Ceci dit, il ne faut surtout pas en savoir trop non plus, sous peine de finir comme les sénateurs.

= "That said, you must not stick your nose too deep in there, either. Or else, you’ll wind up like the senators."

I assume that « X, sous peine de Y » means "failing X, you run the risk of Y". But I’m not completely sure how to use this expression.

Perhaps, « X, quitte à Y » is an expression that lies at the other end of the spectrum, with the meaning of "do X, even at the risk of Y".

Il faut en savoir plus sur cette affaire, quitte à finir comme les sénateurs.

= "We need to dig deeper into this matter, even if it means following the same fate as the senators."

Overall, with « sous peine de », the focus is on trying to avoid the risk mentioned, whereas « quitte à » is more about being willing to take the risk. Am I correct in my assumption?

1 Answer 1


"Sous peine" define clearly a risk (a "peine" is like a sentence, a judgement), but a risk that you don't want to take (EX: Restricted aera, do not entrance, "sous peine de" prison sentence).

"Quitte à" is different, it define a risk that you know but you want to take to have X (EX: I want really to finish this game "quitte à" be late at class).

Sorry but without examples I don't know how to explain that

  • This is correct. "Sous peine" is followed by something you wouldn't want to happen "we shouldn't know too much, or we could end up like the senators". "Quitte à" is followed by something that you don't necessarily want, but that you're willing to let happen, because the first thing is worth the risk. "We must know more, even though we could finish like the senators". Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 15:51
  • Writing that helped me clear it out : Both are risks (not wanted, and have a chance of happening), but the difference is if the first thing is worth the risk or not. Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 15:53
  • So...yeah, I should have read the whole question, you answered it yourself... Yes, your assumption is perfectly correct. Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 15:56
  • @TeleportingGoat Oh, thank you for confirming my thoughts. Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 17:42

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