I'm new to this site, so if this question is inappropriate, please let me know in the comments and I can take it down.

I am used to seeing the word "si" used as the English word "if". For example: "Si tu n'existais pas, dis-moi pourquoi j'existerais?".

Today someone wrote to me "pas si mal" which I understand means "not so bad". I do see in various dictionaries that "si" can mean "so", but it seems 99% of the time I saw the word "si", it was used for the word "if". Furthermore, I would think there's several alternative ways to say the word "so" that are "better" than using the word "si".

Therefore, I wonder what other examples there are, where it would be appropriate to use the word "si" like it's used to say "so" in "pas si mal"?

This question: What's the function of the word "si" in this sentence?, talks about the use of "si" in general, and the answers mainly talk about the use of the word "si" that I'm used to (which is to say "if"), so my question is a bit more specific.


1 Answer 1


There are four words written si in French:

  • si conjunction, introduces an hypothesis like the English "if".

  • si adverb, a comparative, like the English "so".

  • si adverb, contradict a negative statement, no straight equivalent in English, "yes" is commonly used to translate it but is missing something.

  • si noun, a musical note, "B" in English.

There are three adverbs with a meaning close to the second si of this list. They are no "better" or "worse" than si, sometimes they are more or less interchangeable, sometimes they aren't.

Many examples of sentences using that si can be found in the TLFi entry, e.g.:

il y a si longtemps que ça ne nous est pas arrivé ! (so much time)

Ses yeux, si clairs d'habitude, étaient devenus foncés de colère (usually so bright)

tant que mon poignet reste si douloureux et si raide (so painful and stiff)

où cours-tu si vite ? (so fast)

Tant et si bien que is an idiom using si:

...tant et si bien que le pêne en biseau finit par fonctionner de lui-même (so much so that)

Si sometimes translates to "as" and is then close to aussi:

Ils ne sont pas si coupables qu'ils le pensent (They aren't as guilty as they think)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.