, même s’il est suivi d’un mot comme aucun, personne ou rien, qui ont dans ces phrases un sens positif"  1966

(my emphasis)

Personally I am happy to dispense with its use after sans que.

Hope this helps,

Tom

 

 

Clarification of grammar guideline from the lesson

I don't understand the following guideline given in the lesson: "If the main verb is NOT used with negations, then you CANNOT use the ne explétif." Could you possibly clarify? 

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TomC1Kwiziq community member

Use of "en"

I'm not sure this is directly relevant to this topic but I can't think of a better place to ask the question!

The answer to a question relating to this lesson is "Je vais me faufiler sans qu'il s'en aperçoive." What is the function of "en" in the sentence (and the rule pertaining to its use)? I assume it intends to refer back to the previously mentioned sneaking, but I can't figure out the rule. I know that "en" can be used to refer to previously mentioned phrases starting with "de", but that doesn't seem to fit here.

Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Asked 4 months ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi Tom, 

If you didn't use 'en' you would have to say -

"....sans qu'il s'aperçoive de ça "

so it replaces 'de ça' =  of it 

Hope this helps!

 

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

S'apercevoir de quelque chose. -- To be aware of something, to notice something.

The adverbial pronoun en refers back to je vais me faufiler, as you correctly assumed. You need en to refer back because the phrase s'apercevoir de quelque chose introduces the thing you notice with the preposition de.

Use of "en"

I'm not sure this is directly relevant to this topic but I can't think of a better place to ask the question!

The answer to a question relating to this lesson is "Je vais me faufiler sans qu'il s'en aperçoive." What is the function of "en" in the sentence (and the rule pertaining to its use)? I assume it intends to refer back to the previously mentioned sneaking, but I can't figure out the rule. I know that "en" can be used to refer to previously mentioned phrases starting with "de", but that doesn't seem to fit here.

Any help would be greatly appreciated!

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JimC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

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

Asked 3 years ago
LauraKwiziq team member
Bonjour Jim, The second item you're asking about didn't show up - please try again. :-)
Jim asked:View original

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

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YuryB1Kwiziq community member

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.
Asked 3 years ago
LauraKwiziq team member
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.
YuryB1Kwiziq community member
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!
ChC1Kwiziq community member

I think the example you're referring to is gone or changed. Anyway, I was confused after this conversation and found this: http://www.academie-francaise.fr/sans-que

Mais, dans les propositions introduites par sans que, lorsqu’elles s’insèrent dans un contexte négatif, on peut utiliser le ne dit explétif, que n’exige pas la correction grammaticale, mais qui est recommandé dans la langue soutenue. Il vient sans qu’on l’en ait prié, Il ne vient jamais sans qu’on l’en ait prié ou sans qu’on ne l’en ait prié sont toutes des phrases correctes. Seule la phrase Il vient sans qu’on ne l’en ait prié serait fautive.

Being a heathen, I plan to never use it with "sans que", to be on the safe side :-)

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.

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MikeB2Kwiziq community member

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.
Asked 4 years ago
LauraKwiziq team member
Bonjour Mike ! The ne explétif is optional - essentially, the more formal the writing/conversation, the more likely it will be used.
MikeB2Kwiziq community member
Understood, but that is not clear from the lesson. It seems to imply that in writing it is required.

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.

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