Si vous deviez mourir et renaître aujourd’hui, choisiriez-vous d’être à nouveau une femme ?

I understand that the verb "devoir" has the meaning of "should" in the sense of duty and obligation. On the other hand, can you also use "devoir" to mean "should", only this time indicating a low probability instead, as in the sentence above?

How does using "deviez" differ in meaning from the following?

Si vous mouriez et renaissiez aujourd’hui, choisiriez-vous d’être à nouveau une femme ?

1 Answer 1


This is just a way to emphasize the starting postulate, a way to say that the hypothetical situation is a given, maybe to avoid someone questioning that before even considering the asked choice. However, in its general meaning it is indeed a simple assertion, extremely close in sense to the variant you quoted at the end of your question, which could definitely be used and would probably sound just as good.

But I guess it's the same for some uses of to have to or must. What whould you think of the 'duty' meaning in the following example ?

If you had to be either a klingon or a borg, what would you choose ?

  • I was under the impression that my first sentence with "Si vous deviez mourir" means "If you should die" or "Should you die". The use of "should" in an if-clause indicates a much lower possibility of that particular thing actually happening than when saying "If you died today" which I assume is equal to "Si vous mouriez". I wonder if the same distinction applies in French. Merci. Commented Aug 2, 2016 at 19:34
  • I ....agree. Your initial question had made me assume that you already knew or foresaw part of the explanation, but now I wonder what you in fact don't understand here. Yes, it's similar in french and english, so..... what's the very point of your question, I must have missed it ? Commented Aug 2, 2016 at 20:59
  • Oh, I wasn't sure if the Imparfait form "devais/devions/deviez" of the verb "devoir" can indeed be used to compose a "Should you..." clause. So regarding my interpretation of the distinction between the two sentences, am I on the right track here? Merci. Commented Aug 2, 2016 at 21:28
  • Not sure that 'si vous deviez mourir' indicates a much lower possibility than 'si vous mourriez' (double R please). Maybe it's even the contrary, I would use 'devoir' if I suspected that the person will not answer or will answer something like 'I ain't dying so move on'. Like 'But if you HAD to, answer!'. But I think it's very subtle and both sound the same to me. 'Vous devriez' is 'You should', but 'Vous deviez' is 'You had to'.
    – Destal
    Commented Aug 3, 2016 at 22:35
  • I agree with Simon Dechamps, I don't see a difference in the two example, both grammatically correct by the way. The first exemple (si vous deviez) sounds a lot better to my ears though.
    – geriwald
    Commented Aug 4, 2016 at 0:04

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