This question is on the sentence as highlighted in this passage from chapter 7 of La porte étroite by André Gide. (It is a different question than that asked in this other post. You don't need to see the other post to understand this one.)

The character narrating the whole passage ('je') is Jérôme. He wrote the letter to Alissa.

     Je lui répondis longuement. Je me souviens du seul passage à peu près clairvoyant de ma lettre.
      « Il me paraît souvent, lui disais-je, que mon amour est ce que je garde en moi de meilleur ; que toutes mes vertus s’y suspendent ; qu’il m’élève au-dessus de moi, et que sans toi je retomberais à cette médiocre hauteur d’un naturel très ordinaire. C’est par l’espoir de te rejoindre que le sentier le plus ardu m’apparaîtra toujours le meilleur. »
      Qu’ajoutai-je qui pût la pousser à me répondre ceci :

      Mais, mon ami, la sainteté n’est pas un choix : c’est une obligation (le mot était souligné trois fois dans sa lettre). Si tu es celui que j’ai cru, toi non plus tu ne pourras pas t’y soustraire.


  1. Suppose that at the time of the letter writing, Jérôme says to himself, 'What am I adding that might bother her?'

    Would that come out to the following if we wrote like Gide (i.e. keeping the same register)?

    Qu’ajouté-je qui puisse ennuyer Alissa?

    Added after Frank's answer: If ajouté-je sounds odd, you may want to consider the following instead.

    Que dis-je qui puisse ennuyer Alissa?

  2. If Jérôme then concludes there was nothing to bother her, would he say?

    Je n'ajoute rien qui puisse ennuyer Alissa.

  3. When we've got as far as 2, or for 1, using est-ce que to avoid the inversion, have Jérôme say:

    Qu'est-ce que j'ajoute qui puisse ennuyer Alissa?

    --then have we got rid of everything that sounds 'elevated' (in spite of write 'like' Gide)? Or is puisse somehow still elevated?

  4. If puisse is elevated, would this be acceptable (i.e. grammatically correct) and ordinary?

    Je n'ajoute rien qui peut ennuyer Alissa?

  5. Would this be acceptable and ordinary?

    Je n'ajoute rien qui pourra ennuyer Alissa?

  6. Would this be acceptable and ordinary?

    Je n'ajoute rien qui pourrait ennuyer Alissa?

  7. Would this be acceptable and ordinary?

    Je n'ajoute rien qui ennuiera Alissa.

  8. Would this be acceptable and ordinary?

    Je n'ajoute rien qui ennuierait Alissa.

  9. Would this be acceptable if not ordinary?

    Je n'ajoute rien qui ennuie Alissa.

    Ennuie is meant to be subjonctif présent, but unfortunately it looks just like indicatif présent.

    Added after Frank's answer: You may want to consider this instead.

    Je n'ajoute rien qui plaise à Alissa.

Please feel free to answer only some of the questions. Thank you.


This background is not part of the question. You don't need to read it to give an answer.

I realized that the Gide sentence had two issues going on simultaneously, elevation and being in the past. It was much beyond my ability to keep straight (see the other post linked at the top). I have 'moved' the sentence to the present so I can deal with elevation as isolated.

  • IMHO, qui plaise Alissa is incorrect. The verb is plaire à. Or is this another trap I'm falling in? It is not like the English please, that would be faire plaisir à.
    – Frank
    Commented Jan 31, 2017 at 5:26
  • @Frank. I didn't realize you had added à. I got the sentence without à from one of your comments. I will swtich it back.
    – Catomic
    Commented Jan 31, 2017 at 5:28
  • I see - then my comment below is wrong in that place - sorry about that :-(
    – Frank
    Commented Jan 31, 2017 at 5:29

1 Answer 1

  1. Is a straight grammar error: the participe passé is not possible here, a conjugated verb is required. Well - this is a grammatically correct indicative present tense for the verb "ajouter", first person singular :-/ It feels quite uncommon to me and the ending sound verb for this verb in particular made me think about a passé simple rather than a present tense. Also, the similarity to the participe passé made me think at first that this was a mistake and that a passé simple (which sounds the same) was intended here ...

  2. Feels correct to me, and appropriate for that situation. One of my favorites, feels natural.

  3. Is probably grammatically correct, but the allitération in "qu" should be avoided. Gide would most probably not write like that. It sounds too clunky, and this "qu'est-ce que" feels like a lower language register. So it feels half-way between "elevated" and "familiar", maybe more on the familiar side.

  4. I am not sure whether 4 is correct or not. I think it is incorrect, and that we would use puisse instead of peut, even in regular language. I could be wrong.

  5. Is probably ok, but the future tense clearly makes this about the future. That future might also be grammatically wrong. Not sure.

  6. Sounds acceptable and ordinary indeed.

  7. Probably acceptable and ordinary, except that now this talks about something in the future. It sounds a bit suspicious to me, just like 5. I would prefer "qui ennuierait". The future tense might be wrong, not sure.

  8. Yes, acceptable and ordinary, one of the first thing I would think about.

  9. Not sure. There is something off with that one, or uncommon. It may be correct though.

  • For 1, I thought from eussé-je that one had to add an accent. All I meant was the indicative present. E.g. see leconjugueur.lefigaro.fr/conjugaison/verbe/…
    – Catomic
    Commented Jan 31, 2017 at 3:25
  • Wait! So I am wrong about "ajouté-je"? That would be the correct form? Let me check...
    – Frank
    Commented Jan 31, 2017 at 4:09
  • @Catomic - oh! you are right! It's the present tense, and there is an accent, otherwise it would be "qu'ajoute-je" which is more than clumsy! :-)
    – Frank
    Commented Jan 31, 2017 at 4:10
  • Thanks for confirming that, and also for completing the answer. I deleted question 10 (because it didn't make sense to me). Sorry. You might want to remove item 10 from your answer too.
    – Catomic
    Commented Jan 31, 2017 at 4:12
  • OK - I think my mistake on "qu'ajouté-je" is instructive though. It might be uncommon enough to ask that in the present tense that others might get confused too, and by the sound of it, think it would be the passé simple which it sounds like for other verbs ...
    – Frank
    Commented Jan 31, 2017 at 4:13

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