Informal French Negation: 'Pas' Without 'Ne'

Although 'ne' is written, it's often dropped in informal spoken French.

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French negation can be tricky. Normally, to make a statement negative you need to surround the conjugated verb with the formal French negative adverb ne...pas. However, if you've ever watched French movies or television, or chatted with native speakers, you have almost certainly heard pas (or another negative adverb) used without ne, because this is a typical construction, characteristic of informal and familiar French.

Although the full express (ne...pas) is nearly always written out, the ne is often dropped in spoken French. But you should be able to construct a sentence, in most cases, using the full ne...pas that means the same thing. Pas without ne can be used to negate adjectives, adverbs, nouns, pronouns, and verbs.  

Purists will tell you that using pas without ne is wrong (and they tell me I shouldn't teach it), but the reality is that this is how the French speak now. So if your goal is to sound more French, that's how you should speak, too.

Informal Negative Statements Without 'Ne'

  • Je ne sais pas. > Je sais pas. Or even: J'sais pasSais pas, and Chais pas (pronounced Shai pah). (I don't know.) 
  • Il ne va pas venir. > Il va pas venir. (He isn't going to come.)
  • Elle n'est pas encore arrivée. > Elle est pas encore arrivée. (She hasn't arrived yet.)
  • Ne bouge pas ! > Bouge pas ! (Don't move!)
  • Il ne faut pas faire ça ! > Il faut pas faire ça. (You shouldn't do that!
    Note: It's not just ne...pas constructions where speakers drop the ne; they do as well with all the other negative structures.

  • Je n'ai plus d'argent > J'ai plus d'argent. (I don't have any more money.)
  • Nous ne le voyons jamais > Nous le voyons jamais. (We never see him.)
  • Je n'ai aucune idée > J'ai aucune idée. (I have no idea.)
  • Je n'en sais rien > J'en sais rien. (I don't know anything about it.)
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Lawless, Laura K. "Informal French Negation: 'Pas' Without 'Ne'." ThoughtCo, Aug. 25, 2017, thoughtco.com/informal-french-negation-1368883. Lawless, Laura K. (2017, August 25). Informal French Negation: 'Pas' Without 'Ne'. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/informal-french-negation-1368883 Lawless, Laura K. "Informal French Negation: 'Pas' Without 'Ne'." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/informal-french-negation-1368883 (accessed January 16, 2018).