Negative Sentences

ne … pas

Negation is most commonly shown in French by using the ne … pas construction. In between the two parts comes the conjugated verb.

subjectneconjugated verbpasparticipledirect objectindirect object
Elle ne montre pas le chemin à ses amis.She does not show her friends the way.
Elle n’ a pas montré le chemin à ses amis.She did not show her friends the way.

If the objects are replaced by pronouns, the same rule applies as with declarative sentences:

  • the object pronouns come before the verb
  • word order depends on pronouns (see Declarative Sentences)
    Elle ne me l’a pas montré.She didn’t show it to me. – the way

To Note

Before vowels (a, e, i, o, u) or a mute h, ne becomes n’.

Il n’a pas vu le ballon.He didn’t see the ball.
Nous n’entendons rien ici!We can’t hear anything here!
N’habitue pas les enfants au sucre!Don’t let the children get accustomed to sugar!

Other Forms of Negation

There are other forms of negation that also have two parts.

  • ne … personne (no one, not anyone)
    Je ne vois personne dans la rue.I don’t see anyone in the street.
  • ne … rien (nothing, not anything)
    Il n’y a rien de plus beau.There’s nothing more beautiful.
  • ne … jamais (never, not ever)
    Il n’y a jamais de fumée sans feu.Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
    literally: There is never smoke without fire.
  • ne … plus (no longer, not anymore)
    Léa n’habite plus à Strasbourg.Léa doesn’t live in Strasbourg anymore.
  • ne … aucun (not any, no)
    Je ne connais aucun bon dentiste.I don’t know any good dentists.

To Note

When any is used in the negative sense (not any, no), it’s translated into French as either aucun or pas de (de = partitive article). As an adjective, aucun agrees with the noun it is modifying (aucun, aucune, aucuns, aucunes). Aucun makes the negation stronger.

Malheureusement, Pierre n’a pas d’amis.Unfortunately, Pierre doesn’t have any friends.
Malheureusement, Pierre n’a aucun ami.Unfortunately, Pierre doesn’t have a single friend.