2 2 wordsIn French, it takes 2 words to negate a sentence. There are different forms of negation in French, just like there are in English: not, not yet, not only, nothing but, neither-nor, no one, nothing, absolutely nothing, no longer, no more, nowhere, etc. No matter which negation you use, you will always need 2 words to negate a sentence.
3 ne (n’)“ne” is one of the two words necessary to negate any sentence and is the ONLY word that is found in ALL forms of negation. “ne” is located at the beginning of a sentence, immediately following the SUBJECT of a sentence and it’s purpose is to issue a warning that the sentence will be negative – and it is up to the reader to look ahead in the sentence to (a) find the second half of the negation and (b) determine how the sentence is negated (using ‘not’, ‘neither-nor’, ‘no one’, etc) .
4 pas“pas” is the most common negation of a sentence and simply means “not”. “pas” can be used as an expression: “pas maintenant” – not now “pas mal” – not bad(ly) …or can be used with “ne” to negate a sentence. In a sentence negation, “pas” is placed directly after the negated verb.
5 Parts of SpeechA SUBJECT is a noun which is found at the beginning of a sentence, about which the sentence is written. A NOUN is a person, place, thing, or idea. A VERB is what happens to the subject or what the subject does – it is the action of the sentence; but a verb does not have to be an “action” verb; it can be a “being” verb – being verbs describe the state of being: “is”, “are”, etc.
6 ne…pas / n’…pasIn the sentence: “C’est un poisson”, the subject is “ce” and the verb is “est”. To NEGATE this sentence, therefore, the “ne” will be placed immediately after the subject (“ce”) and the “pas” will be placed immediately after the verb (est). The negated sentence will therefore become: “Ce n’est pas un poisson”
7 ne…pas – examples It is not a mouse. It is not a duck. Ce n’est pas une souris. Ce n’est pas un canard.Those are not cats. Those are not geese.Ce ne sont pas des chats. Ce ne sont pas des oies.The mouse is not gray. The duck is not white.La souris n’est pas gris. Le canard n’est pas blanc.The mice are not gray. The ducks are not white.Les souris ne sont pas grises. Les canards ne sont pas blancs.
8 Now you try Can you change the following sentences to the negative? C’est une souris. 5. La vache est noire.Ce sont des oiseaux. 6. Le renard est rouge.Ce sont des vaches. 7. Les ours sont bruns.C’est un renard. 8. Les oies sont grises.
9 How did you do?Do your sentences look like these? If they do, you are negating your sentences correctly.Ce n’est pas une souris.Ce ne sont pas des oiseaux.Ce ne sont pas des vaches.Ce n’est pas un renard.La vache n’est pas noire.Le renard n’est pas rouge.Les ours ne sont pas bruns.Les oies ne sont pas grises.
10 ne…ni…ni…“ni” has two meanings in French: “neither” & “nor” Whereas “pas” is placed immediately after the verb which is being negated, “ni” is placed immediately before whatever word is being identified as being missing or lacking To negate a sentence using “neither-nor” in French, just like with “not”, the “ne” must be placed immediately after the Subject of the sentence.
11 ne…ni…ni… – Examples The mouse is neither gray nor white. La souris n’est ni grise ni blanche.That is neither a cat nor a dog.Ce n’est ni un chat ni un chien.Those are neither sheep nor foxes.Ce ne sont ni des moutons ni des renards.The bears are neither brown nor black.Les ours ne sont ni bruns ni noirs.