Ne explétif

French expletive 'ne'

In French, 'ne' is sometimes used alone before a verb and has no negative meaning. In these contexts, it is used to emphasise the negative aspect of what came before it. Nowadays, the expletive 'ne' is only found in formal, written styles; in less formal styles, including spoken French, the 'ne' tends to be dropped.

The ne explétif is used in formal/written French in three places:

  • In dependent clauses following verbs that express fear, prevention or doubt; the dependent verb is always in the subjunctive:
    • Elle craint que je ne vienne. - She is worred that I'm coming.
    • On l'a fait pour éviter qu'il n'ait froid. - We did it to prevent him getting cold.
    • Vous ne doutez pas qu'ils ne soient intelligents. - You don't doubt that they're intelligent.
  • After certain conjunctions including à moins que, avant quede crainte que and de peur que, which also take a verb in the subjunctive:
    • Je le ferai à moins que tu ne viennes. - I'll do it unless you come.
  • In dependent clauses following a comparative construction:
    • Cette voiture est moins chère qu'elle n'était il y a trois mois. - This car is less expensive than it was three months ago.

In spoken French, you are more likely to hear:

  • Elle craint que je vienne.
  • Je le ferai à moins que tu viennes.

 

Find your French level for FREE

Test your French to the CEFR standard

Find your French level >>

Why not share the love?!

Thinking...