Negation

Updated: Sep 7


Negative forms (negative adjectives, negative adverbs and negative pronouns) are used to turn an affirmative statement or question into a negative statement or question.


The statement: 'I drink milk' is an affirmative statement.

The statement: 'I don't drink milk' is a negative statement.


There is a variety of expressions used to express negation.



ne...pas


This is the most used negative form. It corresponds to "not" in English.


Check these examples:


Je ne suis pas content. I am not happy.

Elle n'a pas de chien. She does not have a dog.

Tu n'as pas fait tes devoirs. You have not done your homework.


Note:

- ne and pas go around the conjugated verb or around the auxiliary in compound tenses.

- ne becomes n' when the next word starts with a vowel.

- indefinite articles (un, une, des) or partitive articles (du, de la, de l', des) become de or d'.



ne...jamais


This negative form corresponds to "never" or "not ever" in English. It is used the same way as "ne...pas", where "jamais" replaces "pas".


Check these examples:

Je ne vais jamais au cinéma. I never go to the cinéma.

Nous ne mangeons jamais de viande. We never eat meat.

Il n'a jamais lu ce livre. He has never read this book.


Note:

- ne and jamais go around the conjugated verb or around the auxiliary in compound tenses.

- ne becomes n' when the next word starts with a vowel.

- indefinite articles (un, une, des) or partitive articles (du, de la, de l', des) become de or d'.



ne...plus


This negative form corresponds to "not anymore" or "no longer" in English. It is used the same way as "ne...pas", where "plus" replaces "pas".


Check these examples:

Elle ne mange plus de poisson. She no longer eats fish.

Je ne peux plus le supporter. I can't stand him anymore.

Ils n'ont plus travaillé après l'accident. They didn't work again after the accident.


Note:

- ne and plus go around the conjugated verb or around the auxiliary in a compound tenses.

- ne becomes n' when the next word starts with a vowel.

- indefinite articles (un, une, des) or partitive articles (du, de la, de l', des) become de or d'.



ne...aucun(e)


This negative form corresponds to "no", "not any" or "none" in English.


Check these examples:

Je n'ai aucun animal. I have no animals.

Il n'a aucune idée. He does not have any idea.

Ils n'ont rencontré aucun problème. They didn't encounter any problem.


Note:

- ne goes before the verb or the auxiliary

- aucun is used in front of the noun instead of an article.

- aucun is used for a masculine noun and aucune is used for a feminine noun.

- aucun can be used by itself when answering a question.

- aucuns/ aucunes are used when the noun only exist in the plural form. (e.g. les funérailles)



ne...que


This negative form corresponds to "only" in English.

Note that "only" is not a negative form in English as opposed to French.

A common error is to translate ne...que as "not only", which is incorrect.


Check these examples:

Je n'aime que les fruits rouges. I only like red fruits.

Elle n'a fait que ses devoirs. She did her homework only.


Note:

- ne goes before the conjugated verb or the auxiliary in a compound tenses.

- que goes in front of the restricted word (this can be a noun or a verb).



ne...rien


This negative form corresponds to "nothing" or "not anything" in English.


Check these examples:

Tu n'as rien mangé. You have not eaten anything.

Rien ne lui faisait peur. Nothing scared her.

Je ne dis rien de surprenant. I am not saying anything surprising.


Note:

- ne goes before the verb or the auxiliary in compound tenses.

- when rien is used as a direct object, it is placed after the verb or the auxiliary.

- rien can also be the subject of a sentence.

- When followed by an adjective, the preposition de must be used.

- rien can be used by itself when answering a question.



ne...personne


This negative form corresponds to "no one" or "not anyone" in English. Just like "rien", personne can function as a direct object, a subject or the object of a preposition.


Check these examples:

Elle n'aime personne. She does not like anyone.

Personne ne me croit. No one believes me.

Je n'ai vu personne de soupçonneux. I did not see anyone suspicious.


Note:

- ne goes before the verb or the auxiliary in compound tenses.

- when personne is used as a direct object, it is placed after the verb or the auxiliary.

- personne can also be the subject of a sentence.

- When followed by an adjective, the preposition de must be used.

- personne can be used by itself when answering a question.



ne...ni...ni


This negative form corresponds to "neither...nor" in English.

The "ni...ni" elements can be placed in front of nouns, adjectives, past participles or prepositional phrases.


Check these examples:

Je n'aime ni les feuilletons ni les dessins animés. I like neither soap operas nor cartoons.

Nous n'étions ni heureux ni malheureux. We were neither happy nor unhappy.

Je n'ai ni vu ni entendu ce qui s'est passé. I neither saw nor heard what happened.

Tu ne parles ni à ton père ni à ta mère. You speak neither to your father not to your mother.


Note:

- ne goes before the verb or the auxiliary in compound tenses.


To summarise:

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Keep on reading to know something slightly more advanced about the negation.

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ne...point


ne...point is an old-fashioned way to say ne...pas.

You might come across it in French literature.

ne...point is rarely used in contemporary French and if you hear it, it most likely will be for comical effect.


ne...guère


ne...guère corresponds to "hardly" in English. It is also quite old-fashioned and rarely used nowadays. You are more likely to hear à peine instead of ne...guère.



ne ...nul(le)


ne...nul(le) corresponds to "not any" in English. It is used mainly in written French as it is quite formal. It is similar to ne...aucun where nul replaces aucun, except it can only be used with collective and uncountable nouns.


ne...nulle part


ne...nulle part correspond to " nowhere" or "not anywhere" in English.

example:

Il n'avait nulle part où aller. He had nowhere to go.

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Keep on reading to know something more advanced about the negation.

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negative sentences with direct and indirect object pronouns


When using a direct or indirect object pronoun, ne is placed before the pronoun.

Examples:

Je ne lui parle plus. I don't talk to her anymore.

Il ne l'avait jamais vu. He had never seen him.



negative sentences with adverbs


When using an adverb, pas/point/jamais/plus/aucun are usually placed after the adverb.

Examples:

Elle ne comprenait toujours pas. She still did not understand.

Nous ne l'entendons même pas. We can't even hear her.



negative sentences with infinitives


1. When the verb in a negative sentence is an infinitive, ne and pas/jamais/plus/rien/point/guère both precede the infinitive verb.

Examples:

j'ai fait une sieste pour ne pas être fatigué. I had a nap so as to not be tired.

Il est le seul à ne jamais appeler. He is the only one not calling.

Nous pensons ne plus venir. They are thinking of not coming anymore.

Il a envie de ne rien faire. He feels like doing nothing.



2. In the case of ne...aucun, ne...personne and ne...nul, the second part follows the verbal element.

Examples:

Ils voudraient ne voir personne. They would like to see no one.

Il a avoué n'avoir reçu aucune réponse. He admitted not to have received any responses.



3. In the case of ne...que and ne...ni...ni, the location of the second part depends on the intended meaning.

Examples:

Je pense ne voir ma mère que cette semaine. I am thinking of seeing my mother only this week.

Je pense ne voir que ma mère cette semaine. I am thinking of only seeing my mother this week.



negative sentences in questions and imperatives


The location and ordering of negative elements in negative questions and negative imperatives are the same as in affirmative sentences.


Examples:

Tu ne viens pas nous voir. You are not coming to see us.

Ne viens-tu pas nous voir? Aren't you coming to see us?


Parle-moi de lui! Tell me about him!

Ne me parle pas de lui! Don't tell me about him.




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