Peut-être n’est pas, peut-être, si évident…

Updated: Sep 3

‘Perhaps’, in French, is maybe not as straightforward as it first seems (but at least French only has one word: ‘peut-être’ for our ‘perhaps’ and ‘maybe’!)

There are three ways that ‘peut-être’ can be used if you want to be wholly accurate in French. The first way is to position the word in the middle of a sentence surrounded by commas. E.g. nous allons, peut-être, arriver en retard.

However, we often want to start a sentence with ‘peut-être’ and therefore there are two rules to choose from.

Firstly, you can follow ‘peut-être’ with ‘que’ and then the rest of the sentence. E.g. Peut-être que nous allons arriver en retard. Or you can invert the subject and verb directly after ‘peut-être’. E.g. Peut-être allons-nous arriver en retard. Just bear in mind that if the subject of the sentence is a name, you need to add the relevant pronoun too when you invert. E.g. Peut-être Paul et moi, allons-nous arriver en retard. And if you need the pronouns ‘il’, ‘elle’, ‘ils’, ‘elles’ or ‘on’, you need to add an extra ‘t’ to aid pronunciation. E.g. Peut-être Jean va-t-il arriver en retard.

So, if you just want to take just one thing from this blog entry, make it this: if you start a sentence with ‘peut-être’ in French, bolt the ‘que’ onto it and then continue with your sentence. French speakers will love your mastery of the language, peut-être!

If you have enjoyed this entry, peut-être que vous voulez me laisser un petit commentaire. Ou peut-être avez-vous une question. Dans ce cas, n’hésitez pas d’appuyer sur le panic button !

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