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  • Version A :

    Vous n'essaieriez pas de m'éviter par hasard ?

    My interpretation: "You wouldn't be trying to avoid me by any chance, would you?"

  • Version B:

    But what if you leave out "par hasard"? I wonder how it affects the meaning of the sentence.

    Vous n'essaieriez pas de m'éviter ?

    My interpretation: "You wouldn't be trying to avoid me, would you?"

Whether you include "par hasard" or not, do both versions translate into tag questions in English – and polite ones at that?

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I think that is a question for english natives. For me, the version B would be a normal question. I think tag questions are used when you almost know the answer. – Julien Dryepondt Jan 26 at 13:11
    
par hasard could also mean "happen to": Tu n'aurais pas un… par hasard? "You wouldn't happen to have a..." – Mason H. Hatfield Jan 27 at 23:25
    
@MasonH.Hatfield Then, could this sentence mean: "You wouldn't happen to be trying to avoid me, would you?" – pourrait Peut-être Jan 28 at 1:45
    
Oui, je le crois. Selon: wordreference.com/enfr/happen – Mason H. Hatfield Jan 28 at 11:29
up vote 6 down vote accepted

According to me "par hasard" is a politeness. When you are asking something for example : "Avez-vous un briquet, par hasard?". It makes the question less direct, facilitates a negative response by suggesting a positive or negative response.

But in your example, I don't know why, it sounds kind of ironic to me. Maybe it is suggesting that you spotted that the person who is avoiding you thinks you will not notice it. You are implying that you are not dumb.

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To be polite, maybe I would have suggested that the person does not avoid me everytime : "Vous n'essaieriez pas de m'éviter parfois ?", "Parfois, vous n'essaieriez pas de m'éviter?". Or I would have used another conditional, as a preparation of the real question : "Je voudrais savoir si vous n'essayez pas de m'éviter". – Pogus Jan 26 at 13:47
    
Really, all I say here is just my feeling... Don't take it as rules. – Pogus Jan 26 at 13:50
    
Or both : "Parfois, je me demande si vous essayez de m'éviter.", "Je vous voudrais savoir si vous essayez de m'éviter, parfois.". And it is no more a question, but I just tell that it is some kind of self wondering. It appears more like a confidence than a question. – Pogus Jan 26 at 14:15

An old Tintin springs to mind: "Tu te moquerais pas de moi, par hasard?" As the speaker shortly after stuck a swordstick through the other man, I do not think it was meant politely, in that case at least.

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"Par hasard" could be here the equivalent of "is there any chance that", so I would say that this is somehow making the sentence smoother and thus increasing politeness.

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1  
Or, more succinctly, perchance. – 200_success Jan 26 at 17:50
    
@200_success That's a very good way of putting it. It captures both the possibility of the original courtliness and its sarcastic employment. – Micromégas Jan 28 at 14:39
    
Being a pro at sarcasm I would say that any irrelevant politeness becomes sarcastic. Don't you think my dear gentlemen? – AsTeR Jan 28 at 14:43

It really depends on your intention.

As is, adding "par hasard" in a question asserts that you sincerely ignore whether your interlocutor can satisfy your request, that you are not asking him something with the purpose of letting him no way to say no.

Auriez-vous l'heure par hasard ?

It would be technically useless to add "par hasard" if you saw your interlucutor giving the time few seconds ago. Saying "par hasard" asks if there is a coincidence in your favor, saying "s'il vous plaît" just asks if your interlocutor is willing to help you if he can.

But, as @Pogus says, it can be completely ironic too. Taking the same example above, if you ask the time to somebody that just gave it and saw you watching him giving the time, he would then know that you are not asking "par hasard", you are asking him on purpose, with the conviction that he can fulfill your request. It feels like a trap.

So i would say it can be a indirect politeness by default but its sense is related to context. If you want to be polite with no ambiguity, simply add "S'il vous plaît" imho.

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