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This question is on nous toward the bottom of this passage from chapter 7 of La porte étroite by André Gide.

Je m’étonnai, aux premières heures de ton séjour à Fongueusemare, je m’inquiétai vite ensuite de cet étrange contentement de tout mon être que j’éprouvais près de toi ; « un contentement tel, me disais-tu, que je ne souhaite rien au-delà ! » Hélas ! c’est cela même qui m’inquiète…
      Je crains, mon ami, de me faire mal comprendre. Je crains surtout que tu ne voies un raisonnement subtil (oh ! combien il serait maladroit) dans ce qui n’est que l’expression du plus violent sentiment de mon âme.
      « S’il ne suffisait pas, ce ne serait pas le bonheur » – m’avais-tu dit, t’en souviens-tu ? Et je n’avais su que répondre. – Non, Jérôme, il ne nous suffit pas. Jérôme, il ne doit pas nous suffire. Ce contentement plein de délices, je ne puis le tenir pour véritable. N’avons-nous pas compris cet automne quelle détresse il recouvrait ?…
      Véritable ! ah ! Dieu nous garde qu’il le soit ! nous sommes nés pour un autre bonheur…

QUESTION

  1. Is nous an indirect object?

  2. Put differently, if a third person (third persons) were in question, the sentence would have run as follows?

    Dieu lui (leur) garde qu’il le soit !

  3. The que-clause is undesired, i.e. something nous are to be guarded from?

  4. Can I use the sentence as a model for any undesired outcome? E.g. if I don't want my sister to forget something, can I say:

    Dieu lui garde qu’elle le oublie !

4
  1. This nous is not an indirect object
  2. Put differently, with a 3SG or a 3PL, the sentence becomes:

    Dieu le/les garde qu’il le soit !

  3. Yes, the que-clause is being wished against. We would like to be spared its happening.

  4. In French, there is a classical alternation between que-clause and an infinitive clause in this context

    Dieu la garde de l'oublier !

    This alternation appears in many contexts:

    Je veux qu'il vienne <=> Je veux venir
    J'ai demandé à Paul que sa femme vienne à 10h <=> J'ai demandé à Paul de venir à 10h

In the original construction, nous is a direct object. This might appear to conflict with the presence of a que-clause which seems to occupy this function. But in fact, it looks like an ellipsis of de:

Dieu nous garde (de ce) qu'il le soit.

Strangely, de-headed que-clause (as well as à-headed ones) always feature a ce between the preposition and the que.

  • Indeed, I thought que was the direct object, which forced nous into the "ablative case" so to speak. The de ce bit makes perfect sense to me. Thank you. – Catomic Jan 29 '17 at 13:12
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1) I'd say direct object, but as a native, my competences in grammar are not so formal. Direct because if you ask "who?", then the answer is nous.

2)Dieu les garde qu'il le soit

3)Yes, it's a believer way to say : please, have god spare us .....

4)Incredibly oldschool, france is a country of non believers (or at least soft believers, for most of them), so i'd advise finding another more rational form, such as "Faites qu'elle n'oublie pas" (still religious based, but more widely used).

  • @Catomic - I would second that - I would be really surprised if somebody said "Dieu la garde qu’elle oublie !" in everyday life. That person might sound older or fundamentalist, or both. – Frank Jan 29 '17 at 20:11

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