1

A: Tu n'as pas confiance en nous?

B: Non... C'est même l'inverse que je redoute. Aussi préféré-je garder certaines choses secrètes.

I’m having trouble working out what exactly these two phrases mean in this context.

3

"Même" is used for emphasis in that context, similar to the emphatic use of "even". It can also mean "same" in other contexts ("c'est la même chose") but here it's clearly just emphasis, so you can basically ignore it when figuring out the meaning. And "l'inverse" is "the opposite", so:

B: No... it's quite the opposite i'm afraid of.

"Opposite" of what? Presumably B is afraid of A being too trustworthy? Context should clarify things.

"Aussi" means "also" or "hence" (clearly the latter here). As for "préféré-je": in some cases, the subject and verb are inverted in affirmative sentences. A sentence beginning with "aussi" is one of those cases, along with "peut-être" and sometimes a place ("sur le mur était perché un oiseau"). It's a rather formal / scholarly phrasing used mainly for style and emphasis. Thus, "je préfère" becomes "préfère-je", which becomes "préféré-je" for euphonic reasons. The second part translates to:

Hence, I prefer to keep some things secret.

  • Regarding "Opposite of what?" in your answer, I suppose B fears that A doesn't trust B rather than B not trusting A. Which perhaps leads to the use of "l'inverse"? Merci. – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Jul 9 '16 at 13:45
  • Oh, I hadn't thought of that. You're very probably right here, "l'inverse" could indeed mean "the other way around" instead of "the opposite". – DaWaaaaghBabal Jul 9 '16 at 13:47
  • The use of the Passé composé "préféré" without being accompanied by the auxiliary "avoir" threw me off. I was wondering if it might be a typo on the part of the author. – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Jul 9 '16 at 13:53
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    Exactly. Replacing the final e with é, is found in most cases of subject-verb inversion in the first person singular to avoid the awkwardness of chaining two consonants. Je mange -> mangé-je, je dusse -> dussé-je, etc. For other persons, there is no pronunciation issue, so there is no euphonic alteration: tu manges becomes manges-tu. – DaWaaaaghBabal Jul 9 '16 at 14:38
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    @LUNA It's the same as the alternation between "je pèle" and "je pelais". In the indicative, the accent is on the stem and its vowel is thus /ɛ/. In the imperfect, the accent is on the ending and the vowel of the stem reduces to /ə/. In classical French, "Je préfère" would have been pronounced /ʒə.pre.'fɛ.rə/ but placing the clitic pronoun after the verb would have switched the stress from /fe/ to /rə/, which blocked its reduction to /ə/. Instead you got /pre.fe.'re.ʒə/, quite logically spelled préféré-je. After the loss of final /ə/, Modern French has /ʒə.pʀe.'fɛːʀ/ and /pʀe.fe.'ʀɛːʒ/ instead – Eau qui dort Jul 9 '16 at 14:50
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I think a translation is the simpler way to explain it. "préféré-je" is a formal interogative present form.

A : Don't you trust us ?

B : No... It's quite the contrary that I fear. Thus I prefer to keep certain things secret.

  • Does "même" here mean "exact/very/quite" to emphasise the word "l'inverse" rather than "even"? Also, regarding the use of "aussi" at the top of a sentence to mean "thus/therefore/so", do native French speakers commonly use it in everyday speech? Merci. – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Jul 9 '16 at 13:41
  • Yes "même" is here for emphasis in this context. "Aussi" as "thus" is quite formal and more often found in old books. That would sound odd in everyday conversation (unless your goal is to be too formal for fun). – Jylo Jul 9 '16 at 13:45
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même = even

l'inverse = the opposite (thing)

B fears that the opposite of what is planned happens.

aussi = too, also

préféré-je = inversion of je préfères (I prefer).

I think it's a figure of speech since it's not used in an interrogative manner (the normal one).

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