Expressing Quantity in French - Zero, None, Not Any - Pas De

Je Ne Veux Pas De Gâteau, Merci !

It's all gone!
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There's a lot to keep in mind when expressing quantities in French. We have studied how to express unspecific quantities, du, de la, de l', des, then how to express specific quantities, numbers and expressions of quantity, so now for the last part: when there is nothing, zero, zip, not any!

1 - The Quantity Is None

Aha! I bet you didn't think about that one! Well, zero is also a quantity. Which means when you say "I don't have money" (join the club), you are using a quantity.

You could be saying "I don't have any money", but the "any" is often left out in everyday speech. 

So, if you wanted to actually say "zero", well that's easy, it's a number:

- j'ai zéro chat (I have zero cat).

But where it gets complicated is when you use a negative. "I don't have (any) cat". 

In French, we'd say something like "I don't have none of cat". Please, don't think of it this way, because you'd never say that in English, so translating doesn't work. I am just saying it to explain, but it's more logical to think of it as "pas" being a quantity, therefore followed by "de/d'" in French.

  • Je n'ai pas de chat. (I don't have any cat)
  • Je n'ai pas de fille. (I don't have a daughter)
  • Je n'ai pas de lait. (I don't have milk)
  • Je n'ai pas d'enfants (I don't have children)

And of course, there is a main exception. This rule doesn't apply when your verb is "être" (to be). So with "être" in the negative, you say the same thing as in the affirmative.

  • Je suis une fille. Je ne suis pas une fille. (I am a girl. I am not a girl).

2 - Adjectives of Quantity Are Not Followed by "De/d'"

"Aucun/e/s" and "plusieur/s" are adjectives. They don't need an article.

  • J'ai plusieurs chats - I have several cats.
  • Je n'ai aucun ami - I have no friend, I don't have a single friend, I don't have any friend..

    3 - To Recap

    Some things are easy to quantify: one apple. It’s a whole apple. You usually buy, eat, need one, 2, 3 apples. But you may decide to be vague, and say “des pommes” = more than one, but I don’t know exactly how many.

    Now, some things are less easily quantifiable… You don’t buy “one rice”. You buy either “one kilo of rice” (a kilo of, an expression of quantity), or “some rice” (unspecific quantity of an item which is not easily quantifiable).

    So you need to ask yourself: "Am I talking about..."

    • A very specific quantity (a number, or an expression of quantity : une pomme, 5 pommes, un kilo de pommes, une bouteille d'eau…).
    • An unspecified quantity of an item (du vin), or an unspecified quantity of something that you cannot quantify easily (du riz, de la patience)
    • More than one of an item, but a vague plural quantity (des pommes)
    • No item at all (pas de pomme)

    This is a lot to take in. Read these lessons over a couple of times and even read it out-loud so you really take the time to understand and process everything. 

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    Chevalier-Karfis, Camille. "Expressing Quantity in French - Zero, None, Not Any - Pas De." ThoughtCo, Apr. 6, 2017, thoughtco.com/expressing-quantity-in-french-1368979. Chevalier-Karfis, Camille. (2017, April 6). Expressing Quantity in French - Zero, None, Not Any - Pas De. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/expressing-quantity-in-french-1368979 Chevalier-Karfis, Camille. "Expressing Quantity in French - Zero, None, Not Any - Pas De." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/expressing-quantity-in-french-1368979 (accessed May 27, 2018).