All About the French Word Si

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The French word si can be an adverb or a conjunction. Either way, si has several meanings and is used in numerous French constructions. Practicing the use of this word is important for grasping its nuances.

Si = If

Si is the French word for "if":

  • Je ne sais pas si je veux y aller. (I don't know if I want to go.)
  • Dis-moi si ça te conviendra. (Tell me if that will work for you.)
  • Et si je ne suis pas fatigué? (And if I'm not tired?)
  • Si j'étais riche, j'achèterais une maison. (If I were rich, I would buy a house.)

Si = So

Si can be used as an intensifier:

  • Je suis si fatigué. (I'm so tired.)
  • J'ai si faim. (I'm so hungry.)
  • Je ne savais pas qu'il était si mignon. (I didn't know he was so cute.)

Si = As, So

Si can make a comparison:

  • Il n'est pas si intelligent qu'il pense. (He's not as smart as he thinks.)
  • Ce n'est pas si facile. (It's not as easy as that, It's not that easy.)

Si = While, Whereas

Si can put two clauses in opposition:

  • S'il est beau, sa femme est laide. (Whereas he is handsome, his wife is ugly.)
  • Si tu es gentil, ton frère est méchant. (You're kind, while your brother is mean.)

Si = However, No Matter How

Si can be followed by a subjunctive clause to express a concession:

  • Si beau qu'il fasse, je ne peux pas sortir (No matter how nice the weather is, I can't go out)
  • Si gentil que tu sois, je ne t'aime pas (However kind you are, I don't love you)

Si = Yes

Si means "yes" in response to a negative question or statement:

  • Tu ne vas pas venir? Si, je vais venir. (You're not going to come? Yes, I am going to come.)
  • N'as-tu pas d'argent? Si, j'en ai. (Don't you have any money? Yes, I do.)
  • Jeanne n'est pas prête. Si, si! (Jeanne isn't ready. Yes, yes!)

Si = Did I Hear Correctly, Is This What You're Asking?

If someone asks a question and you're not sure (or can't believe) you heard correctly, you can request confirmation or clarification by repeating what you did hear with the word si:
Si j'ai faim?
(Are you asking) if I'm hungry?
(You couldn't really hear the question)
Si je veux quoi?
You're asking if I want what?
(You're not sure you heard correctly; you heard "Do you want a free TV?")
Si j'ai combien d'enfants?
You're asking if I have how many kids?
(You didn't hear "how many," or you heard "Do you have 7 kids?")

Et Si = What if, How About

In informal French, et si is often tacked on the beginning of a suggestion (with the verb in the imperfect):

  • Et si on allait au ciné? (How about going to the movies?)
  • Et si tu amenais ton frère? (Why don't you bring your brother?)
  • Et si on parlait d'amour? (What if we talked about love?)