In this article, we will go through every aspect of the negative form. Native French speakers tend to skip the “ne” when having informal conversations.
We will go through why they do this. It is important to know the difference as it will help you to understand fast spoken French.
But first, let us begin with the basics 😊.
One and two verbs
Let us begin with two easy examples:
- Je ne sais pas – I do not know.
- Il ne mange pas – He does not eat.
Let us continue with 2 longer sentences:
- Je ne vais pas aller à Paris – I do not want to go to Paris.
- Il ne va pas voir ma mère – He does not want to meet my mother.
You have probably noticed that there are two verbs in the examples above. I have already mentioned that you should put the negation around the verb
So, what do we when there are two verbs?
“ne..pas” will be placed around the verb that determines the action. This maybe sounds a bit difficult, but it’s not 😊.
In practice, this means that the negation almost always will be placed around the first verb in the sentence.
Let us look at two more examples of this:
- Je ne veux pas rentrer chez moi – I do not want to go back to my place.
- Il ne sait pas conduire correctement – He does not know how to drive properly.
Let us continue with adding “de”. You will often see “de” in relation to “ne…pas”. Thus, it’s important to understand the grammar behind this concept.
- Elle ne mange pas de poulet – She does not eat chicken.
- Je ne veux pas de pizza – I do not want pizza.
So, why are we adding “de”? We usually replace indefinite articles with “de” in the negative form.
This is a rule of thumb that can be difficult to grasp for a beginner. Let us therefore simplify the rule.
When your sentence in the negative form includes an object, such as a pizza, you often need to add “de” to complete the sentence.
We can look at this from another perspective:
- Je veux de la pizza – Je ne veux pas de pizza.
- Elle mange de la soupe – Elle ne mange pas de soupe.
Now you can probably see how an affirmative sentence will change to a negative one. However, this also holds true for other articles. For instance:
- Elle veut des legumes – Elle ne veut pas de legumes.
- Elle va acheter du chocholat – Elle ne va pas acheter de chocholat.
As I said earlier, you will see this construction all the time when you read and listen to French.
Please go ahead and do the exercises. I have added another chapter after the exercises that focuses on sentences in the past and elision.
Ok, we need to understand the difference between informal and formal French. This is a very important topic.
Native speakers will often skip the “ne”. Let us look at the difference:
(Formal) -Je ne vais pas voir ton ami – I do not want to see your friend.
(Informal) – Je vais pas voir ton ami
Let us look at two more examples:
- Je ne sais pas – I do not know
- Je sais pas
- Il ne vois pas mes défauts – He does not see my flaws.
- Il vois pas me défauts
Please note that the “ne” disappears from pretty much every negation in spoken French (ne…rien, ne…aucun, etc.)
You do not always get to learn this difference in the classroom. The reason is simple, the teachers want you to learn a correct version of the French language.
You should therefore use the correct version if you write an exam.
But if you find yourself in France, speaking to native speakers, you can skip the “ne”. It is an important step towards becoming fluent.
So, what is elision? You could say that elision is a way of making the language sound better.
It represents a very important part of the French language, and it is very relevant when it comes to the negative form.
Elision will make “ne” become “n’”, when two vowels are pronounced one after the other. Let us look at this sentence:
- Elle ne aime pas son copain – She does not like her boyfriend.
This sentence is not grammatically correct. Let us look at the correct version:
- Elle n’aime pas son copain
We need to create an elision because otherwise, two vowels would be pronounced one after the other “e” and “a”.
Let us look at two more examples:
- Je n’écrit pas pendant les week-ends – I do not write during the weekends.
- Je n’imagine pas un monde sans toi -I can not imagine a world without you.
I would say that this concept is easier than you think. You just need to pay attention to the verbs starting with a vowel.
And you will get used to this concept as long as you are aware of how it works.
The French vowels are:
- A, E, I, O,U, Y
In French, you must often choose between “Le passé composé” and “l’imparfait”. They are constructed differently in relation to the negative form.
Beginners often make mistakes when using the “Le passé composé”. Let us begin by constructing a simple sentence in this past tense.
- J’ai mangé de la pizza – I ate some pizza.
Now let us look at a very common mistake.
- Je n’ai mangé pas de pizza – I did not eat pizza.
You have probably noticed that we are using elision.
This sentence is, however, grammatically incorrect. Let us look at the correct version.
- Je n’ai pas mangé de pizza – I did not eat pizza.
This construction is a bit confusing. It will, however, make sense if you practice with different verbs. I have prepared many sentences that will help you 😊.
Please note that “Le passé compose” is constructed with “avoir” and “être”. Many of the conjugations of these verbs begins with a vowel. You will therefore see many examples of elision in the following examples:
- Je n’ai pas rencontré ta mère – I have not met your mother.
- Elle n’a pas trouvé sa veste – She did not find her jacket.
- Nous n’étions pas arrivés avant le dîner – We did not arrive before the dinner.
- Il n’a pas réussi dans la vie – He has not succeeded in life.
Let us continue with “imparfait” and the construction of the negative form.
- Je ne faisais pas mes devoirs quand j’étais jeune – I did not do my homework when I was young.
- Je ne disais pas que tu étais impoli – I was not saying that you were impolite.
I hope that you find this article useful. I have tried to cover different perspectives of the negative form.
This part of the French language is rather logical in the present tense. However, the placement of the “ne” and “pas” can become a bit difficult in the past tense.
You should now worry too much about that. It is, however, important that you understand the basic concept, especially the difference between the informal and formal areas of application.
It sounds more difficult than it is. You can always get your point across even if you skip the “ne”. I want to mention again that native speakers do not use the full negation.
There are, however, differences between the negations. I will write an article about this. As for now, you can always ask me a question if you want me to clarify something.
I enjoy answering question as it helps me to get a better understanding of this beautiful language.