French Double Negatives - Négation Double

How to Use Double Negatives in French

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Grammarians insist that two negatives make a positive. While this may be true in English, in French two negatives usually make a stronger negative. Double negation is very common in French, particularly informal French. However, there are some rules and regulations when using double negatives in French.

Double Negation With N e... Pas

When ne... pas is used in a double negative with rien, it negates rien so that the meaning is "not nothing":

Ce n'est pas rien.

It's not nothing > It's something.

Ne... pas cannot be used with aucun, jamais, or personne.

Wrong: Je n'ai pas aucun ami.
Right: Je n'ai aucun ami.
I have no friends.

Wrong: Je ne veux pas jamais grandir.
Right: Je ne veux jamais grandir.
I never want to grow up.

Wrong: Je n'ai pas vu personne.
Right: Je n'ai vu personne.
I didn't see anyone.

Double Negation With​ ​Ne... Jamais and Ne... Plus

Jamais and plus can be used with one another and with the negative words aucun, personne, and rien.

On ne voit jamais aucune perfection.
One never sees any perfection.
Literally, One never sees no perfection.

Je n'ai jamais blessé personne.
I have never hurt anyone.
Literally, I have never hurt no one.

Je n'ai jamais rien volé.
I have never stolen anything.
Literally, I have never stolen nothing.

Je n'ai plus aucun argent.
I don't have any money any more.
Literally, I don't have no money any more.

Je ne peux plus jamais lui parler.

I can never talk to him again.
Literally, I can't never talk to him again.

Je ne vois plus personne.
I don't see anyone any more.
Literally, I don't see no one any more.

Ne... Pas Que

Ne... pas que is a special case. The negative adverb ne... que means "only," so ne... pas que means "not only":

Il n'y avait que des hommes.

There were only men.
Il n'y avait pas que des hommes.
There weren't only men.

Je ne regrette qu'une chose.
I regret only one thing.
Je ne regrette pas qu'une chose.
I don't regret only one thing.

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Lawless, Laura K. "French Double Negatives - Négation Double." ThoughtCo, Feb. 23, 2017, Lawless, Laura K. (2017, February 23). French Double Negatives - Négation Double. Retrieved from Lawless, Laura K. "French Double Negatives - Négation Double." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 22, 2018).