Je n'ai dit pas - French Mistake

French mistakes analyzed and explained

Mistakes will always be made in French, and now you can learn from them.

Wrong: Je n'ai dit pas

Right: Je n'ai pas dit

Explanation: French negatives have two parts: ne, which always goes in front of the conjugated verb, and a second part, such as pas, jamais, or personne, which follows the conjugated verb. In simple (one-word) conjugations like the present tense, this is very easy: je dis (I say) becomes je ne dis pas (I don't say) or je ne dis jamais (I never say).

However, in compound (two-word) conjugations like the passé composé, it's the helping verb (either avoir or être) that is conjugated - the main verb is just the past participle. Therefore, the second part of the negation has to follow the helping verb - it's not "je n'ai dit pas," but rather je n'ai pas dit. This is also true for dual-verb constructions: je ne veux pas travailler, not "je ne veux travailler pas."

Related lessons: Negation | Compound conjugations | Dual-verb constructions