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I'm not sure what soit means in the following sentence:

Environ 10 milliards de roupies népalaises, soit l’équivalent de $135 millions doivent encore être échangées.

As far as I can understand, this is what it's saying:

About 10 billion Nepalese rupees, which are equivalent to 135 million American dollars, still have to be exchanged.

The thing that I'm not sure about is the word soit. I don't really understand why it is there. How would you describe its usage, function and meaning as used in this sentence?

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Soit here isn't a verb but a conjunction, and you could translate it with "or" in this context, or a more verbose "that is to say".

It's related to its usage as a conjunction for closed lists of alternatives: "Soit c'est toi qui le fait, soit nous, soit elle", which also overlaps with English's "or".

It's used to expand on the meaning of the preceding clause, to give it an alternative explanation. The conversion of currencies and units is where you'll see it most, or a summation of a list:

  • Ce voyage lui a coûté 789 000¥, soit 6 323,79€ (this trip cost them 789,000¥, or 6,323.79€)

  • L'armée rassemblait 2 500 mercenaires lorrains, 4 000 troupes régulières et une levée de quelques 3 400 locaux, soit la moitié des forces disponibles aux opposants du comte. (The army counted 2,500 mercenaries, 4,000 regulars and a levy or some 3 400 local inhabitants, that is to say around half of the forces available to the enemies of the count)

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"Soit" is a form of "être", aka "to be" like in "que la lumière soit" ("Let there be light"). In the form you describe in your first example sentence, it could be replaced by "which is" or any other synonym like "i.e.", "which is equivalent to", "aka" ...

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Environ 10 milliards de roupies népalaises, soit l’équivalent de $135 millions doivent encore être échangées.

In the phrase above soit is the third person singular subjunctive of être (to be).

For further details please refer to Understand soit

If you wanna understand the French Subjunctive

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    It is indeed derived from the 3rd person singular subjunctive of être, but has become a conjunction in its own right. It is invariable, as a conjunction. – Greg Jan 31 at 15:26

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