Un, une become de or d' in negative sentences (indefinite articles)

You've already seen how to use indefinite articles un or une to express a/an (see Using un, une to say "a" (indefinite articles))


Now look at these negative sentences:

Il a une voiture. - Non, il n'a pas de voiture!
He has a car. - No he doesn't have a car!

Tu as un animal familier? - Non je n'ai pas d'animal familier.
Do you have a pet? - No, I don't have a pet.

J'ai un frère mais je n'ai pas de soeur!
I have a brother, but I don't have a sister.

Indefinite articles un and une become de or d' (in front of a vowel or mute h) after a negative expression (ne...pas / ne...jamais / ne...plus ... etc.) in order to express no / any.

ATTENTION: 

This rule does NOT apply to sentences using the verb être and other Verbes d'état, with which the indefinite article doesn't change:

Je ne suis pas une menteuse !
I'm not a liar!

Mon chien n'est pas un labrador.
My dog is not a Labrador.

Il reste un ami loyal. - Non, il ne reste pas un ami loyal !
He remains a loyal friend. - No, he doesn't remain a loyal friend!

Elle est devenue une excellente danseuse. - Non, elle n'est pas devenue une excellente danseuse !
She became a great dancer. - No, she didn't become a great dancer!


EXCEPTION:
 

When you want to emphasise the meaning of ONE (un/une) - not just a/an - as in He doesn't have ONE car, but TWO, you will keep un/une in the negative sentence - but here it doesn't mean no/any:

Ils n'ont pas une maison, mais deux !
They don't have ONE house, but TWO!

Also see Du, de la, de l', des all become de or d' in negative sentences (partitive articles) 

Note that definite articles (le, la, l', les) don't change in negative sentences: 
J'aime le chocolat. -> Je n'aime pas le chocolat.

 

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Ils n'ont pas une maison, mais deux !
They don't have ONE house, but TWO!


Il a une voiture. - Non, il n'a pas de voiture!
He has a car. - No he doesn't have a car!


Je ne suis pas une menteuse !
I'm not a liar!


Mon chien n'est pas un labrador.
My dog is not a Labrador.


Elle est devenue une excellente danseuse. - Non, elle n'est pas devenue une excellente danseuse !
She became a great dancer. - No, she didn't become a great dancer!


J'ai un frère mais je n'ai pas de soeur!
I have a brother, but I don't have a sister.


Il reste un ami loyal. - Non, il ne reste pas un ami loyal !
He remains a loyal friend. - No, he doesn't remain a loyal friend!


Tu as un animal familier? - Non je n'ai pas d'animal familier.
Do you have a pet? - No, I don't have a pet.


Q&A Forum 11 questions, 20 answers

TyraA1Kwiziq community member

une vs de soeur

how come it's incorrect to write "je n'ai pas une soeur" as opposed to "de soeur"?

Asked 1 month ago
ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

The question "how come" is always tempting to ask and often difficult to answer, simply because languages aren't math and don't always follow the rules of logic.

In this case, it may help that English, too, doesn't use the definite article after negations. If someone asks you, "Do you have a sister?" you answer with, "No, I don't have a sister," and not "No I don't have one sister". In French it is similar.

une vs de soeur

how come it's incorrect to write "je n'ai pas une soeur" as opposed to "de soeur"?

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JoA0Kwiziq community member

J'ai lu un livre -> je n'ai pas lu de livre? J'ai fait du ski -> Je n'ai pas fait du ski?

Asked 10 months ago
ChinaA0Kwiziq community member

Je ne fais pas du ski

J'ai lu un livre -> je n'ai pas lu de livre? J'ai fait du ski -> Je n'ai pas fait du ski?

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OluA1Kwiziq community member

For example with the verb manger. Je mange une pomme, Does it become "je ne mange pas *une* pomme or *de* pomme?

Asked 1 year ago
BarbaraC1Kwiziq community member
It changes in the negative to -> Je ne mange pas de pomme. 

For example with the verb manger. Je mange une pomme, Does it become "je ne mange pas *une* pomme or *de* pomme?

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OluA1Kwiziq community member

I obseved that change of the indefinite article to de/d' is in sentences with the verb Avoir. With the exception of Etre does it apply to other verbs?

Asked 1 year ago

I obseved that change of the indefinite article to de/d' is in sentences with the verb Avoir. With the exception of Etre does it apply to other verbs?

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LindaC1Kwiziq community member

Which is correct "du" or "de" in the sentence "Je ne fais pas ____ cheval.

Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi Linda, 

it is - "Je ne fais pas du cheval" for 'I don't ride horses' i.e. 'I can't ride'.

You might say "Je ne fais pas de cheval aujourd'hui" for I won't ride today.

So a bit trickier than first thought...

GwenB2Kwiziq community member
I don't understand, aren't we suppose to use de in "Je ne fais pas de cheval" since it's negative? It is because faire is irregular?
PhilipA1Kwiziq community member

du

Which is correct "du" or "de" in the sentence "Je ne fais pas ____ cheval.

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LindaC1Kwiziq community member

Which is correct "de la" or "de" in the sentence "Je ne joue pas ___ guitare."

Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi Linda.

It is- "Je ne joue pas de la guitare" as the the expression is 'jouer de la guitare'.

PhilipA1Kwiziq community member

de la

Which is correct "de la" or "de" in the sentence "Je ne joue pas ___ guitare."

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RobertA2Kwiziq community member

After ne...pas, is des ever used ?

Asked 1 year ago
AlanC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Yes, after être or other verbes d'état (there's a link to the full list in the lesson).

For example:

"Ce ne sont pas des choses aisées à dire" - "these are not easy things to say"

 

RobertA2Kwiziq community member
Except for être and other verbs of state, is des used after ne ... pas ?  
AlanC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

It's also used in some figurative expressions:

"ça ne casse pas des briques"

"les chiens ne font pas des chats"


I'm not sure why "de" is not used in these examples.
PhilipA1Kwiziq community member

no

After ne...pas, is des ever used ?

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William C1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Verbs other than être

Your exercise mentions that être does not use this construction with negative statements. Are there any other verbs that don't use it?
Asked 1 year ago
GruffKwiziq team memberCorrect answer
Hi William - yes as the note explains, it's all the verbs of state. There's a link to a list of them, but case you missed it these are the French verbs of state.

Verbs other than être

Your exercise mentions that être does not use this construction with negative statements. Are there any other verbs that don't use it?

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MaxA1Kwiziq community member

English grammr? Better written as "He has a brother, he doesn't have a sister."

I think the translation would be better as "He has a sister, he doesn't have a brother."
Asked 2 years ago
AurélieKwiziq team member
Bonjour Max ! I absolutely agree with you, and thanks to you, this question has now been fixed ! Merci beaucoup et à bientôt !

English grammr? Better written as "He has a brother, he doesn't have a sister."

I think the translation would be better as "He has a sister, he doesn't have a brother."

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MelvinA2Kwiziq community member

Salut,

If the verb of a negative sentence is être, would it still be possible to change un / une to de / d'? Merci beaucoup. ^^
Asked 3 years ago
AurélieKwiziq team memberCorrect answer
Bonjour Melvin, No, just like with partitive articles, this rule doesn't apply to complements following the verb "être". Thanks to you, I've now added a note to the lesson :) Merci et à bientôt !
MelvinA2Kwiziq community member
Merci beaucoup ! :)

Salut,

If the verb of a negative sentence is être, would it still be possible to change un / une to de / d'? Merci beaucoup. ^^

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DianeB2Kwiziq community member

How would you say, "He does not have one car. He has two."?

Il n'a pas une voiture. Il en a deux.
Asked 3 years ago
AurélieKwiziq team member

Bonjour Diane,

If you wanted to emphasise the number of cars he has, you could indeed say:
"Il n'a pas une voiture. Il en a deux.",
and even more colloquially, you could say:
"Il n'a pas une voiture, mais deux !"

Thank you for pointing out that case, we added this distinction to the existing lesson:
https://kwiziq.learnfrenchwithalexa.com/revision/grammar/un-and-une-become-de-or-d-in-negative-sentences-indefinite-article

Merci et à bientôt !

Ly fenC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
Bonjour, Peut-on dire : "Il n'a pas seulement une voiture, mais deux." Merci d'avance.
ShantiA1Kwiziq community member
Il n'a que une voiture mais deux
ShantiA1Kwiziq community member
Correction Il n'a qu'une voiture, mais deux

How would you say, "He does not have one car. He has two."?

Il n'a pas une voiture. Il en a deux.

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