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n'est pas si facile qu'il n'y paraît

Does this means "It is not as easy as it seems" ? but they use the negative twice.

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Yes , that is a good translation.

I would be hard pressed to explain the construction but it is a nice turn of phrase .

I suggest learning it "by heart" and so being prepared for similar instances when they show up.

I wouldn't actually use it  myself without being confident as to how it was "put together" but I don't think it would be that uncommon.

Actually I am also unsure as to whether "paraît" is in the simple indicative tense or maybe it is subjunctive.

The present subjunctive is "paraisse", surely.

The so-called "pleonastic" 'ne' often occurs after a comparative: "il est moins riche qu'il ne l'était".  "Pas si ..." is a sort of comparative.  Even though the 'ne' doesn't negate the verb "paraît", there is a negative implication: "not as easy as it seems (so it isn't what it seems to be)". 

You could, indeed, learn this particular phrase by heart, but it might be more useful to be aware of a few generalities about this quite common usage.

Thank you for your help. For me it is difficult to understand because my mother language is Spanish and we don't say it like that. We say, 'no es tan fácil como parece", "no es tan rico como aparenta".

May be by collecting more examples I will understand what Jean Derevin says.

The same applies to an English speaker  .We have to adapt to the new  ways of expression too.

yes, true :)

Here are a few more examples (some made up and some taken from a grammar book).

Il en sait plus qu'il n'avoue.

Il a agi avec plus d'imprudence que je ne croyais.

Il agit autrement qu'il ne parle.

Nous gâchons plus d'énergie que nous n'en importons.

C'est tellement plus compliqué que je ne l'imaginais.

Elle est beaucoup plus belle qu'on ne le dit.

There are, of course, lots of other uses of the pleonastic 'ne'.

Thank you Jean Dervin.

I begin to understand this ...

Elles écoutent plus qu'elles ne parlent

:)

i've seen the sentence "j'ai peur qu'il ne vienne" which i believe means "i'm afraid he will come."  i've, therefore, assumed that you merely add "pas" at the end to mean "i'm afraid he won't come."  is that correct?  

I found this in wikipedia. I certainly have to study well all this. Thank you Alan.

Le « ne » explétif et comparatif ; « ne » explétif après sans que

Le ne explétif ne traduit pas réellement une négation, mais plutôt une éventualité. Il s'utilise après des verbes exprimant crainte, empêchement, doute ; dans des subordonnées introduites par avant que, à moins que, de peur que, peu s'en faut que ; ou encore après autre / autrement que, ou un comparatif :

  • Je crains qu'il ne vienne (= « j'ai peur qu'il vienne », et non pas : « qu'il ne vienne pas »)
  • Prévenez-moi avant qu'il ne soit trop tard (= « avant qu'il soit trop tard »).
  • Il est moins habile que je ne pensais (= « que je pensais »).

I wasn't 100% certain but 

"j'ai peur qu'il ne vienne pas" certainly sounded right to me.

So I did a search on that exact phrase and it is quite kosher  :)

https://www.google.ie/search?q=j%27ai+peur+qu%27il+ne+vienne%22&...

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