French Grammar – Negation


  • Simple negation is done by wrapping ne…pas around the verb.
    • Je ne vole pas. – I do not steal.
  • In a perfect tense, ne…pas wraps around the auxillary verb, not the participle.
    • Je n’ai pas volé. – I haven’t stolen.
  • When an infinitive and conjugated verb are together, ne…pas usually wraps around the conjugated verb.
    • Je ne veux pas voler. – I do not want to steal.
  • ne pas can also go directly in front of the infinitive for a different meaning.
    • Je veux ne pas voler. – I want not to steal.
  • ne goes before any pronoun relating to the verb it affects.
    • Je ne l’ai pas volé. – I did not steal it.
    • Nous ne nous aimons pas. – We do not love each other.

Other negative expressions

ne…aucun(e)not any, none, no
ne…pas du toutnot at all
ne…pas encorenot yet
ne…plusno longer
  • ne…personne wraps around the entire verb set.
    • Je ne l’ai donné à personne. – I did not give it to anyone.
    • Je ne veux le donner à personne. – I do not want to give it to anybody.
  • ne…ni…ni requires two objects, either direct or indirect, and comes before them.
    • Je ne l’ai donné ni à mon frère, ni à ma sœur. – I gave it neither to my brother nor my sister.
    • Je ne peux voir ni mon frère ni ma sœur. – I am able to see neither my brother nor my sister.
  • In ne…aucun(e), aucun(e) goes before an object.
    • Il n’a aucun ami. Aucun. – He has no friend. None.
    • Il n’a aucune feuille de papier. Aucune. – He has no sheet of paper. None.
  • Il n’a qu’une feuille de papier. – He has only one piece of paper.
  • Je ne peux guère voir mon frère et ma sœur – I can hardly see my brother and sister.

Spoken French

Now, the ‘ne’ sometimes disappears when one speaks. However, it is always used in written French and for formal conversations.

  • Je ne l’ai donné à personne (I didn’t give it to anyone)
  • Je ne sais pas (I don’t know)


To say not, never or other negative verbs you have to ‘sandwich’ the negative words around a verb.

  • Il n’y a pas de cinéma. (meaning: “There is not a cinema”)
  • On ne peut jamais aller en boite. (meaning: “You can never go partying”)
  • Il n’ y a rien à faire ici. (meaning: “There is nothing to do here”)

If ” ne ” is before a vowel then it changes to ” n’ “.

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