Nous ne pouvons pas être absolument sûrs que c'est X qui a tué Y, mais nous pouvons en être assez sûrs pour que ce soit sûr !

There's obviously some amusing wordplay at work here that revolves round the use of three "sûr(s)".

I'm sure that the part in bold means "(even if we can't be 100 per cent sure), the odds are as close to 100 percent as can be", but I'm not sure of its exact meaning (more word-for-word interpretation).

  • Word for word: "We cannot be absolutely certain that it was X who killed Y, but we can be sufficiently sure of it for it to be a sure thing." I won't submit a new answer just now, because I think that the two below taken together synthesize the epistemological irony (which is independent of any particular language): Namely, that we say "I'm sure it's the case" and mean that we have a reasonable basis for believing it, or that it's a safe bet, not that we are literally certain nor that it is a literally certain thing. So the question is... how sure is sure enough if you're not certain? :)
    – Luke Sawczak
    Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 15:14

2 Answers 2


The key word to get the meaning of this is "assez" which translates to "enough".

So this sentence is literally:

"We cannot be absolutely sure that X has killed Y, but we can be sure enough about it so that it's sure."

Strange sentence, indeed.

  • This is not usual but I see nothing strange. It just refers to the fact that often we cannot be 100% sure, so a threshold should be arbitrarily determined.
    – user285259
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 1:13

There is also a double meaning behind "sûr" as it can apply to my degree of knowledge ("J'en suis sûr" -> I'm sure of it) or to the probability of something I'm talking about ("C'est sûr" -> It's certain). The use of the verb "soit" creates a link between the two aspect of the word: our internal knowledge and the intrinsic property of the object.

The meaning of the sentence is obviously ambiguous so it can be understood as:

1) We can be sure enough that X killed Y to affirm it with a low probability to be actually wrong.

2) Their is a degree of knowledge concerning the fact that X killed Y above which X has literally been killed by Y!

A strange way to deal with the presumption of innocence indeed...

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