How do we express restriction and concession in French? ( seulement, cependant, pourtant , bien que, même si )

bien que meme si seulement pourtant french concessive and restrictive words

How do French conjunctions, seulement, cependant, pourtant, bien que, même si, differ from each other ?

Today we will speak about these French conjunctions which help us introduce concession or restriction.

French restriction and concession

When we speak about restriction and concession in French, the question which intrudes first is in which type of sentences we could have these two relations.

For expressing restriction or concession logically we need to have two types of sentences to observe their relation.

C`est une belle jupe, elle coûte seulement cher.

That`s a beautiful skirt, except that she`s expensive.

  • Independent clause                               
  • Dependent clause

By observing this example we could cognize two types of sentences:

C`est une belle jupe.

That`s a beautiful skirt.

Elle coûte cher.

She is expensive.

We can also see that the connective which connects those two independent sentences is an adverb seulement. Adverb seulement introduces the second sentence by creating restriction or opposition among them.

Today we will speak about different conjunctions which serve as markers for the introduction of concession or restriction. Those conjunctions are unchangeable words. So, let’s start!

French Concessive, what?

But what does it mean when we say that two sentences are in concessive relation? It means that there doesn’t exist a logical relation between the principal and subordinate sentences and that the result that we got is different from the result that we expected. Concession, by its nature, involves an argumentative interaction.

J’ai fermé la porte bien qu’il n’y eût pas d’air.

I closed the door although it was airless.

The principal sentence J’ai fermé la porte/I closed the door shows us that action of the principal sentence will happen despite the meaning of the dependent clause.

The connectives show us concessions about who we will speak about today: bien que et même si. Let’s see through examples what`s the difference among them.

Bien que conjunction used to express the non-logic cause of action of the principal sentence and he shows a non-expected result in the principal sentence. We use him if concession relates to a whole process of a dependent clause. This conjunction also expresses real concession. It`s formed from an adverb followed by que. His meaning in this type of relation would be: although, though.

Il n’a pas réussi bien qu’il ait travaillé.

He didn’t pass although he worked. 

Bien qu’il soit heureux, il n’en laisse rien paraître.

Although he was happy, he didn’t let anything appear.

Même si– is a conjunction always used with indicative. This conjunction is used to express unreal concession. Also, he shows us that if said situation is correct or not, other elements which are referring to it stay unchanged. We could translate it even though.

Même s`ils ne s’étaient pas connus jusque-là, ils deviendront très proches.

Even though they didn’t know each other until now, they will become very close.

J`aime mon petit ami, même s’ il est jaloux.

I love my boyfriend even though he’s jealous.

Here you can practice the usage of meme si and bien que.


Restrictive clauses in French language show us a reserve, and exclusion in comparison with the result of the principal clause. 

Let’s see now how we can express restriction, by showing in examples some of the most common connectives: seulement, cependant, pourtant

Seulement– placed at the beginning of the dependent clause this adverb shows us opposition or restriction. He is used in the signification of except, except that, but, and just.

Vous avez le temps de manger, seulement avancez-vous.

You have time to eat, just hurry up.

Je voudrais bien aller dans cette pièce de théâtre, seulement je n’ai pas le temps.

I wanted to go on that play, but I don’t have time.

Cependant- is an adverb used to coordinate two clauses. He shows opposition to what was said. We use this conjunction to express opposition/restriction between two coordinate phrases. It`s used with its original meaning, however.

Personne n’était là, cependant elle était effrayée.

Nobody wasn’t there, however, she was scared.

Il a appris toute la nuit, et cependant n’a pas passé.

He learned all night, and however, he didn’t pass.

Another adverb used to show restriction between two coordinate phrases is pourtant. We`re using pourtant between two independent sentences with his principal meaning, however, although.

J`ai mangé, pourtant j`ai toujours faim.

I already ate, however, I`m still hungry.

Il n’a pas bien chanté, pourtant il a beaucoup pratiqué.

He didn’t sing well, although he practiced a lot.

If you want to learn more restrictive words, read our article Toutefois, Néanmoins : Restrictive Linking Words in French


In the end, just to conclude we hope that after reading this article you could understand better terms of concession and restriction in French language. 

Make sure that you memorize those five most used connectors and their appliances in the current situation and don`t forget to do a couple of exercises so you make sure that everything works fine.

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