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Negatives — Use and formation

A variety of constructions are used to negate statements, the most common of which are ne… pas, ne… plus, ne… rien, ne… personne, ne… jamais, ne… aucun, ne… que, ne… ni… ni…, ne… nulle part. In most ordinary constructions, the negative elements surround the verb (or, in compound tenses, the active part of the verb, the auxiliary):

Je ne sais pas ce que tu veux. (I don’t know what you want.)
Elle ne veut plus lui parler. (She doesn’t want to speak to him anymore.)
Il n’a rien fait d’intéressant. (He didn’t do anything interesting.)
Nous n’avions jamais vu ce film. (We had never seen this film.)

However, the negative terms aucun, que, ni… ni… will precede the object or objects they are negating, which may or may not immediately follow the verb; nulle part generally appears at the end of a phrase or sentence:

Il n’a lu aucun des livres du cours. (He didn’t read a single one of the books for the course.)
L’agent n’a raconté que ce qu’il a vu. (The officer only recounted what he saw.)
Le client n’a voulu prendre ni thé ni café. (The customer wanted neither tea nor coffee.)
Elle ne voulait aller nulle part. (She didn’t want to go anywhere.)

Moreover, rien and personne can be used as grammatical subjects (always neuter, so there will be no agreement):

Personne n’est venu à la fête. (Nobody came to the party.)
Rien ne s’est passé pendant votre absence. (Nothing happened while you were away.)

Negatives of constructions with preceding object pronouns (direct object, indirect object, reflexive pronouns) will surround the pronoun(s) and the verb:

Elle ne s’ennuie jamais. (She never gets bored.)
Ne me parlez plus! (Don’t speak to me any more!)
Je ne le lui ai jamais dit. (I never told it to him.)

Negatives in interrogative inversions will surround the verb, the subject pronoun, and any object pronouns:

Ne voulez-vous pas jouer au foot? (Don’t you want to play soccer?)
N’as-tu jamais visité un pays étranger? (Haven’t you ever visited a foreign country?)
Ne l’avez-vous pas vu? (Haven’t you seen it?)

French allows for some double negative constructions:

On ne parle jamais aucune langue parfaitement. (One never speaks any language perfectly.)
Il ne veut plus jamais le refaire. (He never wants to do it again.)

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