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THE NEGATIVE FORMS

'Ne' preceding the verb and 'pas' following it indicate negation. In most cases this will be translated in English with 'not'.

The affirmative sentence Je suis d'accord will thus become je ne suis pas d'accord in the negative form, and Il est d'accord will become il n'est pas d'accord (note that in front of a vowel, ne becomes n').

This form is the most common way of expressing something in the negative, but not the only one.

As you can see below, all of the other negative forms also work with 'ne':

negation.png

*Be careful with ne ... que as it means 'nothing but/except' or 'only'.

Examples : Il ne parle que l'anglais. (He can only speak English)

Son œuvre n'a qu'un intérêt historique (His work has nothing but an historical interest)


It is really important to remember that standard French requires two words (ne/pas) for the negation. When you come across 'ne', you should always look for the second part of the negation in the rest of the sentence.

Please note that there are a few cases where 'ne' is enough to convey the negation, but they constitute an exception to the general rule. This is a rather poetic use of the negation and is mostly found in literary texts (in literature up until the early 20th century and poetry). Similarly, sometimes 'pas' alone is enough but, contrary to 'ne', this is mostly the case for spoken French and will therefore be found mostly in dialogues in written French.

Practice: translate the following sentences.


1

La théorie n'est pas prouvée.

The theory is not proven.Vérifier votre réponse

2

Le gouvernement n'a plus le contrôle.

The government haven't got the control anymore.Vérifier votre réponse

3

L'armée ne laisse personne passer.

The army let noboby go through.Vérifier votre réponse

4

Les journalistes ne peuvent ni circuler ni faire leur travail dans des conditions normales.

The journalists can neither move around nor do their job in normal conditions.Vérifier votre réponse

5

Ce terme n'est guère plus utilisé.

This term is hardly used anymore. (Note that here there are 2 negative elements in the same sentence)Vérifier votre réponse

6

Le pays n'a plus qu'une solution.

The country has only one solution left.

(Note: 'plus' often translates as 'not anymore' but sometimes 'left' is a better translation, as is the case here)

Vérifier votre réponse

As you can notice from the examples above, PLUS can have different possible translations. It can even have a completely different meaning as you will observe in the following activity.

7

Look at the sentences below and try to make the difference in the meaning of 'plus':

1) Ce discours est le plus long de toute ma carrière.

2) Ce débat n'est plus à l'ordre du jour.

3) Ces fouilles sont plus importantes que la conférence.

4) Les combattants n'ont plus de munitions.

5) Il doit payer plus.

When it isn't part of a negative, 'plus' means 'more' or 'most' (see sentences 1, 3 and 5).

1) This is the longest speech in my whole carreer.

2) This debate is no longer on the agenda.

3) These excavations are more important than the conference.

4) The fighters have no ammunition left.

5) He must pay more.

Vérifier votre réponse