The subjunctive is normally used in "Je ne suis pas sûr que ...", as in "Je ne suis pas sûr qu'il vienne ce soir."

What about "Je ne suis pas sûr pourquoi ..."?

Je ne suis pas sûr pourquoi tellement de gens (veulent/veuillent) aller à ce concert. C'est un mauvais chanteur !

Should we use indicative or subjunctive here?


être sûr pourquoi

is not correct and doesn't appear in French, except maybe in slang.

The correct expression is:

être sûr que

In the case above, IMHO a correct sentence would be:

Je ne sais pas pourquoi tellement de gens veulent/veuillent aller à ce concert. C'est un mauvais chanteur !

Which requires the indicative, rather than the subjunctive.

  • 1
    I often hear "Je ne suis pas sûr de pourquoi/comment/qui...". I wonder if it's correct. To me it is. – Destal Jan 26 '17 at 8:44
  • @SimonDéchamps It depends on what is your measure of correctness? The original structure is common too even though it might be judged as incorrect by people measuring according to formal writing standards... – GAM PUB Jan 26 '17 at 10:35
  • @SimonDéchamps - I'm sure lots of people are using it :-) It doesn't sound right to me, but the language is changing all the time, no doubt. – Frank Jan 26 '17 at 15:21
  • Great answer. Somehow something sounded wrong in the original sentence. It sounded... anglaphone. ;) Though I must admit, I have heard it before in common language. – anonymous2 Jan 26 '17 at 15:31

To answer the question, only the indicative present is felicitous in your context (indirect question):

Je ne suis pas sûr pourquoi tellement de gens veulent aller à ce concert. C'est un mauvais chanteur !

Which is different from the usual simple subordinate structure:

Je ne suis pas sûr que les gens veuillent aller à ce concert. C'est un mauvais chanteur !

  • The reason I said something about this "sûr pourquoi" though is that after a little bit of research, I doesn't seem to be in dictionaries (yet). – Frank Jan 26 '17 at 15:22
  • Dictionaries? I suppose you mean standard French... – GAM PUB Jan 26 '17 at 15:33
  • I went out to CNRTL and the like to check if the form appeared anywhere. I also tried Google ngrams, and didn't see examples of it - but of course, it was only a quick check. – Frank Jan 26 '17 at 15:40

Okay so *je ne suis pas sûr pourquoi...** isn't grammatically correct, but I'm going to go on a limb here and assume your intention was to translate the English I'm not sure why...

Expressions that would translate this in French would be,

Je ne suis pas sûr de comprendre pourquoi / je ne comprends pas pourquoi (when expressing confusion, as in this case)

Je ne suis pas sûr de savoir pourquoi / je ne sais pas pourquoi (when expressing simple lack of knowledge without connoting confusion)

Now for the real question : subjunctive or indicative? In this case, the subjunctive doesn't work, because you're asserting that people are going to the concert, even though you don't know why they're going. The fact that the large number of people attending is a reality requires indicative.

You can also use the conditional to express that the situation is a hypothetical that is being doubted, eg:

Je ne suis pas sûr de savoir pourquoi il y aurait beaucoup de monde, vu comme il chante (I don't see why there would be many people there, given how he sings)

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