How to make French negative sentences

We have already studied the different ways to say no in French. Today, we’re going to see how to make negative sentences in French. You may already know the classic ‘ne..pas’. However, there are a lot more structures ! Indeed, you can construct negative phrases by using various other negative words.

make negative sentences in french

Table of content :

  1. Using ‘ne..pas’
  2. Common negative words in French
  3. Structure of French negations
  4. Multiple negatives
  5. The exception of ‘ne..que’

Using 'ne..pas' in French

To express the negation in French, we use ‘ne..pas’. Let see a few examples :

  • Je ne connais pas Pierre = I don’t know Pierre
  • Elle ne veut pas boire de vin = She doesn’t want to drink wine
  • Tu n’as pas son numéro ? = You don’t have his/her number

So, the basic structure is : ne + verb + pas.

The ‘ne’ becomes ‘n’ in front of a vowel : ne + vowel = n’

Native French speakers may use only ‘pas’ instead of ‘ne..pas’, such as :

  •  Je sais pas = I don’t know (instead of ‘je ne sais pas’)
  •  Ça marche pas ! =  it doesn’t work (instead of ‘ça ne marche pas’).

French negative expressions with ‘pas’

Exactly like in English, you can express a wide range of negative expressions by using set phrases. There are many frequent expressions that use negation in French. Here are a few as follows :

  • Moi pas = not me
  • Pas de problème = no problem
  • Pas du tout = not at all
  • N’est-ce pas ? = isn’t it ?
  • Pas vraiment = not really
  • Pas souvent= not often
  • Pourquoi pas = why not
  • Pas trop = not too much

To practice negative conjugation in various tenses, I recommend Le conjugueur. The negation is not at the same position whether you use the present or past tenses.

negative words french

Common negative words in French

In addition to ‘ne..pas’, you can try more elaborate French negative words such as :

French English
Ne..aucun(e)+nom No/none
Ne..jamais Never
Ne..pas Not No longer Neither..not
Ne…rien Nothing
Ne..pas encore Not yet
Ne..personne Nobody

Note that ‘aucun’ becomes ‘aucune’ with a feminine noun as follows :

  • Je n’ai aucun problème (m) = I have no problem
  • Je n’ai aucune idée (f) = I  have no idea

Structure of French negations

Now that you know the different nuances of negation in French, let’s focus on the structure of the sentence.

The standard order of words is :

Subject + ne + verb + negative word + complement

  • Elle ne fume plus = She doesn’t smoke anymore
  • Ils ne mangent ni viande, ni poisson = They eat neither meat, nor fish

However, the negative word can sometimes become the subject. In this case, we can have :

Negative word + ne + verb + complement

  • Personne ne connait la région = No one knows the region
  • Rien ne marche aujourd’hui = Nothing works today

Multiple negatives

Then, you can mix several negative words together. In English, two negatives make generally a positive. On the contrary, in French, two negatives usually make a stronger negative ! And double negation is quite common in French.

  • Tu ne vois jamais personne = You never see anyone
  • Il ne boit jamais rien = He never drinks anything
  • Nous ne faisons plus rien le week-end = We don’t do anything anymore during the week-end
multiple negative

The exception of 'ne..que'

Finally, as often in French, there are exceptions. We’ve seen that the ‘ne‘ generally indicates a negation. In contrast, ‘ne..que‘ is not a negative word but a restriction. Indeed, we translate it as ‘only’. In this case, we can have :

  • Elle n’a que des stylos rouges= She has only red pens
  • Il ne vient que le vendredi = He only comes on Friday

And, to go a bit further, ‘ne pas que’ can be translated as ‘not only’.

  • Elle n’a pas d’idées = she doesn’t have any ideas
  • Elle n’a que des idées = She has only ideas = She has nothing but ideas
  • Elle n’a pas que des idées = She doesn’t have just ideas = She has more than just ideas
negation in french

I hope you’ve enjoyed the reading ! To continue practicing your French in a simple and effective way, feel free to get in touch today. You will learn French at your own pace, with a private tutor dedicated to your learning. Get also inspired by reading other articles for all levels and needs on the blog.