French Grammar: Basic Negation (Saying No!)

French Grammar: Basic Negation (Saying No!)

French Grammar: Basic Negation (Saying No!)
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French Grammar: Basic Negation (Saying No!)
la grammaire française: la négation de base (dire non!)

Basic negation lets us say “no” to things in French! It also lets us express that things are NOT a certain way.

Study:

The negative construction in French has two parts: (1) the word ne and (2) a specific negative word(s). Commonly used negative constructions include the following:

ne … pas : not

ne … pas du tout : not at all

ne … guère : hardly / scarcely

ne … jamais : never

ne … pas encore : not yet

ne … personne : no one / nobody /not anyone / not anybody

ne … plus : no longer / not anymore

ne … rien : nothing / not anything

To make a sentence negative, place the word ne before the verb and the specific negative word(s) after the verb.  If the verb begins with a vowel, a silent letter ‘h’, or the word ‘y’, ne becomes n’.

Elle ne parle pas allemand.
She does not speak German.

Il n’est plus étudiant.
He is no longer a student.

When the answer to a yes/no question is negative, two negative constructions are required:  (1) the word non and (2) the negative construction.  The word non answers the yes/no part of the question and the negative construction negates the answer you are giving.

Vous parlez espagnol?
Do you (formal) speak Spanish?

Non.  Je ne parle pas espagnol.
No.  I do not speak Spanish.

Il dit quelque chose?
Is he saying something?

Non.  Il ne dit rien.
No.  He is not saying anything.

Tu danses toujours?
Do you (informal) always dance?

Non.  Je ne danse jamais.
No.  I never dance.

When a negative construction is followed by an indefinite or partitive article (un, une, du, de la, de l’, or des), that article becomes de (or d’ before a noun that begins with a vowel or silent letter ‘h’) .

Marie a trois soeurs mais elle n’a pas de frères.
Marie has three sisters but she does not have any brothers.

Louis mange de la viande mais sa femme ne mange jamais de viande.
Louis eats meat, but his wife never eats meat.

Elle a toujours cinq dollars mais moi, je n’ai plus d’argent.
She still has five dollars but I do not have any more money.

Il n‘y a pas d’étudiants dans la salle de classe.
There are not any students in the classroom. / There are no students in the classroom.

Personne and rien can function as the subject of a sentence. When used this way, personne or rien comes at the beginning of the sentence.  The ne (or n’) is still placed before the conjugated verb.

Personne ne parle.
No one is speaking.

Rien n’est prêt.
Nothing is ready.

Adapt: 

Tu vas à la bibliothèque?
Do you (informal) go to the library?

Non, je ne vais pas du tout à la bibliothèque.
No, I do not go to the library at all.

Vous êtes étudiante?
Are you (formal) a (female) student?

Non, je ne suis pas étudiante. Je suis professeur!
No, I am not a student. I am a professor!

Tu sors souvent?
Do you (informal) go out often?

Non, je ne sors guère.
No. I hardly go out.

Albert ne sort non plus.
Albert does not go out either.

Elles sont déjà ici?
Are they (feminine) here yet?

Non, elles ne sont pas encore ici.
No, they  (feminine) are not here yet.

Vous désirez quelque chose?
Do you all want something?

Non, nous ne désirons rien.
No, we don’t want anything. (No, we want nothing.)

Il habite encore à Paris?
Does he still live in Paris?

Non, il n’habite plus à Paris.
No, he no longer lives in Paris. (No, he doesn’t live in Paris any longer.)

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