French/Grammar/Negations

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In this article you will discover how to form negation in French. Feel free to directly edit this page if you think it can be improved.

General Structure

In French, the general structure of Negation is simply to "encircle" the verb with two particles:

"NE" (or "N’", if the verb begins with a vowel) and "PAS":

  • Il connaît le pays → Il ne connaît pas le pays

He knows the country → He does not know the country

SUBJECT + " NE (N’)" + VERB + "PAS" + COMPLEMENT

Il ne connaît pas le pays

Following this general scheme, in French there are several kinds of denial, each with a different structure:

"Ne" + "PAS" : no (generally)

Je ne comprends pas. (I do not understand)

"Ne" + "PLUS" : no more, anymore, no longer

  • Nous n’avons plus de café = we have no more coffee
  • Je ne parle plus = I do not speak anymore
  • Il ne fume plus = He no longer smokes

"Ne" + "RIEN" : anything

  • Je ne dis rien = I do not say anything

"Ne" + "PERSONNE" : nobody, anybody

  • Il n’y a personne = There is nobody
  • Je ne vois personne = I do not see anybody

"Ne" + "JAMAIS" : never

  • Nous n’allons jamais à la mer = We never go to the sea

"Ne" + "AUCUN/E": any

  • Je n’ai aucune idée = I do not have any idea

"Ne" + "QUE"

This structure is not really a negation, but rather a restriction. It is equivalent to "only".

  • Je ne dors que cing heures = I only sleep 5 hours
  • Ça ne coûte que cent euros = This costs no more than 100 euros

Negation with verbs and pronouns

Componds verbs

When we have to use negation with a compund verb (compound means having auxiliary and participle), negation "surrounds" the auxiliary, not the participle.

  • Vous avez parlé en allemand → Vous pas n'avez parlé in allemand

(You have spoken in German) → (You have not spoken in German)

  • J’ai dit la vérité → Je n’ai rien dit.

(I have said the truth) → (I have not said the truth)

Thus, the structure to remember is:

SUBJECT + "NE (N’)" + AUXILIARY+ "PAS" + PARTICIPLE + COMPLEMENT

Vous + n’+ avez + pas + parlé + allemand

Negation of pronominal verbs

When we have in the phrase pronouns, we must remember the 2nd most important French rule:

"The pronoun goes before the verb, and as close to it as possible."

We will apply this rule, thinking that the first term of negation ("NE") will be first in the order of the sentence, and then go the pronoun before the verb, and then finally the "PAS".

An example with a pronominal verb, which are the ones with reflexive pronouns:

  • Je m’appelle Antoine → Je ne m’appelle pas Antoine

(My name is Antoine) → (My name is not Antoine)

SUBJECT + "NE" + ("ME, TE...") + VERB + "PAS" + COMPLEMENT

Je + ne + m’ + appelle + pas + Antoine

Examples

  • Je ne veux pas partir = I don't want to leave.

Ne becomes n' before a vowel.

  • Il n'a pas perdu son sac = He has not lost his bag

Placing ne pas before an infinitive negates it.

  • Le pire est de ne pas essayer = The worst is not to try

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If you consider that this page can be improved, don't hesitate to edit it.

Contributors

Vincent and Cristhianbello

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