Here is an excerpt from Jules Verne's De la Terre à la Lune:

[...] les journaux de l'Union célébraient leurs inventions avec enthousiasme, et il n'était si mince marchand, si naïf «booby» [Badaud.], qui ne se cassât jour et nuit la tête à calculer des trajectoires insensées.

My understanding is this sentences tries to say that even the "mince marchand" and "naïf «booby»" are trying to calculate trajectories, but what is the grammatical function of the word "si" in this case?

3 Answers 3


Despite the extremely "purply" nature of this particular sentence, this is the exact same use of Si as in the sentence Il était si bête qu'il croyait que la lune était en fromage: "There was no booby so naive that they weren't spending day and night calculating crazy trajectories."

I think "too naive to spend [...]" would also be an accurate translation, but this is very intricate prose with somewhat dated vocabulary, so I'm not entirely sure about that.

  • Thank you for your answer, which made me realize that I'm actually confused about the overall structure of the sentence. The "ne" being used alone made me think that maybe combined with "si" it has some meaning, but it seems it is on its own here. I looked up rules for using "ne" alone, but they don't seem to apply, so is it just a dated usage here as you mentioned?
    – sxu
    Commented Aug 17, 2014 at 22:32
  • 1
    The use of ne is literary (though not necessarily archaic: here it is the combination of strongly dated vocabulary and convoluted syntax, not to mention the subjunctive imperfect, that makes the sentence archaic) usage instead of the compound negative. It used to be that it alone was used for negation.
    – Circeus
    Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 1:09

Dans cette phrase, si (devant un adjectif ou un adverbe) est un adverbe d'intensité avec pour sens : à ce point, à un tel degré.

Les synonymes sont alors : aussi, tellement.

... et il n'était si mince marchand, si naïf « booby » ...

... et il n'était de marchand mince (pauvre, réalisant peu de ventes) à ce point, de « booby » tellement naïf ...

Référence du Robert [2-SI.II.1]


In this sentence "si" means too in English

  • 3
    No, the word would be aussi. You couldn't have too in English here anyway (nor aussi in French) since this is a negative sentence; it would be not … either, and in French pas … non plus. Commented Aug 17, 2014 at 14:18
  • @Gilles: too would correspond to trop in this sentence. It's perfectly possible (both in French and in English), but with a different meaning. Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 9:30
  • @Gilles: And we can even find a few too, with this meaning: not too bad, not too pleased, not too serious. Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 9:35
  • "si petit" peut etre "Too small" c'est un example
    – Mina Ezzat
    Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 12:15
  • 4
    @MinaEzzat It would be “so small”, not “too small”. “Too small” would be trop petit. And “so small” is more or less what it means, as other answers explain. Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 19:12

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