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The Negative Forms

The construction of the negative forms in French works differently than in English because it is composed of two elements and because of its placement: the first element, ne (n’), comes in front of the conjugated verb; the second or main negation (pas, jamais, rien, etc..) has to be placed after the conjugated verb. For example, if you wanted to make the following sentence negative, Je lis Le Monde chaque matin, it would be like this: Je ne lis pas Le Monde chaque matin.

The use of ne is flexible in spoken French:
At school, we learned that we must always place ne before the verb in order to support the negative, but you will notice in spoken French that it often disappears. Instead of saying “Je NE lis PAS le journal français”, you might hear “Je lis PAS le journal français”. Although it is nearly always written, ne is often dropped in spoken French. Note that ne becomes n' in front of a verb starting with a vowel or a mute h.

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Here is a list of the common negations the French use regularly:

Ne… pas (not, don’t)
Ex : Je n’aime pas les escargots = I do not like escargots.
Ne… jamais (never)
Ex: Je ne mange jamais de la viande = I never eat meat.
Ne... aucun (any, none)
Ex: Je n'ai aucun problème = I don’t have any problems.
Ne... rien (nothing)
Ex: Je ne comprends rien ! = I don’t understand anything.
Elle ne fait rien de toute la journée = She does nothing all day long.
Ne... personne - (nobody, no one)
Ex: Je ne connais personne = I don’t know anyone.
Ne… plus (no more, no longer, anymore)
Ex: Je ne fume plus = I don’t smoke anymore.
Ne... ni… ni (neither. . . nor)
Ex : Je ne regarde la télé ni le matin ni le soir = I watch TV neither in the morning nor in the evening.
Je ne mange ni les escargots ni les huîtres = I eat neither snails nor oysters.
Ne… pas du tout (not at all)
Ex : Je n’aime pas du tout manger la cuisine épicée = I don’t like to eat spicy at all.
Ne… pas encore (not yet/still)
Ex : Je ne comprends pas encore le système politique français = I still don’t understand the political system.
Ne…guère (hardly, barely)
Ex : Je ne joue guère au tennis = I hardly play tennis.
Ne… pas toujours (not always)
Ex : Je n’ai pas toujours le temps de lire = I don’t always have time to read.
Ne. . . que (only)
Ex : Je n’ai que cinq euros = I only have five euros.

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Another particularity of the negative structure is the use of ‘DE’ before a noun. In a normal, positive statement or when asking a question in the affirmative form, you would use articles such as “un”, “une”, “de la”, “des”, “du”, BUT when the response is formed negatively, then you will notice these same articles are replaced by “DE”!

Ex: Est-ce que vous voulez DU sucre dans votre café?
Non, je ne veux pas DE sucre !
Ex : Est-ce que vous prenez DE LA crème dans votre thé ?
Non, je ne veux pas DE crème dans mon thé !
Ex : Est-ce que vous voulez UN gâteau avec votre café ?
Non, je ne veux pas DE gâteau avec mon café !

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