How to Form Negative Sentences in French

If you’re new to French and looking for information on how to form negative sentences you’ve come to the right place. Fortunately for us French learners forming a negative sentence is actually pretty easy. At its most basic level you just have to add the word “ne” before your verb and “pas” after your verb. There are a few variations of this and that’s exactly what we’ll explore below. Let’s get started…

Le Petit Grevisse – A French Grammar Book

Let’s start with the most basic way to form a negative sentence. Add “ne” before the verb and “pas” after it.

 

  • Je ne marche pas – I don’t walk (I’m not walking)
  • Il ne parle pas français – He doesn’t speak French
  • Nous ne voulons pas aller en Espagne – We do not want to go to Spain

 

Easy, right? It is! The great thing about this is it works with pretty much any verb tense.

 

Ne and Pas with the Passé Composé

 

  • Je n’ai pas vu le film – I have not seen the movie (I did not seen the movie)
  • Tu n’as pas écrit la lettre – You have not written the letter (You didn’t write the letter)
  • Vous n’avez pas caresser le chat – You did not pet the cat (You have not pet the cat)

 

The only thing to remember is that when using the ne and pas you have to put it around the first part (the auxiliary or helping verb). This is what you DON’T want to say…

 

  • J’ai ne vu pas le film – WRONG
  • Tu as ne écrit pas la lettre – WRONG
  • Vous avez ne caresser pas le chat – WRONG

 

Let’s move on to forming French negative sentences in the Imparfait

Ne and Pas in the Imparfait

 

  • Il ne dormait pas – He wasn’t sleeping
  • Je ne conduisais pas – I wasn’t driving
  • Ils ne fumaient pas – He wasn’t smoking

 

No real issues here. Let’s move on to the futur tense

Ne and Pas in the Futur Tense

 

  • Je ne parlerai pas espagnol – I will not speak Spanish
  • Nous ne courrons pas – We won’t drive
  • Tu ne téléphoneras pas ton frère – You won’t call your friend

 

Ne and Pas in the Conditionnel

 

  • Je n’irais pas à la plage – I wouldn’t go to the beach
  • Tu ne casserais pas la télé – You wouldn’t break the TV
  • Je ne voudrais pas faire ça – I would not like to do that

 

Ne and Pas When Asking a French Question

 

There are a few ways you can ask a French question. All of them are easy fortunately and call have “ne and pas” added to them

The first way is to simply make a statement and add a question mark to the end

 

  • Tu parles français ? – Do you speak French?

 

The next way is to add “est-ce que” to the beginning of the sentence

 

  • Est-ce que tu parles français ? – Do you speak French?

 

The third way is to reverse the verb and the subject (the person or thing performing the verb)

 

  • Parles-tu français ? – Do you speak French?

 

Here’s what these three sentences look like with ne and pas

 

  • Tu ne parles pas français ?
  • Est-ce que tu ne parles pas français ?
  • Ne parles-tu pas français ?

 

If any of these is too difficult for you then you can just choose whichever one you feel the most comfortable with until you get enough practice with the others.

 

Sentences with N’ and Pas

 

If the verb in your sentence starts with a vowel sound then you have to chop off the “e” in the word “ne” and just use n’ and pas. Here are some examples

 

  • Je n’aime pas ça – I don’t like that
  • Je n’arrive pas aujourd’hui – I don’t arrive today (I’m not arriving today)
  • Il n’achète pas l’ordinateur – He is not buying the computer

 

Variations of Ne and Pas

 

There are several types of negative sentences that you can form. These include how to say Nobody, Nothing, or Never. As with all of our explanations it’s best to look at some examples…

 

Ne + Jamais

 

  • Je regarde jamais la télévision – I never watch television
  • Il n’achète jamais de lait – He never buys milk
  • Nous ne jouons jamais au tennis – We never play tennis

 

Ne + Rien

 

  • Il n’achète rien – He doesn’t buy anything
  • Je ne vois rien – I don’t see anything
  • Je ne mange rien – I don’t eat anything

 

Ne + Personne

 

  • Je ne vois personne – I don’t see anyone
  • Il n’aime personne – He doesn’t like anyone
  • Tu ne parles a personne – You don’t speak to anyone

 

Ne + Aucun(e) (Aucun for masculine nouns and aucune for feminine nouns)

 

  • Il ne connait aucun basketteur – I don’t know any basketball players
  • Je ne veux aucun probleme – I don’t want any problem
  • Tu n’as fait aucun effort – He didn’t make any effort

 

One quick note to keep in mind is that although you can use all of the above examples without any issue native-French speakers will often drop the “ne” and just stick with the “pas”, “personne”, “rien”, etc… If you just want to stick with the classic “ne” + “pas” then go ahead. If you want to speak like the natives do then just drop the “ne”. Either way it’s up to you. The only thing I would add to this is that in formal situations you should always stick with the “ne”.

This is a great start for those looking to form negative sentences in French. We’ll go into more detail for those who are more advanced in a later article. Comment below and tell us what you learned or if you have a question regarding how to form negative sentences.

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