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Ce n’est pas que Pierre Gringoire craignît monsieur le cardinal ou le dédaignât.

Quelle est la règle selon laquelle les deux verbes dans ces phrases subordonnées, craindre et dédaigner, sont au subjonctif imparfait ?

Pour autant que je sache, ces deux verbes devraient être dans la proposition principale afin d'introduire une proposition dont le verbe est au subjonctif, et pas à l'inverse.

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I'd lean towards the subjunctive form of the two verbs, myself, since the expression "ce n’est pas que" can introduce a possibility:

It's not that someone {might have done / possibly did} something, but rather that ...

If the phrase "ce n’est pas que" were followed by "mais c'est que", I'd use the indicative form in the "c'est que" clause, as it deals with an (established) fact this time:

Ce n’est pas que Pierre Gringoire craignît {subjunctive} monsieur le cardinal ou le dédaignât {subjunctive} , mais (c'est) que ... {indicative} ...

  • Indeed. In fact, not only does it talk about what is merely possible instead of actual, but it goes further and suggests that it's neither possible nor real! Which is the context needed for subjunctive. As for the proposition principale that @user26368 wonders about, technically the est of Ce n'est pas que is the main verb. – Luke Sawczak Apr 8 '17 at 17:24

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