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I've seen the qu'il ne l'est/qu'elle ne l'est being translated as than it is For example in the sentence Ce problème apparaît plus difficile qu'il ne l'est en réalité. I don't understand the ne l' part of this phrase

  • why there is ne?
  • what is l' referring to?

Thanks

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Here, the ne is a ne explétif (here is an explanation in English for those who would be more comfortable with it). It can be used in several cases, one of which being the following:

La phrase principale est une comparaison d’inégalité (construite avec : plus que [...]). « Leurs cas de conscience, complaisamment exposés, me troublaient moins qu‘ils ne m’édifiaient… ».

EN: The main sentence is an inequality comparison (built with "plus que"). « Leurs cas de conscience, complaisamment exposés, me troublaient moins qu‘ils ne m’édifiaient… ».

The l' refers to the word difficile.

This sentence means that the problem appears more difficult than it really is.

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