french negation

French Negation: Your Guide to Negative Adverbs, Adjectives and More

So, you’ve learned how to conjugate in French and talk about things you’re doing.

But how do you talk about things you’re not doing?

Knowing how to negate your sentences in French will help you communicate exactly what you mean (or don’t mean).

You can clear up a lot with  la négation (negation), so let’s start with the basics and build from there.



Basic French Negation Using Ne… Pas

The simplest way to negate a sentence in French is to write  ne or n’ before the main verb and  pas after that verb. This typically applies in simple tenses (i.e., when there’s only one conjugated verb in the sentence).

Je ne parle pas espagnol. (I don’t speak Spanish.)

Il ne va pas à l’école demain. (He’s not going to school tomorrow.)

There are a few things to note when using the ne… pas negative construction.

Ne... Pas Negation RulesExample Sentences
If a vowel follows ne, shorten ne to n'. Elle n'est pas heureuse.
(She isn't happy.)
In speech, ne is often dropped so that only pas remains. Je ne sais pas. Je sais pas.
(I don’t know.)
If a negative is followed by an indefinite article (e.g., un or une ) or a partitive article (e.g., du , de la or des ), the article changes to de . J’ai des livres. (I have some books.) →
Je n’ai pas de livres. (I don’t have any books.)
To negate infinitives, both ne and pas precede the infinitive verb. Il est nécessaire de ne pas manger avant de faire du sport.
(It is necessary to not eat before doing sports.)

Tu m’as dit de ne pas lire ce livre.
(You told me not to read that book.)

Ne pas ouvrir la fenêtre.
(Don’t open the window.)
With the passé composé, the order follows this pattern:

ne + verbe auxiliaire + pas (or other word) + participe passé
Il n'a jamais visité Paris auparavant.
(He has never visited Paris before.)

Nous n'avons pas regardé ce film.
(We did not watch that movie.)

Elles n'ont rien acheté au marché.
(They did not buy anything at the market.)

Common French Negative Phrases

French Negation Using Adverbs

While the ne… pas construction is technically a negative adverb, other adverbs can either be used in place of or alongside pas to negate the verb.

Check out these additional negative adverbs:

French Negative Adverb PhrasesMeaningExample Sentences
ne... pas encorenot yet Je n'ai pas encore vu ce film.
(I have not yet seen that movie.)
ne... pas toujoursnot always Il n'a pas toujours habité en France.
(He has not always lived in France.)
ne... pas du toutnot at all Elle n’aime pas du tout le café.
(She doesn’t like coffee at all.)
ne... jamaisnever Nous n'avons jamais visité la Chine.
(We've never visited China.)
ne... nulle partnot anywhere Tu ne l'as trouvé nulle part.
(You didn't find it anywhere.)
ne... plusnot anymoreIls n'écrivent plus de lettres.
(They don't write letters anymore.)

French Negation Using Adjectives

Like adverbs, adjectives can be used in place of pas in the negative construction.

This is different from using a negative adverb—the adjective must negate the following noun and therefore doesn’t follow the helper verb if there is one.

Note that both of the negative adjective phrases below must agree with the gender of the noun that follows.

French Negative Adjective PhrasesUsesExamples
ne... aucun(e)
(not any)
Used for both countable and uncountable nouns Je n'ai aucun livre.
(I don't have any books.)

Il n'a aucune confiance en elle.
(He doesn't have any confidence in her.)
ne... nul(le)
(not any)
Can only be used with uncountable nouns such as "water," "money," "love" and "sadness"
Is formal and isn't often used in everyday life unlike ne... aucun(e)
Ils ne voient nul mal.
(They don't see any harm.)

Nous n'avons trouvé nulle eau.
(We haven't found any water.)

French Negation Using Pronouns

Negative pronouns can be used in place of pas in a negative construction, but they are different because:

  • They negate the pronoun that replaces the noun.
  • When used after the verb, they can follow either the helper verb or the main verb in compound tenses.
  • They can be moved to the beginning of the sentence.

Also, there are two main ways to construct French negation using pronouns: ne… personne and ne… rien.

French Negation Using PronounsUsesExample Sentences
ne… personne
(nobody/no one, anybody/any one)
Used to negate the presence of a person or multiple people Je n'ai vu personne.
(I didn't see anyone.)

Personne n'est venu hier.
(No one came yesterday.)
ne… rien
(nothing, anything)
Used to negate the presence of an object Non, je n'ai rien visité.
(No, I didn't visit anything.)

Rien ne peut m'arrêter.
(Nothing can stop me.)

French Negation Using N’importe

Just one more negative construction, I promise!

The expression  n’importe means “no matter,” “any” or “whichever” in French and can be followed by an interrogative adjective, adverb or pronoun.

Note that when the construction includes  quel (which), the word must agree in gender with the following noun. Check out these examples below.

Je veux n'importe quel livre. I want any book.
Tu dois prendre n'importe quelle décision. You have to make whichever decision.
Je peux visiter n'importe quand. I can visit any time.
Fais-le n'importe comment. Do it any which way.
Nous pouvons avoir notre rendez-vous n'importe où. We can have our meeting anywhere.
N'importe qui peut le lire. Anyone can read it.
Il écoute n'importe quoi. He listens to anything.

Other Expressions That Use Negation in French

Aside from what we’ve already talked about above, here are some other ways to express negation in French.

Other Expressions That Use French NegationMeaningExample Sentences
Pas vraiment Not really Il n'est pas vraiment intéressé par ce film.
(He's not really interested in this movie.)
Pas forcément Not necessarily Ce n'est pas forcément difficile à comprendre.
(It's not necessarily difficult to understand.)
Pas mal Not bad Ton dessin est pas mal du tout.
(Your drawing is not bad at all.)
Pas trop Not too much Je n'aime pas trop les endroits bondés.
(I don't like places that are too crowded.)
Pas exactement Not exactly Ce n'est pas exactement ce que j'avais en tête.
(It's not exactly what I had in mind.)
Pas complètement Not completely Il n'est pas complètement satisfait de son travail.
(He's not completely satisfied with his job.)
Pas du tout d'accord Not at all in agreement Je ne suis pas du tout d'accord avec cette proposition.
(I'm not at all in agreement with this proposal.)
Pas nécessairement Not necessarily Le succès n'est pas nécessairement synonyme de bonheur.
(Success is not necessarily synonymous with happiness.)

Practicing French Negation

To see all of these negation rules in action, and to experience all the many ways native speakers say “no” in French, try to immerse yourself in authentic content. Think podcasts, French movies and talk shows—basically anything that will let you listen to French speakers conversing naturally with one another.

For example, there’s the language learning program FluentU.

FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

You can try FluentU for free for 2 weeks. Check out the website or download the iOS app or Android app.

P.S. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

FluentU Ad

You can also head on over to Lingolia for a mix of exercises on all the negative constructions we’ve covered. Some will have you choose the correct word of negation between two options, while others will have you rewrite positive sentences as negatives.

After that, Tex’s French Grammar has some slick fill-in-the-blank exercises where you can check your answers.

Finally, ProProfs has more quizzes to keep you reviewing those negative constructions for days.


Just don’t quit, okay?

See what I did there?

And one more thing...

If you like learning French vocabulary on your own time and from the comfort of your smart device, then I'd be remiss to not tell you about FluentU.

FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the French language and culture over time. You’ll learn French as it’s actually spoken by real people.

FluentU has a wide variety of great content, like interviews and web series, as you can see here:


FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive subtitles.

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Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

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