I've been reading posts about "avant que", and "après que". I came across this paragraph while reading:

le subjonctif contient une part d'incertitude, ce que ne contient pas l'indicatif.
Il faut le retrouver avant qu'il ne fasse une connerie

Which I'd translate as:

The subjunctive contains an element of uncertainty, what doesn't contain the indicative.
We need to find him before he f*cks up.

I don't understand the use of "ce que" here. If it was supposed to be "what" it'd be "ce qui". I looked in my dictionary but I couldn't find another meaning that fits in this sentence which I think means:

which doesn't contain uncertainty

But that way, it seems that it's talking about the subjunctive which obviously has uncertainty.

Can someone help me? I'm very confused. Is it referring to a previous mentioned thing like "après que"?

  • Because ce que is followed by a verb and is treated like a subject. "What doesn't contain" "Ce qui ne contien pas" Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 17:12
  • You can't use what in English here. Good English is "which doesn't contain" not "what".
    – None
    Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 17:14
  • And no, that doesn't answer my question unfortunately. I am aware of the use of ce que, which is like "what" as in "Je ne sais pas ce qu'elle a cuisiné". But here it's not using "ce que" to mean "what" because that wouldn't make much sense. Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 17:15
  • Ah there sorry, I didn't receive your message immediately. I know, but it says CE QUE not qui. Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 17:16
  • 3
    You are right, what you need to know is that ce que is object of the verb and ce qui is subject of the verb. So ce que ne contient pas l'indicatif". → "which the indicative doesn't contain. The meaning of this French sentence is "There's some uncertainty in the subjunctive, which is not present in the indicative." laits.utexas.edu/tex/gr/pror2.html
    – None
    Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 17:27

2 Answers 2


que is relative pronoum used as a Complément d'objet direct (COD) in the sentence L'indicatif ne contient pas de part d'incertitude. You could rewrite your example as :

Le subjonctif contient une part d'incertitude que ne contient pas l'indicatif.

But, in your example, there is a coma after "incertitude" in order to stress the second part of the sentence ("mise en relief" in French). Because the relative pronoum must be placed directly after the object that it replace, another pronoun (ce) is used before the relative pronoum. In other word, "que" is then the COD of the sentence L'indicatif ne contient pas cela, where "cela" refers to "a part of uncertainty" in the first block.


In fact, the correct way of translating it is like this: "The subjunctive contains an element of uncertainty, something that the indicative doesn't contain." I understand your difficulty with this one because "the indicative" is, actually, the subject of the clause, not its direct object. French does this syntactic inversion sometimes. So the "que" (instead of "qui") indicates that what came before is the actual object. Hope it helps!

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