French Negative Adjectives

Adjectifs négatifs

French negative adjectives, sometimes called indefinite negative adjectives, are very similar to French negative pronouns and negative adverbs, in that they are made up of two parts which surround the verb.

Negative adjectives negate, refuse, or cast doubt on a quality of the noun they modify.

   Je n'ai aucune confiance en elle.
   I don't have any confidence in her.

   Il ne connaît pas un seul écrivain.

   He doesn't know a single writer.

   Pas une décision n'a été prise.
   No decision has been made.

You can see the French negative adjectives in the table below. They all mean more or less the same thing, but pas un and pas un seul are used only for countable nouns (people, trees, etc.), nul is only for collective nouns (money, confidence, etc.), and aucun can be used for both countable and collective nouns.

Like all adjectives, negative adjectives must agree in gender and number with the nouns that they modify. When a negative adjective modifies the subject of the sentence, the verb must be conjugated in the third person singular.

   Pas une seule femme ne le sait.
   Not a single woman knows it.

   Aucune femme ne le veut.
   No woman wants it.

   Aucun argent n'a été retrouvé.
   No money was found.

Note: In the negative adverb lesson, I mention that when there is an indefinite article in a negative construction, it changes to de, meaning "(not) any." In the case of the negative adjective pas un, this does not happen, and there is a slight difference in nuance:

   Je n'ai pas de pomme.

   I don't have any apples. (general statement)

   Je n'ai pas une pomme.
   I have no apples/I don't have a single apple. (stresses the negative)

The word order for negative adjectives is different than for other negative words. With compound verbs and dual-verb constructions, most negative pronouns and adverbs surround the conjugated verb, but the second part of negative adjectives follows it.

   Je n'ai vu aucune voiture.
   I did not see any cars.

   Il n'a montré aucune éloquence.
   He didn't show any eloquence.

Test on negative adjectives

French negative adjectives

ne... aucun(e)no, not any
ne... nul(le)no, not any
ne... pas un(e)no, not one
ne... pas un(e) seul(e)   not a single