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I'm not sure if the new policy will improve or worsen the situation.

How should the "I'm not sure if" part be translated? A direct translation would be:

Je ne suis pas sûr si la nouvelle politique améliorera ou empirera la situation.

However, it was pointed out that "Je ne suis pas sûr si ..." is not idiomatic. Using "Je ne suis pas sûr que ..." doesn't seem to work here either. Other expressions like "Je crains ..." and "J'ai bien peur ..." also don't fit here.

  • It’s probably just my French wife (and not at all a “French thing”), but she invariably answers/comments on the first option presented in a question/statement containing alternative elements, ignoring the subsequent options, so to avoid getting a frustrating, albeit cute, “yes” when I ask her “do you want coffee or tea?” I’ve learned to carefully break my either/or questions and statements to her in two. – Papa Poule Oct 19 '16 at 18:46
  • This won’t change any current/future answers to your question & I’m not sure if it will change any opinions [or not] as to whether it's logical [or not] in French to express present uncertainty about 2 or more uncertain future outcome options (& that's not my intention), but it is certainly easy, idiomatic, & logical to do so in English, whether one of the options is simply “or not” as I've used it above or if not, either as you have correctly done so with "I'm not sure if …” or with the slightly less ambiguous "I'm not sure whether the new policy will improve or worsen the situation.” – Papa Poule Oct 19 '16 at 22:05
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The issue is about logic. It is difficult to be unsure about something that is already an undecided statement. The opposite of je ne suis pas sûr is je suis sûr and je suis sûr que la nouvelle politique améliorera ou empirera (i.e. changera) la situation is what you actually think.

What you might have said if you meant the new policy might have no impact:

Je ne suis pas sûr que la nouvelle politique change la situation (dans un sens comme dans l'autre).

but as you really mean the new policy will have an impact but your are unsure about which one, here are possible translations:

Je ne sais pas si la nouvelle politique va améliorer ou empirer la situation.

Je ne sais pas si l'effet de la nouvelle politique sur la situation sera positif ou non.

  • "It is difficult to be unsure about something that is already an undecided statement." I don't understand what you mean by this. (Also, I meant your second interpretation, not the first one.) – user11550 Oct 19 '16 at 19:36
  • If your interpretation is the right one, Papa Poule comment was spot on. You are on the opposite sure the impact will (either) improve or worsen the situation. What you dont know is if the impact will improve it or if it will worsen it. – jlliagre Oct 19 '16 at 21:24
  • See also languefrancaise.net/forum/viewtopic.php?id=6101 – jlliagre Oct 19 '16 at 21:26
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By changing the sentence structure, I would say:

Il reste à voir comment la situation va évoluer avec la mise en place de la nouvelle politique.

= "It remains to be seen how the situation will develop, with the new policy in effect."

  1. "I'm not sure" >>> "I cannot tell for certain ... (until it happens)" >>> "it remains to be seen"

  2. Substituting the verb « évoluer » cuts down on wordiness, since it has the meaning of « s'améliorer ou empirer ».

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You could use Je crains que ... ou J'ai bien peur que ... and negativate the following proposition:

Je crains que la nouvelle politique n'améliore ni n’aggrave (n'empire) la situation.

ou

J'ai bien peur que la nouvelle politique n'améliore ni n’aggrave (n'empire) la situation.

  • This is not what I mean, though. I mean that I'm unsure whether the situation will improve or worsen (i.e., it could go either way), but not that I'm afraid the policy will have no effect. – user11550 Oct 19 '16 at 19:34

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