Negative sentences in French

On this page, we'll look at how to form negative sentences in French where a "total negation" is being expressed. That is, the equivalent of sentences in English with n't: I won't..., I don't..., I didn't... etc.

Saying don't..., doesn't... in the present tense

The basic way to form a negative sentence in French is as follows:

Put the word ne before the verb and pas after the verb.

We'll see various complications later, but here are some examples with the present tense:

je ne parle pas anglais
I don't speak English
il ne travaille pas le samedi
he doesn't work on Saturdays
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If the verb begins with a vowel, then ne shortens to n':

je n'aime pas les frites
I don't like chips
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Practise the negative

You can practise some simple negative sentences below. We'll use the following verbs and expressions:

travailler le lundi (etc)
to work on Mondays (etc)
regarder la télé
to watch TV
écouter la radio
to listen to the radio
parler anglais/français/allemand/espagnol
to speak English/French/German/Spanish
aimer le café/le chocolat
to like coffee/chocolate
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To form the negative sentences using these expressions, you need to put ne...pas round the verb as indicated, plus make sure you get the correct form depending on the person. All of the verbs used are regular. If you prefer, you may want to revise the present tense of -er verbs first.

The negative of the perfect tense

On the next page, we look at how to say I didn't..., she hasn't ...-ed etc, using the negative of the perfect tense.

Other negatives: using ne...jamais to say "never"

There are other similar constructions to ne...pas used to form other types of negative sentences:

  • the ne...jamais construction is used to say never in French.
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This page written by Neil Coffey. Copyright © Javamex UK 2014. All rights reserved.