Am I correct in thinking that in French you can express the idea of “unless” in the following three different ways? I wonder if you can use them interchangeably?

  1. « Je vais prendre l'air. À moins que ce soit interdit, ça aussi ? »

{ à moins que + Present Subjunctive } ("ne" is omitted)

  1. « Je vais prendre l'air. À moins que ce ne soit interdit, ça aussi ? »

{ à moins que + ne + Present Subjunctive }

  1. « Je vais prendre l'air. Sauf si c'est interdit, ça aussi ? »

{ Sauf si + Present Indicative }

5 Answers 5


I'm not a good english speaker, but i'm French, so i can tell you my opinion ;)

All your suggests are right, but the first one is more straightforward. Except as i would prefer:

"Je vais prendre l'air. À moins que ça soit interdit, ça aussi ?"

The second is a little bit complicated and not very used in everyday language.

On the contrary, the third is not very beautiful. I dont know how to say that in english, be in french it's "familier, pauvre".

  • @user9167 I have a question: Can I use "ça" and "ce" almost interchangeably? Merci ! Jan 16, 2016 at 18:29
  • ouch, too difficult for me to explain that in english :) But no, they're not interchangeable
    – user9162
    Jan 16, 2016 at 18:38
  • In example, you can say "ce soir", but not "ça soir"
    – user9162
    Jan 16, 2016 at 18:40
  • @user9167 Oh, I see. I'd appreciate it if you could explain in French why you can use both "ça" and "ce" in this particular example. Jan 16, 2016 at 18:50
  • 2
    @user9162 . Dans ce contexte, ce est un pronom démonstratif neutre: atilf.atilf.fr/dendien/scripts/tlfiv5/…; . Il est équivalent à cela (ou ceci). A différencier du ce=cet adjectif démonstratif. Jan 16, 2016 at 19:34

According to the existing answers and commentaries, the answer to that question highly depends on who answers. Given that I don't agree with all I've read, I publish my own point of view.

My answer is that all 3 forms are correct when speaking. If you write, I recommand you to use the second form, which is the most correct and formal in my opinion. Personally, I always use "ne" when speaking even if it's optional.

The use of "ce" is also perfectly correct ! It replaces "cela" (but the use of "cela" would be correct as well and a bit more formal). I won't suggest you to replace it by "ça", which makes the sentence more "popular" and is useless here.


1 , 2 and 3 are correct.

ce is less frequent.

more frequent is: à moins que cela (ne) soit interdit.

you can use them interchangeably.

2 is more stylish.

3: sauf si is more frequent in everyday speaking.

  • Ha bon, tu préfères « Je vais prendre l'air. Sauf si c'est interdit, ça aussi ? » à «Je vais prendre l'air. À moins que ça soit interdit, ça aussi ?» dans le langage courant ?! Et non ce et ça ne sont pas interchangables dans n'importe quel contexte.
    – user9162
    Jan 16, 2016 at 19:23
  • 1
    le "ne" n'est pas obligatoire. Il est très souvent omit à l'oral. A l'écrit, par contre, le style étant plus exigeant, il faut le mettre...
    – Random
    Jan 16, 2016 at 20:42
  • @Random - effectivement, ce n'est pas une phrase négative. j'ai répondu trop vite. Jan 16, 2016 at 20:59

All 1, 2 and 3 are all correct.

Personal opinion: In spoken language, I would use 1 or 2, indifferently (2 sounds better, but 1 is shorter). In written language, I think I will systematically use 2.

Concerning 2: after "à moins que", the "ne" (ne explétif) is usual. It is because "à moins que" indicates that the fact in the main sentence ("Je vais prendre l'air") will happen except if the condition in the subordinate (ce soit interdit) is satisfied. The "ne" just highlights this negative hypothesis.


  • J’irai à votre rencontre, à moins qu’il ne pleuve.
  • Ce travail sera terminé, à moins que quelque imprévu ne survienne.

Source: Université de montréal


To summarize:

  • Most formal: à moins que cela ne soit interdit.
  • Less Formal: à moins que ce ne soit interdit.
  • Slang: à moins que ça soit interdit.
  • Does the de in "prendre de l'air" mean some, with the entire phrase translating into "get some fresh air"? Merci. Jan 19, 2016 at 19:37
  • At least in France, "prendre de l'air" is a nonsense in this context; a misinterpretation of the actual meaning of "prendre l'air".
    – jlliagre
    Jan 19, 2016 at 20:56
  • I had this wrong, thank you jlliagre (I am not French).
    – Projenix
    Jan 20, 2016 at 10:36

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