Tag Archive | Indefinite Words and Expressions

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