1

The question is on the de + adjective and the que de + adjective constructions as appear in these passages from Camus's The Stranger.

de + adj.:

Je me suis souvenu dans ces moments d’une histoire que maman me racontait à propos de mon père. Je ne l’avais pas connu. Tout ce que je connaissais de précis sur cet homme, c’était peut-être ce que m’en disait alors maman : il était allé voir exécuter un assassin. Il était malade à l’idée d’y aller. Il l’avait fait cependant et au retour il avait vomi une partie de la matinée.

que de + adj.:

Ici, le procureur a essuyé son visage brillant de sueur. Il a dit enfin que son devoir était douloureux, mais qu’il l’accomplirait fermement. Il a déclaré que je n’avais rien à faire avec une société dont je méconnaissais les règles les plus essentielles et que je ne pouvais pas en appeler à ce cœur humain dont j’ignorais les réactions élémentaires. « Je vous demande la tête de cet homme, a-t-il dit, et c’est le cœur léger que je vous la demande. Car s’il m’est arrivé au cours de ma déjà longue carrière de réclamer des peines capitales, jamais autant qu’aujourd’hui, je n’ai senti ce pénible devoir compensé, balancé, éclairé par la conscience d’un commandement impérieux et sacré et par l’horreur que je ressens devant un visage d’homme où je ne lis rien que de monstrueux. »

Question

Are they the same construction except that the one is the negation of the other?

Background

Related older posts.

I think one sense in which the two constructions can be (said to be) the same is if que can be inserted or removed at will. For example, if you could:

  • insert que before de précis (and get: all that I knew that was not precise) or

  • remove que from que de monstrueux (and get: where I read nothing monstrous).

Just so I may be understood properly, an example of two things that are the same construction in this sense would be, in English:

  • is + adjective (e.g. he is here).

  • is not + adjective (e.g. he is not here).

Once we have the affirmative instance, we can always add not to generate the negative (and vice versa by removing not).

Above is primarily what I am interested in. But the following may also be considered.

  • If you see this and this answer, you will see that the two constructions are certainly receiving the same type of grammatical analysis (i.e. by a subjunctive clause).

  • They may have the same historical derivation.

2

The two constructions don't have the same meaning.

Je ne lis rien de monstrueux

would mean that there is nothing "monstrous" in what I read, on the opposite

Je ne lis rien que de monstrueux

would mean that I don't read anything that is not "monstrous"

The latter construction is not often used because you would expect a noun with this kind of construction ("ne...que" meaning "only").

Je ne lis (rien) que des monstruosités (I only read montruous things).

EDIT: concerning the sameness of the construction, it would be more clear if you looked at the sentences the other way around. Do not compare que de + adjectif and de + adjectif, but look at the cases when the use of "de" is needed before the adjectif. If you consider the two sentences you will see the you have to add "de":

Tout ce que je + verbe + de + adj

Je ne + verbe + que + de + adj

Remark : One construction where you could also find "que de" alone is to introduce an emphatic sentence. "Que de" is then used for "So many"

Que de belles années ai-je passées là-bas!

  • I think you are telling me that they are the same when you remove que and derive Je ne lis rien de monstrueux. Please note the sense of the same used in the question. If, on the other hand, que cannot be added to de précis, this would limit and qualify the sameness of construction. At the risk of being repetitive, we don't say he is and he is not are two different constructions. Thanks. – Catomic Apr 25 '16 at 9:14
  • @Catomic Note that "que de monstrueux" is a very specific construction, you should not focus on this, I've personnaly never heard it ;) – Random Apr 25 '16 at 9:22
  • @Random That's very helpful; thanks. Is it specific to rien in the sense that it is rien that allows this (perhaps) unusual construction to occur? If I am told this, yes, I would stop worrying about que de + adj. or trying to assimilate it to de + adj. – Catomic Apr 25 '16 at 9:30
  • @Catomic I'm talking about "rien que de [...]". But "que de" is very common (as in "Je ne vends que tu poisson") – Random Apr 25 '16 at 9:45
  • @Catomic "rien que" is not very common but still regularly used. See here and here. Here I guess it could be replaced by "... où je lis seulement du monstrueux". – Thomas Francois Apr 25 '16 at 9:59

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