How to Say “No” in French

Sometimes you have to say no. And that’s okay.

There are as many ways to say no as there are to say yes in French.

From the classic non to ça ne marche pas, here we have prepared a list of 20 different ways to say no in French, depending on the context and formality of the situation you are in.

Let’s take a look at them!


1. “No” in French — Non  

Non is the most commonly used way to say “no” in French and is a great option to use as it isn’t formal nor informal, so it can be used in the majority of situations you will find yourself in.

Note that while it may look similar to “no” in English, its pronunciation is very different: 

English: No

French: Non

As with English, changing your tone of voice will affect how strong your negation comes across.

Non can also be combined with another word or phrase, as you will see later in this post. 

2. “Not at all” in French — Pas du tout  

While the tone of voice certainly plays a role, pas du tout generally has a stronger connotation than simply saying non.

Pas du tout generally expresses deep disagreement and, since it means “not at all,” may be used with an amount.

For example:

Vous êtes avocat ? Vous devez gagner beaucoup d’argent ! (You’re a lawyer? You must make a lot of money!)

Non, pas du tout ! C’est seulement ma première année au cabinet d’avocats et donc je ne gagne pas beaucoup. (No, not at all! It is only my first year at the law firm and therefore I do not make a lot.)

3. “Impossible” in French — Impossible  

This one’s easy to remember since it’s spelled the same way, means the same thing and is used the same way in English!

For instance, you might say it in response to a shocking or surprising statement:

Vingt personnes sont mortes dans une fusillade ! (Twenty people died in a shooting!)

Impossible ! Comment cela s’est-il passé ? (Impossible! How did that happen?)

It could also be used in a more literal sense when responding to an invitation.

If you’re unavailable or unable to do something, you can say that it’s impossible:

Veux-tu dîner avec moi ce soir ? (Would you like to have dinner with me tonight?)

Impossible. Je dois travailler. (Impossible. I have to work.)

4. “No, thank you” in French — Non merci  

Sometimes, although someone may have good intentions, you have to turn them down by saying “No, thank you.”

Non merci is used to politely decline something:

Voudriez-vous un croque-monsieur ? (Would you like a grilled ham and cheese sandwich?)

Non merci. Je ne mange pas de viande. (No, thank you. I do not eat meat.)

5. “Not yet” in French — Pas encore  

If you haven’t done or experienced something, but believe you will, pas encore is the expression to use. 

As-tu lu ce livre ? (Did you read this book?)

Pas encore. Je vais le commencer ce week-end. (Not yet. I am going to start it this weekend.)

6. “Me neither” in French Moi non plus  

Use moi non plus to affirm or connect with another negative statement.

In other words, if someone says that they haven’t done something or experienced something, and neither have you, moi non plus is a succinct way to draw that parallel:

Je n’ai jamais mangé ça ! (I have never eaten this before!)

Moi non plus. (Me neither.)

7. “But no” in French — Mais non  

Just as mais oui (but yes) may be employed as a stronger form of oui, mais non can express a more intense non.

Mais non is also used to emphatically contradict someone who’s denigrating themself:

Je suis si grosse ! (I am so fat!)

Mais non ! Tu sais que ce n’est pas vrai ! (But no! You know that’s not true!)

8. “Yes” in French — Si  

Si actually plays a key role in negating a previously stated idea. 

Si is employed in order to disagree with a question that seeks a negative response. 

For example:

Pierre: Mais vous n’êtes pas française, n’est-ce pas ? (But you’re not French, are you?)

Rachel: Si, je suis française. (Yes, I am French.)

Pierre asked Rachel if she was French, but he assumed she was not. He opened the question with vous n’êtes pas française (you aren’t French).

However, Rachel actually is French, and in order to clarify that, she employed si.

Thus, while si is translated as “yes,” it’s used to negate the original question.

9. “I don’t know” in French — Je ne sais pas  

This one will most often be used in response to a question and demonstrates a sense of uncertainty. While this may not be a definite no, it is also not a definite yes.

Note that in spoken French the ne is often skipped—even in formal conversations—so you’ll usually hear je sais pas.

Le train va arriver bientôt ? (Is the train going to arrive soon?)

Je sais pas. (I don’t know.)

10. “Not really” in French — Pas vraiment  

This one means “not really,” and indicates that a statement isn’t exactly true. 

Es-tu content de commencer le travail ? (Are you happy that you’re going to start work?)

Pas vraiment. (Not really.)

11. “Oh no!” in French — Oh, non !  

This includes non, but really emphasizes a more dramatic feeling of surprise, anger or distress.

Il est mort dans l’accident de voiture. (He died in the car accident.)

Oh non ! (Oh no!)

12. “I don’t think so” in French — Je ne pense pas  

Much like je ne sais pas, this often denotes a feeling of uncertainty.

However, there are some cases where it may be said in more of a sassy manner. 

For example:

Je vais aller au cinéma avec mes amies. (I’m going to go to the movies with my friends.)

Oh, je ne pense pas ! Tu n’as pas fait tes devoirs ! (Oh, I don’t think so! You haven’t done your homework!)

13. “Never” in French — Jamais  

This is a very strong way to say “no” as it indicates that something never has or never will happen. 

Tu vas m’oublier ? (Will you forget me?)

Non, jamais ! (No, never!)

14. “Of course not” in French — Bien sûr que non  

Yet another strong denial, this one means “of course not” and should be used when you really want to emphasize that “no.”

T’as volé mes chaussures ? (Did you steal my shoes?)

Non, bien sûr que non ! (No, of course not!)

15. “Definitely not!” in French — Oh que non ! 

To deny or refuse something in French you can use oh que non, which is used in a similar way to “definitely not” in English. 

Alors tu dis que tu iras au bal avec Pierre ? (So you’re saying you’ll go to the dance with Pierre?)

Oh que non ! (Definitely not! )

16. “No way!” in French — Pas question ! 

Pas question is commonly used in French to emphasize your refusal or rejection of something that has been said to you, such as a suggestion, idea or a request.

Peux-tu aller à Monaco et m’acheter une montre ?  (Can you go to Monaco and buy me a watch?)

Pas question ! (No way!)

Pas question is one of the most popular ways to express this in French, however you may also hear native French speakers use other phrases such as absolument pas (absolutely not) or hors de question (out of question).

17. “Absolutely not!” in French — Absolument pas ! 

As mentioned above, absolument pas is another way of saying pas question and is used in French to strongly decline or deny something that is being said.

This could be refusal of a request or proposal or something you are strongly against doing.

For example, imagine that you dislike the cold weather, and someone asks you:

Est-ce que tu aimes skier ? (Do you like skiing?)

Absolument pas ! Je déteste le froid !  (Absolutely not! I hate the cold!)

18. “Nope” in French — Nan  

Nan is a colloquial term in French used to say non, similar to use of the terms “nope” and “nah” in English.

Allez-vous au Canada cet été ? (Are you going to Canada this summer?)

Nan. Je vais aller aux États-Unis. (No. I’m going to go to the USA.)

Nan is commonly used in colloquial speech, however in more formal situations, it would be best to avoid this option and opt for non or another option on this list depending on the context of the situation.

19. “You’re kidding!” in French — Tu plaisantes !

Tu plaisantes is often used in French to say “You’re kidding!” highlighting an element of surprise or disbelief after something has been said.

Cette année j’aurai 60 ans ! (This year I’ll be 60 years old!)

Tu plaisantes ! Je ne te crois pas ! (You’re kidding! I don’t believe you!)

20. “That doesn’t work” in French — Ça ne marche pas  

You usually use ça ne marche pas if someone’s trying to make some kind of plan and you aren’t able to work it around your schedule. 

Veux-tu qu’on se rencontre à 9 heures demain ? (Do you want to meet at 9 tomorrow?)

Ça ne marche pas, j’ai rendez-vous avec le médecin demain. (That doesn’t work, I have an appointment with the doctor tomorrow.)

For more guidance on French negation, click here to read about how to use negative adverbs, adjectives, pronouns and more.

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Gestures to Say “No” in French

One of the most common ways you may hear someone say no in French without using any words is by tongue clicking.

Shaking the head is another way to say no, often used both internationally and in French culture.

Pointing and moving the index finger from left to right is quite common around the world too, and while sometimes used between adults, this gesture is mainly used to say no to children.


As you move deeper and deeper into French, you will find that using these words and expressions will allow you to more fully and precisely express yourself in French!

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