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Rien Meaning & Pronunciation – Nothing in French

Rien Meaning & Pronunciation – Nothing in French

Today we’ll have a look at the word rien, which translates to “nothing” and “anything” in French. This word has been on our list for a while as many students struggle with the pronunciation. At the very bottom of the lesson under the photo we’ve included a fun little example sentence using rien. Keep reading!



French lesson explaining how to use the word rien (nothing).

Word origin

According to, the modern French word rien (nothing, anything) comes from the Latin rem, which is the accusative case form of the Latin res (thing).

Rien pronunciation

When pronouncing rien, the final -n is completely silent. The word rien rhymes with bien (well). The -en in rien and bien use this symbol: [ɛ̃]. This video does a great job teaching the pronunciation.

Video source: Julien Miquel

Example sentences

For this first example sentence, rien as a one-word sentence simply means “nothing”.

Qu’est-ce que tu manges ce soir ? – Rien.

What are you eating tonight? – Nothing.

As mentioned above, rien can also mean “anything”. We explain the ne…rien form in our lesson covering the French negation rules. In this lesson we cover the word français (French) in detail.

Les Français parlent tellement vite. Je ne comprends rien !

The French speak so fast. I don’t understand anything!

De rien means “you’re welcome” in French. The expression “je vous en prie” also means “you’re welcome”. We’ve put je vous en prie” after de rien” in the following example sentence to add a layer of politeness. We covered both of these phrases in detail in this lesson.

Merci beaucoup ! Vous êtes très gentil ! – De rien. Je vous en prie.

Thank you very much! You are very kind. – Your welcome.

For this next example, “je n’en sais rien!” can translate loosely to “I have no idea”, “I have no clue” or “I haven’t the foggiest”. The en is an indirect object pronoun meaning “abou that”. Sais is the first-person singular (je) form of savoir (to know).

Quand est-ce que les Jeux olympiques commencent ? – Je n’en sais rien!

When are the Olympics games starting? – I have no idea!

In this final example sentence, rien is the subject: “nothing” + verb. The expression venir à l’esprit means “to come to mind”.

Tu as des idées ? Non, rien ne me vient à l’esprit.

Do you have any ideas? – No. Nothing comes to mind.


Et voilà ! Now you know how to use rien (nothing, anything) in French. Now check our lesson covering the useful adverb toujours (always)!

Est-ce que tu as appris quelque chose dans cette leçon? Non, rien! = Did you learn anything in this lesson? No, nothing!
Est-ce que tu as appris quelque chose dans cette leçon? Non, rien! = Did you learn anything in this lesson? No, nothing!

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David Issokson

David Issokson is a lifelong language enthusiast. His head is swimming with words and sounds as he speaks over six languages. Of all the languages he speaks, he's the most passionate about French! David has helped hundreds of students to improve their French in his private online lessons. When procrastinating working on his site,, David enjoys his time skiing and hiking in Teton Valley, Idaho.

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