I'm confused with the following sentence:

Ses proches craignent qu'il ne soit torturé s'il est renvoyé en Ouzbékistan, d'autant plus qu'il est homosexuel, et qu'il peut à ce titre être condamné à une peine allant jusqu'à 3 ans de prison

Google says it means

They are concerned that he will be tortured if returned to Uzbekistan...

So what's ne soit means here? Is there a better translation? Thank you!

  • 1
    The ne explétif here can be translated as; might be tortured. – Lambie Aug 4 '17 at 18:54

Soit is the subjunctive of être. Craindre, that is used in the main clause, is one of the verbs expressing fear (or doubt), that require the use of the subjunctive.

To say his family were sure we would use the indicative (and a different verb) : ses proches savent qu'il sera torturé.

Ne in this sentence is optional. It is not part of the negation but it is often used after craindre in formal written French. It is called ne explétif. You can read the answers to this question on French Language aout the ne explétif.

Google translation could be better since "will" does not show the action is uncertain.*

* I would say: "They fear he might be tortured if returned to Uzbekistan"

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A better translation could be :

His relatives are scared that he can be tortured if he is sent back to Uzbekistan...

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  • 1
    Not can be tortured: he might be tortured. Can is wrong here. Sorry. – Lambie Aug 4 '17 at 18:53
  • I think that 'can be' and 'might be' are equivalent (but I'm not a native english speaker). – Fernando Aug 4 '17 at 19:00
  • @Fernando There are nuances in the modality of can that prevent its being used here. In particular, can appears to express that something is physically possible. Of course torture is physically possible, but whether it might or might not happen is a different question. – Luke Sawczak Aug 5 '17 at 14:16
  • Thanks, I see now the difference between can/may could/might. – Fernando Aug 11 '17 at 15:19

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