French Grammar – Negation

ne..pas

  • 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…jamais never
ne…ni…ni neither…nor
ne…pas du tout not at all
ne…pas encore not yet
ne…personne nobody
ne…plus no longer
ne…guère hardly
ne…que only
ne…rien nothing
  • 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)

Summary

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

  • 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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