The 2 Words You Need to Create Negative Sentences in French

Turning a positive French sentence into a negative one is pretty straightforward. In most cases, all you need to do is add “ne” before the verb and “pas” after it.

As often though, this doesn’t work in 100% of cases. Today, you’ll discover how to create a negative French sentence, be it in the present tense, near future, future or imperative.

You’ll also learn how to say “never” or “nobody”.

How to use “ne pas” to create a negative sentence

Before you get started, it’s essential for you to know that there is one case when you never use “ne” before the verb.

That’s when the verb starts with a vowel. In this case, you use “n'”.

Why?

Because it’s easier to pronounce.

Je n’aime pas le café

I don’t like coffee

 

Now let’s see when you can use the ne + verb + pas formula!

French negative sentence at the present tense

When you create a negative sentence at the present tense, you can easily use the ne + verb + pas formula.

Je ne mange pas ce soir.

I don’t eat tonight.

 

Vous ne venez pas demain.

You don’t come tomorrow.

French negative sentence at the future tense

The same goes for sentences using the future tense.

Je ne mangerai pas ce soir.

I won’t eat tonight.

 

Vous ne viendrez pas demain.

You won’t come tomorrow.

French negative sentence using the near future tense

The near future tense is constructed using aller + infinitive verb.

Je ne vais pas venir demain.
I am not going to come tomorrow.

In this case, make sure you put “ne” and “pas” around “aller” and not around the infinitive verb.

French negative sentence using the passé composé tense

The same is true for sentences using the “passé composé. Since the passé composé is constructed using avoir or être + past participle, you only put “ne” + “pas” around the conjugated verb, that is être or avoir.

Je n’ai pas mangé

I haven’t eaten yet.

French negative sentence using the imperative form

The imperative form is used to give an order.

Ne pars pas !

Don’t leave!

French negative sentence containing and object pronoun

When there is an object pronoun, instead of ne + verb + pas, you say ne + pronoun + verb + pas

Je ne le ferai pas.

I will not do it.

How to ask a negative question

You can also use “ne pas” to ask questions.

Tu veux manger ?

Tu ne veux pas manger?

 

Est-ce que tu veux manger ?

Est-ce que tu ne veux pas manger ?

 

Veux-tu manger ?

Ne veux-tu pas manger ?

When you ask a question using inversion, the structure becomes ne + verb + pronoun + pas + infinitive.

Sounds complicated? Don’t worry, your grammar book is the only place where you’ll see people using inversion to ask questions anyway.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Your grammar book is the only place where you’ll see people using inversion to ask questions” quote=”Your grammar book is the only place where you’ll see people using inversion to ask questions”]

How to say “never”, “nobody” or “nothing

You now know how to create a negative sentence, that’s pretty cool. But what if you want to say “never”, “nobody” or “nothing” instead of “not”?

Well, it’s actually simple.

All you need to do is… use “jamais” (never), “personne” (nobody) or “rien” (nothing) instead of “pas”.

Je ne ferais jamais ça.

I would never do that.

 

Je n’attends personne.

I don’t expect anyone.

 

Je ne veux rien.

I don’t want anything.

Why French people never say “ne”

drop the ne in spoken French

You may have noticed that the French rarely  pronounce  the “ne” when they speak.

That’s because they are lazy.

Here you go, one French stereotype confirmed.

No seriously, in informal situations, it’s perfectly acceptable to drop the “ne” when you speak French.

That’s one of several differences between written and spoken French.

 

Je ne danse jamais.

Je danse jamais.

 

Je n’ai pas faim.

J’ai pas faim.

That’s it! You now know how to create negative sentences in French.
Your French will only improve if you practice, so write your own negative sentence in the comment section below this article!
Benjamin Houy
Benjamin Houy

Benjamin Houy is a native French speaker and tea drinker with a BA degree in Applied Foreign Languages and a passion for languages. After teaching French and English in South Korea for 7 months as part of a French government program, he created French Together to help English speakers learn the 20% of French that truly matters. You will also find him giving blogging advice on Grow With Less.

34 thoughts on “The 2 Words You Need to Create Negative Sentences in French”

  1. Thankyou!!!
    Can you tell me which is right if I wanna say you aren’t interesting
    1)Tu n’est pas intéressant
    2)tu est n’intéressant pas
    Or
    3)tu n’êtes pas intéressant ??

    Reply
    • The first one.

      You put “ne” and “pas” before and after a verb, so in #2, interessant is not a verb, so you can’t put “ne” and “pas” there.

      In the third one, you said the past tense, “You weren’t interesting.”
      (And it’s spelled etais, not etes)

      Reply
  2. I am reading something in French from around 1620. It’s a negative question, or is it?

    It starts, “Consequemment faut-il pas,” followed by something to do.

    Now, if that were “Consequemment ne faut-il pas”, I’d know it would be translated as “Isn’t it, then, necessary to do that something?”.

    Is the correct translation here however, “Is it, then, a necessary step to do that something?”

    Were they dropping the ne in writing way back in 1620? Or is this really a positive question?

    Reply
  3. Why do some sentences change totally as in
    1.’Y a-t-u toujours des gens au marché'(use ne….plus)
    Ans:non,il n’y a plus de gens au marché.
    Can someone please explain it for me???

    Reply
    • From what it looks like this is an inverted question and the answer is written in the proper form using “ne… plus” which translates to neither or not… either.

      Reply

Leave a Comment