Knowing how to say “no” in French is one of the most common things you’ll do when speaking this language. Unsurprisingly saying “no” comes in many different forms and isn’t just restricted to one word. In this article, we’ll go over all of the different ways to both say and express the idea of “no” in French.
This is one that you may already be familiar with. Simply put, the word non means “no” in French. This is far and away the most common way of saying “no” that you’ll come across. If you’re going on a trip to France or another French-speaking country and only want to learn one way of saying “no” in French then this is the one that you need to know. What you’ll soon find out is that a lot of the other words and phrases we’ll go over in this article aren’t universal and can only be used in certain situations. However just like “no” is used in English, non can be used in pretty much any situation you can think of in French.
Non merci is essentially the French equivalent of “no thanks” or “no thank you”. In English, “no thanks” is a little less formal than “no thank you”, however in French there isn’t really a distinction between the two so you can use non merci for both types of situations. My best advice for this one is to not overthink it. If you’re familiar with how to use “no thanks” or “no thank you” in English then you can use non merci without an issue.
When literally translated pas question translates to “not question” which probably doesn’t make sense to most people. However its real translation is closer to “no way”, not in a sense of amazement or disbelief, but rather that there is “no way” that something can happen. An example of “pas question” used in a sentence would be pas question que tu achètes ça which means “there’s no way you’re buying that”. You can use it on its own or put it in a more complete sentence like the one above. However, when it’s put into a more complete sentence you’re more likely to see it begin with il n’est pas question que… (there is no way that…) You can also say il n’en est pas question if what you’re talking about is already obvious (the word en refers to what you’re talking about.)
This one is similar to pas question but is probably better thought of as “out of the question” as opposed to “no way”. You’ll most often see hors de question used in a complete sentence such as in the phrase C’est hors de question que tu sortes ce soir which translates to “it’s out of the question that you go out tonight”.
You shouldn’t have a problem with this one as its literal translation and its actual translation are pretty much the same thing. Not only that, but you can use both the French and English term in more or less the same situations. Some synonyms for absolument pas are “no way”, “not at all”, or “not a chance”. All of this to say that absolument pas is a strong way to say “no” in French.
The word oublie in itself means “forget”, but when used in the context we’re referring to in this article it means “forget it”. It’s an informal way to tell someone that something in particular just isn’t going to happen. Here’s an example: Est-ce que tu peux me donner ta nouvelle télé ? – Can you give me your new television? Oublie – Forget it
Jamais is a good way to not necessarily say “no” in French, but rather to say “never”. It can be used to describe that you never did something in the past or that you won’t ever do something. You will typically see this one used by itself as opposed to in a complete sentence. You will also see it in conjunction with non. Est-ce que tu as déjà visité le Louvre ? – Have you ever visited the Louvre? Non jamais – No never
Even if you don’t speak any French at all you should be able to understand this one because it looks exactly like the English word and pretty much means the same thing. Here’s an example.. Tu peux m’emmener à l’aéroport demain matin ? – Can you take me to the airport tomorrow? Impossible, je travaille demain – No (impossible), I work tomorrow
You would really only want to use pas encore when you haven’t done something as of that moment, but want to leave it open to perhaps do it in the future. This is not at all unlike the phrase “not yet” in English. Est-ce que tu as lu le livre que je t’ai prêté ? – Have you read the book that I lent you? Pas encore – Not yet
Pas du tout can be thought of as the French equivalent to “not at all” and can be used in more or less the same instances. It may go without saying, but you would really only want to use this one when you not only want to say “no” to someone, but really want to stress it. Tu aimes la nourriture italienne ? – Do you like Italian food? Pas du tout ! – Not at all!
Sometimes you want to say “no”, but leave the door open for things to change in the future. When this is the case you may want to use pas maintenant which means “not now”. Not surprisingly, pas maintenant is only used when an offer is presented to you such as to go somewhere or to eat something. You wouldn’t use this if someone asked you if you liked the color blue for example. Tu veux regarder ce film avec moi ? – Do you want to watch this movie with me? Pas maintenant – Not now
Malheureusement pas is used when you want to politely say “no” and not sound too harsh. You will probably hear this one the most in more formal or even business situations because it gets the message across while giving the impression that you wish you didn’t have to say “no”. Est-ce que je peux emprunter votre voiture ? – Can I borrow your car Malheureusement pas – Unfortunately not
Oh non is not necessarily a way to tell someone “no”, but rather to express emotion or even sympathize with someone in a situation. It’s just like “oh no” is used in English. J’ai oublié mon portefeuille à la maison – I forgot my wallet at the house Oh non ! – Oh no!
Pas vraiment is a softer, less harsh way to say “no” in French. Just like “not really” is used in English pas vraiment can’t be used in any situation. For example you wouldn’t use it if someone asks you if you could pick them up after work. Est-ce que tu me fais confiance ? – Do you trust me? Pas vraiment – Not really
To be honest, this one is probably a little harder than most of the other ones on this list. Nevertheless with just a little bit of thought you should be able to get it down without too much of an issue. Mais non is used when someone says something and you want to nicely disagree (or contradict) them. It’s a little hard to explain it without some examples so let’s look at some.. Je suis trop stupide pour devenir astronaute – I’m too stupid to become an astronaut Mais non ! – No! (You aren’t too stupid to become an astronaut) Mon patron me déteste – My boss hates me Mais non ! – No! (You’re boss doesn’t hate you) As you can tell there are a bunch of different ways to say “no” in French that can be used in all sorts of different situations. Hopefully after running through this guide you’ll be prepared to answer no in all possible circumstances.