Using double and multiple negatives (negation)

Whilst it's considered bad English to use double negatives, in French double negatives are the correct form in some combinations.


Look at these cases:

Je n'ai jamais rien dit!
I never said anything! / I didn't say anything, ever!

Vous n'avez rien dit à personne
You didn't say anything to anyone

Nous ne faisons jamais rien
We never do anything

On ne va jamais nulle part!
We never go anywhere!

Note that you can mix  jamais, rien, personne and nulle part (never, nothing, no one, nowhere) with each other.

Note: jamais always comes before rien, personne or nulle part.

You can also use any of those with ne ... plus (not anymore / not again):
plus jamais / jamais plus
but ONLY 
plus rien
plus personne

plus nulle part

Je ne ferai plus jamais ça!
Je ne ferai jamais plus ça!

I will never do that again!

Je ne reconnais plus personne.
I don't recognise anyone any more.

Ils ne mangent plus rien.
They don't eat anything anymore.

Vous n'allez plus nulle part.
You don't go anywhere anymore.

 

ATTENTION: 

You CANNOT mix ne... pas/guère/point (not, hardly, at all) with rien, jamais, personne or nulle part.

 

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Vous n'allez plus nulle part.
You don't go anywhere anymore.


Nous ne faisons jamais rien
We never do anything


Ils ne mangent plus rien.
They don't eat anything anymore.


Je n'ai jamais rien dit!
I never said anything! / I didn't say anything, ever!


On ne va jamais nulle part!
We never go anywhere!


Je ne ferai plus jamais ça!
Je ne ferai jamais plus ça!

I will never do that again!



Je ne reconnais plus personne.
I don't recognise anyone any more.


Vous n'avez rien dit à personne
You didn't say anything to anyone


Q&A

Paul

Kwiziq community member

23 May 2018

1 reply

Double negatives in English

I don't think that double negatives are bad English, but they should be avoided if they create ambiguity and unnecessary complexity. But "He couldn't not talk to me" conveys different information from "He could talk to me."

Chris

Kwiziq community member

24 May 2018

24/05/18

Hi Paul,


I think calling the lesson you refer to as dealing with "double negatives" is misleading. What's being discussed are two negations but of different things. For example:


I never said anything. -- This is a negation of time (never) and object (anything) following each other. In this case, they don't cancel and are stylistically perfectly OK in English because they negate different things.


Therefore, strictly speaking, the lesson does NOT deal with double negatives.


-- Chris.

helen

Kwiziq community member

16 December 2017

2 replies

I never want to go there again

Is this correct: "Je ne veux plus jamais y aller"? Or is it: Je ne veux jamais y aller plus"

Gruff

Kwiziq language super star

16 December 2017

16/12/17

Hi Helen, the first is correct but not the second.
You could also say, "Je ne veux jamais plus y aller" (i.e. you can put jamais before plus, unlike most other negatives which must go after it).

helen

Kwiziq community member

16 December 2017

16/12/17

Thanks a ton! I was asking an 8th grade French teacher this and we couldn't figure it out! You are most helpful.

Andy

Kwiziq community member

26 February 2017

3 replies

Il ne me restera plus qu’à prendre mon sac.

Could you help with this sentence please? I'm genuinely confused as to whether this sentence is another example of a double negative (no longer, only) or is just a conjunctional phrase: All (that) I'll have left to do will be to grab my bag. Or is even a conjunctional phrase using double negatives!!?? Help greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Ron

Kwiziq community member

10 April 2017

10/04/17

For me this sentence seems awkward. Il ne me restera qu'à prendre mon sac, should translate: all I will have left to do is take my bag. ne. . . . .que = only which is a fairly common phrase in French.
From the lesson: You can also use any of those with ne ... plus (not anymore): plus jamais OR jamais plus, but ONLY plus rien, plus personne, plus nulle part.

Andy

Kwiziq community member

10 April 2017

10/04/17

Yes I must say that I agree the sentence would be a lot more straight forward if 'plus' were omitted. However in the writing test in which I first saw this sentence (Week 21 - B1 I believe) it was present, which is exactly what prompted my question.

I'm aware of the double negative combinations presented in the associated lesson, but unfortunately that lesson didn't offer any guideline at all on the use of ne...que with a second negative, or even if such a construction were possible. Had that information been provided I sure I wouldn't have need of further clarification.

Forgive me but this question had remained unanswered for almost two months so I'd mostly given up on a response. Thank you.

Ron

Kwiziq community member

10 April 2017

10/04/17

Pas de problème ! Je ne me joins qu'il y a 4 jours et je ne fais pas partie de l’équipe du site. J'ai vu que ce qu'il y a eu un peu de questions sans une réponse. Alors. . .

Bonne chance.

Joakim

Kwiziq community member

30 October 2016

1 reply

Placement of verb

In the examples, 'dire' goes after the two negations while 'faire' and 'aller' goes before them. What's the rule here?

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

2 November 2016

2/11/16

Bonjour Joakim !

Here it's not about the verbs, but about the tenses they're conjugated at.
Indeed, "dire" is in Le Passé Composé, so the second part of the negation is between the auxiliary and the past participle, whereas with simple tenses, it's just after the conjugated verb.

You can have a look at these related lessons:
https://kwiziq.learnfrenchwithalexa.com/revision/grammar/how-to-use-ne-pas-with-compound-tenses-negation
https://kwiziq.learnfrenchwithalexa.com/revision/grammar/how-to-use-ne-pas-not-with-simple-tenses-negation

I hope that's helpful!
À bientôt !

Jacob

Kwiziq community member

11 March 2016

1 reply

How many negatives can you fit (grammaticaly) into a French sentence?

Laura

Kwiziq language super star

13 March 2016

13/03/16

Interesting question. I'm going to say four:

Je n'y ai jamais plus rencontré personne avec aucun accent.

I've never again met anyone there with no accent.

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