I would like to make a sentence in French: “It was rather possible that I did not know ...”. I am just wondering which one is correct. Or, could you suggest the better one if both are incorrect or awkward?

  1. Il était plutôt possible que je ne savais pas ...
  2. Il était plutôt possible que je ne susse pas ...
  • 2
    Before deciding to do away altogether with the notion of "rather," I think you should, as suggested by loxaxs, provide some context, because if you're using "rather" in its "to be more accurate" sense (& not its "to some extent" sense), I think you should find a way to keep/translate it. (If you're using "rather" to express/admit your current/newfound opinion, you might even change the whole thing and say something like "Je crois bien que je ne savais pas.") Please don't use that suggestion, but please don't omit the notion of "rather' either until you've clarified how "rather" is being used.
    – Papa Poule
    Oct 11, 2015 at 15:02
  • 1
    Please not that while the second sentence is grammatically correct, the imparfait du subjonctif is never used orally, and still pretty rarely in written french. Using it might sound old-fashioned or overly pompous. Moreover, susse is pronounced exactly like suce which means suck (something), which might get you some strange looks depending on the maturity of people listening...
    – Fatalize
    Oct 12, 2015 at 15:09

2 Answers 2


The first sentence is incorrect.

Indeed, the "que" word, where it is placed, implies a subjonctif verb. As in the first sentence, you used the imparfait de l'indicatif, it is incorrect.

In your second sentence, you used the imparfait du subjoncif. This is grammatically correct.

Yet, if with indicatif mode, imparfait is used very often, it is almost never used with the sujonctif mode. You should rather use the passé time (of the subjonctif mode).

Using the passé, we get:

Il était plutôt possible que je n'aie pas su (que) ...

But this way, your sentence is still awkward as être plutôt possible means nothing (at least without the context).

I think you should get rid of the word plutôt, as the use of "rather" is very English and usually it doesn't translate well in other languages.

If removing plutôt totally messes up with the meaning of your sentence, maybe you should try to replace Il était by Cela était or by C'était. You can also tell us a bit more about the context of the sentence for better advise.

  • Thank you for your answer. What I want to express was Rather, it was possible that I did not know how to use the instruments. So, I thought je savais would be more suitable than j'ai su to describe usual (habitual) states.
    – Moli
    Oct 11, 2015 at 14:50
  • Ok, my problem is that I still don't understand what the sentence means. Maybe I don't know the use of rather you make. Could you explain why the person saying this does so? Especially, I don't understand how one can "possibly" not know something. (This idea is uncommon).
    – loxaxs
    Oct 11, 2015 at 14:57
  • You may also try the present du subjonctif: Il était possible que je ne sache pas (utiliser les instruments), if he still doesn't know how to use them.
    – loxaxs
    Oct 11, 2015 at 15:06
  • Also, Il était possible que je n'aie pas su comment utiliser les instruments would work both for a long-lasting state or for a punctual one. You may also explicitly tell when he didn't knew it.
    – loxaxs
    Oct 11, 2015 at 15:11
  • Ah, the preceding sentence was 'Quand j'étais petit, je n'aimais jamais l'instruments.
    – Moli
    Oct 11, 2015 at 15:12

The action of the subordinate clause is simultaneous to the one of the main clause: this means you must conjugate the verb savoir to l'imparfait du subjonctif.

From this rule, we conclude that the correct way to translate that into French is:

Il était possible que je ne susse pas

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