Tag Archive | Negative Sentence Structure

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

Lesson 11 – Negative Sentence Structure

Leçon 11 – Negative Sentence Structure

  • Verbs are made negative by placing ne in front of the verb, and pas after it.
    • Je ne travaille pas. Donc, je sors. – I’m not working. So, I’m going out.
  • Ne becomes n’ before a vowel.
    • Je n’aime pas écouter cette musique. – I don’t like listening to this music.
  • Note the similar negative constructions ne + verb + jamais meaning never and ne + verb + plus meaning not anymore, no more.
    • Tu n’invites plus – You don’t ask Caroline out anymore.
    • Ce n’est pas la peine. Elle n’accepte jamais. – It’s not worth it. She never accepts.
  • Ne + verb + personne means no one, and ne + rien means nothing.
    • Vous cherchez quelqu’un, monsieur ? – Are you looking for someone, sir?
    • Non, madame. Je ne cherche personne. – No, ma’am. I am not looking anyone.
  • J’entends un bruit. – I hear a noise.
  • Moi, je n’entends rien. – I don’t hear anything.
  • Personne and rien may be used as subjects, then they precede the verb and are followed by ne.
    • Rien ne change ici. – Nothing changes here.
    • C’est vrai. Personne ne déménage. Tout reste comme avant. – It’s true. No one moves out. Everything remans just as it was before.

Positive and Corresponding Negative Words

Encore, toujours = Still   /   Plus = no more

Encore, advantage = 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

Other negative sentence structures

  • Aucun(e) with the meaning no, not any precedes a noun. Ne precedes the verb.
    • Tu crois qu’il va rentrer ? – Do you think he’s coming back?
    • Je n’ai aucune idée. – I have no idea.
  • Ce cours est très difficile. – This course is very difficult.
  • C’est que le professeur ne nous donne aucun exemple. – That’s because the professor doesn’t give us any examples.

Note that aucun(e) is always used in the singular.

  • Aucun(e) + noun or aucun(e) des + plural noun may function as the subject of a sentence. Ne precedes the verb.
    • Aucun ami n’accepte son invitation. – No friend accepts his invitation.
    • Aucun de ses amis n’accepte son invitation. – None of his friends accepts his invitation.
  • Ni… ni… means neither… nor… Like aucun(e), personne, and rien, it may either follow or precede the verb. Ne precedes the verb in both cases. When ni… ni… refers to the subject of the sentence, a plural verb is used.
    • Je ne vois ni Philippe ni Marie. – I don’t see either Philippe or Marie.
    • Ni Philippe ni Marie ne sont là. – Neither Philippe nor Marie is here.
  • (Ni)… non plus is used to mean neither or not either in a sentence where the French equivalent of nor does not appear.
    • Philippe n’est pas là. – Philippe isn’t here.
    • (Ni) Marie non plus. – Neither is Marie. (Marie either.)
  • Je n’aime pas le professeur de mathématiques. – I don’t like the mathematics professor.
  • Moi non plus. – Neither do I.
  • Ne + verb + guère means hardly.
    • Il n’est guère – He’s hardly happy.

Ne… que

  • Ne… que means only. Ne precedes the verb and que precedes the word or words emphasised.
    • Suzette aime la musique classique ? – Does Suzette like classical music?
    • Non, elle n’écoute que des chansons populaires. – No, she only listens to popular music.
  • Tu veux aller à Avignon par le train ? – Do you want to take the train to Avignon?
  • Je ne voyage qu’en voiture. – I travel only by car.
  • Ne… pas que means not only.
    • Il n’y a pas que le travail. Il faut vivre aussi. – Work isn’t all there is. You have to live too.
  • Il n’aime pas que la physique. Il adore la géographie aussi. – He doesn’t only like physics. He loves geography too.

Tu or Vous?

Tu or Vous?*

Figuring out when to use tu or vous can be a bit tricky. English speakers are used to the all-purpose “you”, so this is both an intriguing and baffling concept to grasp. Even for the French, the choice between calling someone tu, and calling someone vous can be delicate. There really aren’t always hard and fast rules; this practice varies according to generation, social context, individual background, and personality. While someone may address you by their title and surname will almost always be vous, it does not follow automatically that the use of first names implies tu.

So when should you always use tu, or always use vous?

  • Tu is always used to speak to young children (pre-adolescent) or animals.
  • In the vast majority of families, relatives call each other tu. However, this depends on each household; sometimes children may be expected to address parents or older relatives with vous.
  • Schoolchildren and students will always call their peers tu, even if they have never met them before.
  • Adult strangers should always be addressed as vous initially. If friendship develops, tu may be used.
  • Vous is of course, always used when addressing two or more people.

*This is a requested lesson. All requested lessons are given priority no matter where I am in the teaching process.