Negatives – Indefinite Words & Expressions

Continuing from last week’s post on Negatives.

Many English indefinite expressions begin with the word some. They are often the positive counterparts of negative words.

  • quelquefois – sometimes
  • quelqu’un – someone, somebody
  • quelque chose – something
  • quelque part– somewhere

The word some before a noun is expressed in French either by the partitive article or by quelques, which is more emphatic.

Je n’ai que quelques mots à vous dire. | I only have a few words to say to you.


Vous trouverez quelques idées intéressantes dans cet article. | You’ll find some interesting ideas in this article.

The pronoun some when used emphatically is rendered by quelques-unsquelques-unes. The pronoun en will also usually appear in the sentence.

As-tu acheté des journaux français ? | Did you buy any French newspapers?

J’en ai acheté quelques-uns. | I bought some/a few.


As-tu acheté des revues françaises ? | Did you buy any French magazines?

J’en ai acheté quelques-unes. | I bought some/a few.

When some is the subject of the sentence and means “some people”, its French equivalent is certains. It often occurs in conjuction with d’autres (others).

Certains appuient cette nouvelle loi, d’autres sont contre. | Some support this new law, others are against it.


To express someone/somewhere/something or other, etc., French uses je ne sais plus the appropriate interrogative word.

  • je ne sais qui – someone or other
  • je ne sais quoi – something or other
  • je ne sais où – somewhere or other
  • je ne sais comment – somehow
  • je ne sais quel + noun – some + (noun) or other
  • je ne sais quand – sometime or other
  • je ne sais pourquoi – for some reason or other
  • je ne sais combien – I’m not sure how much/many

Examples:

Nicolette est allée je ne sais où aujourd’hui. | Nicolette went somewhere or other today.

Oui, le dimanche elle va rendre visite à je ne sais qui à Lille. | Yes, on Sundays she goes to visit someone in Lille.


Il s’est sauvé de l’accident je ne sais comment. | Somehow or other he saved himself from that accident.

Quelle chance ! Cette tragédie a fais je ne sais combien de victimes. | What luck! That tragedy caused I don’t know how many deaths.


Any in the sense of “it doesn’t matter which one” is expressed in french by n’importe followed by the appropriate interrogative word.

  • n’importe qui – anyone
  • n’importe quoiquoi que ce soit – anything
  • n’importe où – anywhere
  • n’importe comment – anyhow
  • n’importe quel + noun – any + noun
  • n’importe lequel, laquelle, lesquels, lesquelles – whichever one(s), any one(s)
  • n’importe quand – at any time
  • n’importe combien – any amount, no matter how much, how many

Qu’est-ce que tu veux manger ? | What do you want to eat?

N’importe quoi. | Anything.

Et où est-ce que tu veux aller après ? | And where do you want to go afterwards?

N’importe où. | Anywhere.


Note that the English word any and the words it appears in (anyone, anything, anywhere) are translated by negative words in French if the sentence is negative, and by indefinite words and expressions if the sentence is positive.

Est-ce qu’il en sait quelque chose ? | Does he know anything about it?

Non, il n‘en sait rien. | No, he doesn’t know anything about it.


Allez-vous quelque part cette semaine ? | Are you going anywhere this week?

Non, nous n‘allons nulle part. | No, we’re not going anywhere.


Sometimes when the English word any is used in a negative sentence, its French equivalent is one of the expressions with n’importe. The word “just” often appears before “any” in the English sentence in this case.

Je ne vais pas offrir n’importe quoi. | I’m not going to give just anything as a gift.


Nous ne voulons pas passer le temps avec n’importe qui. | We don’t want to spend time with just anyone.


I hope you all don’t mind me posting a day early. I’m actually going to be out of town, and will be travelling on my usual posting day and just wanted to get a weekly post out to you sooner rather than later. 🙂

Have a wonderful week, everyone!

Merci à vous !

Courtney

Negatives

With most words there is usually an opposite, or a negative. Read below to review these types of words for French.

Positive

Negative

encore, toujours still plus no more
encore, davantage more plus no more, not anymore
quelquefois sometimes jamais never
toujours always jamais never
souvent often jamais never
quelqu’un someone, somebody personne no one, nobody
quelque chose something rien nothing
quelque part somewhere nulle part nowhere

Some additional pairs of corresponding positive and negative expressions:

Positive

Negative

déjà ever jamais never
déjà already pas encore not yet
soit…soit/soit…ou either…or ni…ni neither…nor
ou or ni neither, nor

In both simple and compound tenses, ne precedes the conjugated verb and the negative word usually follows the conjugated verb.

Est-ce que tu a déjà été en Belgique ? | Have you ever been to Belgium?

Non, je n‘y suis jamais allé(e). | No, I’ve never been there.


Nous passerons l’été soit à Nice, soit en Espagne. Et vous ? | We’ll spend the summer either in Nice or in Spain. How about you?

Nous ne partons ni dans le Midi, ni à l’étranger. Nous travaillons cet été. | We won’t be going either to the south of France or abroad. We’re working this summer.


More than one negative word can be used in a sentence: ne…plus jamais or ne…jamais plus (never again), ne…plus rien (nothing else, nothing more), ne…plus personne (nobody else, no one any more), etc.

Il n‘y a jamais personne ici. | There’s never anyone here.

C’est qu’il n‘y a plus rien à faire. | That’s because there’s nothing more to do.


Negative words can also stand by themselves.

Connais-tu beaucoup de monde ici ? | Do you know a lot of people here?

Personne. | No one.


Qu’est-ce que vous cherchez ? What are you looking for?

Rien. | Nothing.


Both ne and the negative words pasrienjamais, and plus precede and infinitive. Personne, however, follows an infinitive.

Je vous conseille de ne pas aller. | I advise you not to go there.


Il m’a dit de ne jamais revenir. | He told me never to come back.


On passe la journée à ne rien faire. | We spend the day doing nothing.


Je préfère ne voir personne. | I prefer not to see anyone.


After the word que, French uses negative words.

J’ai l’impression que Christophe est plus paresseux que jamais. | I have the impression that Christophe is lazier than ever.

Vous vous trompez. Il travaille mieux que personne. | You’re mistaken. He works better than anyone.


Before adjectives, nouns, pronouns, or adverbs, non or pas is usually used. Non is more formal, pas is more colloquial.

Tu es éreinté ? | Are you exhausted?

Pas/Non éreinté. Un peu fatigué. | Not exhausted. A little tired.


Il travaille mardi, pas/non jeudi. | He’s working Tuesday, not Thursday.


If there’s anything you would like to see on the blog, please leave me a comment. I’ll be doing a part 2 to this, so look for that next week! For those that do leave me comments, I apologise for any length of time it takes for me to approve them. I thought about removing the comment screening, but I’ve been receiving a lot of spam comments lately, so it must stay the way it is, sadly.

I hope everyone has a great week!

A bientôt !

Courtney

Omitting the Possessive Adjective

In an imperative or command:

In French, possessive adjectives are used to modify the noun they precede.

Voici ma mère. | This is my mother.


Regarde ma nouvelle voiture ! | Look at my new car!

A common construction is one where the possessive adjective is dropped in an imperative or command (and replaced with a definite article along with a personal pronoun) only if an action is being taken on a physical attribute (head, back, arm etc.). In the following examples, action is not being taken on the physical attribute, therefore the possessive adjective remains.

Regarde mon dos. | Look at my back.


Remarque mes cheveux. | Notice my hair.

In the following examples, an action is being taken on the physical attribute.

Masse-moi le dos. | Massage my back.


Coupe-moi les cheveux. | Cut my hair.


Tiens-moi la main. | Hold my hand.

Verb

Possessive Adjective

Noun

masse

mon

dos

coupe

mes

cheveux

↙↘

Verb

Personal Pronoun

Definite Article

Noun

masse

moi

le

dos

coupe

moi

les

cheveux


In a statement:

The possessive adjective may also be dropped in a statement only if an action is being taken on the physical attribute. In the following examples, an action is not being taken.

Je regarde son dos. | I’m looking at his/her back.


Elle remarque ses cheveux. | She’s noticing his/her hair.

In the following examples, an action is being taken on the physical attribute.

Je lui masse le dos. | I’m massaging his/her back.


Elle me coupe les cheveux. | She’s cutting my hair.

The possessive adjective takes the form of the appropriate personal pronoun and is placed before the verb, and a definite article is placed before the object. The same applies to pronominal verbs (when the action is being done to oneself).

  • I wash my hands. = Je me lave les mains.
  • She brushes her hair. = Elle se brosse les cheveux.

Subject

Verb

Possessive Adjective

Object

je

masse

son

dos

elle

coupe

mes

cheveux

↙↘

Subject

Personal Pronoun

Verb

Definite Article

Object

je

lui

masse

le

dos

elle

me

coupe

les

cheveux


In the past tense (passé composé):

In the past tense as well, the personal pronoun is placed after the subject (just as it is in the present tense).

Subject

Personal Pronoun

Verb

Definite Article

Object

je

lui

masse

le

dos

elle

me

coupe

les

cheveux

↙↘

Subject

Personal Pronoun

Avoir

Past Participle

Definite Article

Object

je

lui

ai

massé

le

dos

elle

m’

a

coupé

les

cheveux


In the past tense using pronominal verbs:

The construction for using pronominal verbs is much like using passé composé with the exception that, as with all reflexive verbs, the past participle is conjugated with être.

Subject

Personal Pronoun

Être

Past Participle

Definite Article

Object

je

me

suis

lavé

les

mains

elle

s’

est

cassé

la

jambe


I hope everyone is doing well and having a wonderful week!

Merci à vous !

Courtney

Cleft Sentences

Cleft sentences: highlighting the indirect object and other elements of the sentence.

Cleft sentences in French can be used to highlight elements of the sentence other than the subject and the direct object. For example, the indirect object can be placed after c’est, and the rest of the sentence is converted into a relative clause.

J’ai donné les CDs à mon collègue.

C’est à mon collègue que j’ai donné les CDs.

I gave my coworker the CDs.


Il a demandé un prêt à ses parents.

C’est à ses parents qu’il a demandé un prêt.

He asked his parents for a loan.


Indirect object pronouns can also be highlighted as à + a disjunctive pronoun and placed after c’est in a c’est __ que construction.

Je lui ai envoyé un courriel.

C’est à lui/elle que j’ai envoyé un courriel.

I sent him/her an email.


Il leur a téléphoné hier.

C’est à eux/elles qu’il a téléphoné hier.

He called them yesterday.


Prepositional phrases can be highlighted by placing them after c’est in a c’est __ que construction.

Nous avons acheté le cadeau pour Claudie.

C’est pour Claudie que nous avons acheté le cadeau.

We bought the gift for Claudie.


Il a travaillé avec Franck et Nicolette.

C’est avec Franck et Nicolette qu’il a travaillé.

He worked with Franck and Nicolette.


Ils ont joué au foot dans le parc.

C’est dans le parc qu’ils ont joué au foot.

They played football/soccer in the park.


I hope everyone is having a wonderful week!

A la prochaine…

Courtney

Uses of the Subjunctive

Continuing on with the subjunctive subject, we’ll go over the uses of the subjunctive this week. The present subjunctive is used in subordinate clauses appearing after main clauses that imply that someone wants someone to do something or that someone wants something to happen that is not yet part of reality or that person’s experience.

Verbs of wanting or ordering someone to do something include vouloirdésirersouhaitervouloir bien (to be willing), commanderordonner (to order), and exiger (to demand).

The present subjunctive can follow a verb in any tense in the main clause.

Elle ne veut pas qu’il revienne. | She doesn’t want him to come back.


Nous souhaitons que vous trouviez un poste. | We hope that you will find a job.


Je veux bien que tu fasses sa connaissance. | I’d like for you to meet him.


J’ai ordonné que vous restiez. | I ordered you to remain.


Le prof a exigé que nous sachions tout. |The professor demanded that we know everything.

Verbs permitting, forbidding, and preventing include permettreautoriserdéfendreinterdire (to prohibit/forbid), éviter (to avoid), and empêcher (to avoid/prevent).

Je ne permettrai pas que vous me parliez comme ça. | I won’t allow you to speak to me like that.


Personne n’a autorisé que vous sortiez. | No one has authorised you to go out.


Je défends que tu me répondes sur ce ton. | I forbid you to answer me like that.


Il empêche que nous fassions notre travail. | He’s keeping us from doing our work.

Verbs of asking an suggesting include diredemandersuggérerproposer, and recommander.

Je dis qu’il vienne. | I’m telling him to come.


Il a demandé que tout le monde soit présent. | He asked that everyone be present.


Je suggère qu’ils y aillent. | I suggest that they go there.


Il propose que nous travaillions ensemble. | He suggests that we work together.


Vous recommandez que je prenne l’avion ? | Do you recommend that I take the plane?

Verbs that try to get someone to do something by expressing likes, preferences, or waiting include aimer (to want), aimer mieux (to prefer), préférer (to prefer), accepter (to agree), admettre (to allow), and attendre (to wait for).

J’aimerais que vous m’aidiez. | I’d like for you to help me.


J’aimerais mieux qu’elle s’en aille. | I’d prefer for her to go away.


Personne n’acceptera que tu partes. | No one will agree to your leaving.


Sa mère n’admettre pas qu’elle mette cette robe. | Her mother won’t allow her to wear that dress.


Nous attendons que vous soyez prêt. | We’re waiting for you to be ready.


This wraps up the subjunctive. Let me know if there’s something in particular you would like me to go over in a future post. Have a great week, everyone!

A bientôt !

Courtney

The Subjunctive in Noun Clauses

A noun clause is a subordinate clause that functions as a noun, that is, it can serve as either the subject or the object of a verb. Noun clauses are introduced in French by the conjunction que.

The following examples have dependent noun clauses in the indicative. They show events perceived as part of reality because they are the objects of verbs such as savoirpenserentendre (dire), and voir.

Jesais que Jérôme habite ce quartier. | I know that Jérôme lives in this neighbourhood.


Je pense que la réunion est en haut. | I think that the meeting is upstairs.


On a entendu dire que l’entreprise a des problèmes. | We have heard that the firm has problems.


Je vois que les résultats sont bons. | I see that the results are good.

Note that in the above examples, the subordinate clauses beginning with que are the direct objects of the verbs. They all answer the question “Qu’est-ce que?

  • Qu’est-ce que tu sais ? → Je sais que Jérôme habite ce quartier.
  • Qu’est-ce que tu penses ? → Je pense que la réunion est en haut.
  • Qu’est-ce que vous avez entendu dire ? → On a entendu dire que l’entreprise a des problèmes.
  • Qu’est-ce que tu vois ?  → Je vois que les résultats sont bons.

Next week I will go over the uses of the subjunctive, so stay tuned for that! Have a great week, everyone!

A bientôt !

Courtney