15 French Negation Rules And Examples

French negation rulesIf you’re new to learning French grammar, you’ll find that negation can be a big challenge. The most basic negation structure in a French is: ne + verb + pas. French has many more negation expressions including ne…jamais (never), ne…rien (nothing) and ne…personne (nobody). This page will cover all of these negation rules and learn lots of example sentences.

negation in the present tense

To make a sentence negative in the present tense put the ne…pas around the verb.

  • Je ne mange pas. I don’t eat.
  • Il ne dort pas. He doesn’t sleep.
  • Nous ne travaillons pas. We don’t work.

For verbs that start with a vowel, the ne becomes n’.

  • Je n’aime pas le fromage. I don’t like cheese.
  • Elle n’habite pas en France. She doesn’t live in France.

negation in the passé compose

In the passé composé put ne…pas around the auxiliary verb. On this page you’ll find a complete explanation of the passé composé.

  • Je n’ai pas parlé. I did not speak.
  • Ils n’ont pas voyagé. They did not travel.
  • Il n’est pas venu. He did not come.

negation rules for reflexive verbs

For reflexive verbs in the present tense, wrap ne…pas around the verb and the reflexive pronoun. Here you can find a complete lesson on reflexive verbs.

  • Il ne se rase pas. He isn’t shaving.
  • Elle ne se maquille pas. She isn’t putting on make-up.

For reflexive verbs in the passé composé put ne…pas around the reflexive pronoun and the auxiliary verb.

  • Il ne s’est pas blessé. He did not get injured.
  • Elle ne s’est pas levée. She did not get up.
  • Ils ne se sont pas promenés. They did not take a walk.

special negation expressions

French has several other types of negation where another words jamais (never), rien (nothing) and personne (nobody) replace the word pas.

Ne + verb + jamais = never

The word ‘jamais’ means never. For these sentences, jamais replaces the word pas. Make sure you don’t say ‘pas jamais’ because this would be a double negation.

  • Elle ne voyage jamais. She never travels.
  • Il n’écoute jamais. He never listens.
  • Nous ne nageons jamais. We never swim.

For the passé composé wrap ne…jamais around the auxiliary verb.

  • Je n’ai jamais mangé le fois gras. I’ve never eaten fois gras.

Ne + verb + rien = nothing or anything

  • Je ne bois rien. I’m not drinking anything.
  • Nous ne comprenons rien. We don’t understand anything.

For the passé composé, put ne…rien around the auxiliary verb.

  • Je n’ai rien compris. I don’t understand anything.

Ne + personne = nobody or anybody

  • Je ne vois personne. I don’t see anybody.
  • Il n’y a personne dans la salle. There’s nobody in the room.

For the passé composé, put personne after the past participle.

  • Je n’ai vu personne. I didn’t see anybody.

Both personne (nobody) and rien (nothing) can both be the subjects of a sentences. In this sentences the word pas is not included.

  • Personne ne vient ce soir. Nobody is coming tonight.
  • Rien ne marche ici. Nothing works here.
  • Rien ne m’interesse. Nothing interests me.

Ne + verb + pas encore = haven’t yet

When you want to express something that you haven’t done yet use ne + verb + pas encore.

  • Je n’ai pas encore compris cette leçon. I still haven’t understood this lesson.
  • Je n’ai pas encore eu le vaccin. I still haven’t had the vaccination.
  • Je n’ai pas encore essayé ce parfum de glace. I still haven’t tried this ice cream flavor.

To ask a question that would get a ‘pas encore’ answer you can use the following constructions:

  • Est-ce que tu as déjà + past participle?
  • Est-ce que tu as jamais + past participle?

Examples:

  • Est-ce que tu as déjà fait du ski? Have you ever skied?
  • Est-ce que tu as jamais fait une pizza? Have you ever made a pizza?

More expressions for negation

ne + verb + nulle part = nowhere or anywhere.

  • Elle ne va nulle part. She’s not going anywhere.
  • Le bus ne va nulle part. The bus is going nowhere.

ne + verb + que = only

The word que precedes the noun that’s getting limited.

  • Il ne boit que de l’eau. He only drinks water.
  • Je ne travaille que le matin. I only work in the morning.
  • Je n’écoute que la musique classique. I only listen to classical music.

ne + qu’à faire = just + verb

  • Tu n‘as qu’à le faire. Just do it!
  • Tu n’as qu’à essayer! All you have to do is try!

Rien + qu’à + infinitive = by just doing something

  • Rien qu’à assister au spectacle, on peut voir plein de gens. By just attending the show you can see lots of people.

Ne + verb + aucun(e) = no or any

For these sentences, the word aucun must agree in gender with the noun it’s modifying.

  • Je n’ai aucune idée. I have no idea.
  • Je n’ai aucune objection. I have no object.
  • Je n’ai aucun doute. I have no doubt.

Aucun(e) + noun or aucun(e) de + plural noun can be the subject of a sentence to translate to no or none.

  • Aucun de mes amis habite en France. None of my friends live in France.
  • Aucune personne n’est venue. Nobody came.

Ne + guère = much or hardly.

  • Elle ne sort guère. She hardly ever goes out.
  • Il ne mange guère. He doesn’t eat much.

Ni…ni = neither…nor.

Ni l’une ni l’autre translates to neither of them.

  • Je n’aime ni les escargots ni les épinards. I like neither snails nor spinach.
  • Je ne veux ni fromage ni yaourt. I don’t want cheese or yogurt.
  • Elles ne sont arrivées ni l’une ni l’autre. Neither of them arrived.

Ne + past conditional + past participle of devoir + infinitive = shouldn’t have

To express regret for something you shouldn’t have done use the past. conditional of devoir plus the infinitive.

  • Je n’aurais pas dû acheter ce livre. I shouldn’t have bought this book.
  • Tu aurais dû me prévenir. You should have warned me.
  • Nous aurions dû commencer une heure plus tôt. We should have started one hour earlier.
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