2

Ce qu'ils ont découvert est troublant, pour ne pas dire effrayant.

Ce qu'ils ont découvert est troublant, si ce n’est effrayant.

Ce qu'ils ont découvert est troublant, sinon effrayant.

The phrase "pour ne pas dire" immediately comes to mind when I want to say "X, if not Y". But how do the other two similar phrases "si ce n’est" and "sinon" compare? Are all three interchangeable?

  • The first two are grammatical, the third is not. The first two mean the same thing. But sinon is not if not. Sinon is a coordinating conjunction. Ils doivent aller à l'école, sinon ils auront des problèmes. It can also go at the end and it means otherwise. not, if not. – Lambie Sep 24 '16 at 16:23
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    @Lambie I don't agree with you, nor does Larousse, see third definition: larousse.fr/dictionnaires/francais/sinon/72888. As far as I know, all 3 sentences are totally similar and interchangeable. – Laurent S. Sep 24 '16 at 20:23
  • espacefrancais.com and then add to it slash /les-conjonctions-de-coordination-et-de-subordination/ Sinon is a coordinating conjunction. The others are not. Sinon functions like the in the list in the link. pour ne pas is not a coordinating conjunction neither is si ne c'est. – Lambie Sep 24 '16 at 22:10
  • @Lambie Sinon is a coordinating conjunction indeed, but not only. In this case, it seems not to be... – Random Sep 25 '16 at 15:16
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The three are interchangeable ! The first one means

I'm saying that this is disturbing, but I could have said that this is frightening

the second means

if this is not frightening, this is disturbing

and the last one means

if this is not disturbing, this is frightening.

As a french person I use the second one more ! But an other common way to say this sentence is:

Ce qu'ils ont découvert est troublant, voire effrayant.

Which means "I'm saying that this is disturbing, I could have said that this is frightening but it's maybe too much", it's not exactly the same meaning but we often use it to say "X, if not Y"

  • Je me suis permis d'éditer la réponse pour des corrections mineures, n'hésitez pas à rééditer si vous n'êtes pas d'accord avec ces modifications, ce ne sont que des suggestions :) – Random Sep 25 '16 at 15:21
  • +1 for noting their interchangeability & for “voire" but re the translations, I see them all as falling under CNRTL’s 1st entry for “sinon” [I.A.1.a)=”Exprime l'exception hypothétique ... avec idée de gradation”=“la quasi-certitude de B rend A incontestable” (& NOT “b)=de concession")] which tempts me to give all 3 the sense of “.. is troubling [to say the least] & perhaps even frightening.” Your first 2 capture that, but I’m not sure the last one does as it seems to be conceding the absence of “troubling” instead of establishing it as incontestable. – Papa Poule Sep 25 '16 at 16:05

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