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A Definitive Guide to French Negation


French negation can be a bit tough, but a simple formula and this quick guide will help. Here are our tips and tricks to using French negation easily and naturally.

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.)

Next, we’ll show you how to use ne + verb + pas in different tenses.

1. 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 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.)

Notice how the negation surrounds the auxiliary verb (aller) and not the infinitive verb.

4. Compound Past Tense

Here, we use the same structure as in the near future tense. This is because the passé composé (compound past) is formed using être or avoir followed by a past participle. As before, ne and pas go along 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.)

5. Imperative Form

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.)

The video below will help you learn even more ways to use French negation:

7. Ask 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?)

This may start to seem a bit complicated, but practice makes perfect!

“Never,” “No One,” and “Nothing”

By now, you understand pretty well how to create negative sentences in French. If you want to say “never,” “nothing,” or “no one,” all you need 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

In some cases, mostly informal situations, it’s fine to leave out ne when speaking.

Je ne travaille jamais le dimanche (I never work on Sundays) might sound more like, “Je travaille jamais le dimanche.”

Now that you have 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.

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