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On pourrait passer le restant de notre vie à vous remercier que ça ne suffirait toujours pas à exprimer toute notre gratitude...

I can infer from context that this "que" denotes "mais", but this is the first time I have come across this particular usage. Is it commonly used in speech?

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Il me semble que la façon la plus courante de dire la même chose serait :

Même si on passait le restant de notre vie à vous remercier, ça ne suffirait pas à ....

Ou, de façon plus littéraire que « même si » :

Quand bien même on passerait le restant de notre vie à vous remercier, ça ne suffirait pas à ....

  • french.stackexchange.com/questions/21789/… This is a question I posted a year ago about "quand bien même", but I wonder why "quand bien même" takes the present conditional, while "même si" takes Imparfait? As I'm used to using Imparfait in a "si" clause, I might just as well use Imparfait with "quand bien même" too, given its similar meaning to "même si". – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Aug 23 '17 at 12:30
  • @Alone-zee Quand bien même does not require the conditional, it can be used in indicative sentences too. In this case, it's conditional from the beginning because it expresses an hypothetical presupposition, which in French is normally expressed with a conditional. Si, on the other hand, should always be used with indicative tenses, but in practice, oral usage tends to strongly shift it to the conditional no matter how much people complain about that usage (because, really, it's an anomalous use and the shift just feels natural). – Circeus Aug 23 '17 at 14:59
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    @Circeus Hi. My point was somewhat different: When I usually use the present conditional, it is in a main clause, not in a "si" subordinate clause. So why is it that with "quand bien même", the present conditional is used in a "quand" subordinate clause? – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Aug 23 '17 at 15:27
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    @Alone-zee it's one of the cases I'd say it's the rule, conditional is used in subordinate and main clause when quand bien même is used to express an action that could / should happen. You will sometimes (rarely) find quand bien même followed by a tense in the indicative, but it has a different meaning then, it no longer means "even if", but "even when" or "although". (ex: Près de 80 % des appareils grand public ne fonctionnent pas quand bien même ils sont aux normes.) – Laure SO - Écoute-nous Aug 23 '17 at 17:59
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This que is technically superfluous. You could just as well write

On pourrait passer le restant de notre vie à vous remercier, ça ne suffirait toujours pas à exprimer toute notre gratitude.

Grevisse (Bon Usage, 14e ed., §1121) calls this construction pseudo-propositions ("pseudodependent clauses"):

Lorsque des sous-phrases sont coordonnées d'une manière implicite [that is, directly by punctuation], il y a entre elles une liaison logique. La langue semble ne pas se satisfaire de l'absence d'un lien logique et tend à le marque au moyen de la conjonction que [...].

He notes that two especially common forms of these have the main clause being a temporal proposition or a condition proposition. The latter of these is precisely what's going on in your example.

The same phenomenon occurs after various adverbs, all the more so in informal language (hence sentences beginning with heureusement que, peut-être que, bien sûr que, même que etc.).

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