French negation can be tough, but a simple formula and this quick guide will help. Here are our tips and tricks to using French negation in a natural and easy way.
French negation requires two parts. Ne comes before the verb and signals the negative. A second word (often pas or plus) follows the verb and completes the negation formula.
Je ne regarde pas la télé. (I don’t watch t.v.)
Je n’aime pas nager. (I don’t like swimming.)
Je n’aime plus nager. (I don’t like swimming anymore.)
Now let’s see how to use ne + verb + pas in different tenses and situations:
1. The Present Tense
Je ne mange pas de poisson. (I don’t eat fish.)
2. Future Tense
Je n’irai pas à la chasse. (I won’t go hunting.)
3. Near Future Tense
When building sentences in the near future tense, we use a conjugated form of aller followed by an infinite verb. To use negation in this tense, place ne and pas around aller.
Je ne vais pas dessiner demain. (I will not draw tomorrow.)
Here, vais is the verb aller conjugated in the je form.
Notice how the negation surrounds the auxiliary verb (aller) and not the infinitive verb (dessiner).
The video below is a great way to learn more about French negation:
4. Compound Past Tense
The compound past uses the same negation structure as the near future tense. This is because the passé composé (compound past) is formed of être or avoir followed by a past participle verb. As previously mentioned, ne and pas go hand in hand with the auxiliary verb. (To learn more about the French verb être, click here.)
Vous n’avez pas encore cuisiné. (You haven’t cooked yet).
Tu n’es pas allé au magasin. (You didn’t go to the shop).
In these examples, the ne takes the form of n’ as it is comes before a vowel.
5. Negation In Imperative Form
Negation in the imperative form can be used to give a command or an order.
Ne pars pas ! (Don’t go!)
6. With Object Pronouns
You should use ne + pronoun + verb + pas when there is an object pronoun.
Je ne l’achèterai pas. ( I will not buy it.)
7. Negation When Asking Questions
The ne…pas structure can also be used when asking questions in French. The structure is ne + verb + pronoun + pas + verb for questions using inversion.
Tu ne danses pas ? (You don’t dance?)
Ne danses-tu pas ? (Don’t you dance?)
Tu ne veux pas venir ? (You don’t want to come?)
Ne veux-tu pas venir ? (Don’t you want to come?)
We know what you’re thinking – all these different instances are a lot to take in, let alone memorising each one – but take your time to carefully read through it again if you need to. Try and practice forming negative sentences every day, that way you’ll quickly become more familiar with how to use them.
“Never,” “No One,” and “Nothing”
By now, you have a pretty good understanding of how to create negative sentences in French. But what if you wanted to say “never”, “nothing”, or even “no one” in a negative sentence?
It’s simple; all you need to remember is personne (no one), jamais (never), and rien (nothing).
Je ne t’oublierai jamais. (I will never forget you.)
Je ne vois personne. (I don’t see anyone.)
Rien n’est sur la table. (Nothing is on the table.)
When to Drop Ne
And last but not least, you’ll find that in some cases (mostly informal situations) ne is omitted when in conversational French. This is very common, and it’s basically just a more relaxed way of speaking.
Je ne travaille jamais le dimanche (I never work on Sundays) might sound more like, “Je travaille jamais le dimanche.”
Now that you’ve covered the basics, get comfortable using French negation and improve your skills by practicing forming sentences. For further mentoring and guidance, connect with our French tutors.