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FR: il ne faut pas / il faut ne pas + infinitif

Discussion in 'French and English Grammar / Grammaire française et anglaise' started by remosfan, Jun 26, 2005.

  1. remosfan Senior Member

    Canada, English
    Hi,

    Hopefully someone can help me with this. In French does a sentence like "Il ne faut pas le dire" mean "It is necessary to not say it" or "It is not necessary to say it"?

    I always thought it was the latter, but I'm reading something here and the context really suggests the former. Could someone clear this up.
     
  2. Markus

    Markus Senior Member

    Paris, France
    Canada - English
    Hi remosfan, it is the former (It is necessary to not say it). If you wanted the latter, you could say "Ce n'est pas nécessaire de le dire" (I hope this phrase is correct, please correct if not). I had this confusion at one point as well! It is the same as "Je ne dois pas..", i.e., it means "I must not...", not "I don't have to..."
     
  3. remosfan Senior Member

    Canada, English
    Thanks Markus, that clears things up. And thanks for the head up about "Je ne dois pas", which I would've read wrong as well. What happened to French being the logical language par excellence? :D

    There's nothing wrong with you phrase that I can see -- the only thing is I can hear my teacher saying "You say ce but write il."
     
  4. Benjy

    Benjy Senior Member

    Milton Keynes, UK
    English - English
    je vois rien d'illogique à ça?
     
  5. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    England
    English (England)
    Hi Markus

    I'm a bit confused by your answer here. The original question is about which part of the sentence is negative eg "it is not necessary to say it" or "it is necessary to not say it". You say "il ne faut pas le dire" means "it is necessary to not say it". I don't think that's true, but I'm not a native speaker so I'm not 100% certain. I would have thought this would be, using falloir, Il faut ne pas le dire.

    Then you speak about this being the same thing as "je ne dois pas" meaning "I must not" instead of "I don't have to", which I agree with but is a totally different issue.

    What I think you mean is that the first part of the sentence is the negative bit, but that the word to use in English is "must" rather than "be necessary" eg "I/you/he must not say it", which I would agree with.

    Can anyone else cast their vote? How would you translate "il ne faut pas le dire" into English?
     
  6. Benjy

    Benjy Senior Member

    Milton Keynes, UK
    English - English
    one must not say it or you mustn't say it.

    thats my take :)
     
  7. remosfan Senior Member

    Canada, English
    It's "illogical" because if it's falloir that's being negated, the result should be a negation of the necessity not the necessity of the negation (if that's clear). English "must" is illogical in this sense too.
     
  8. Benjy

    Benjy Senior Member

    Milton Keynes, UK
    English - English
    it still seems logical to me lol. i guess i'm weird :eek:
     
  9. remosfan Senior Member

    Canada, English
    Hi timpeac, just to jump in.

    Don't "It is necessary to not say it" and "You must not say it" mean the same thing? Or at least, can't they under the right circumstances?

    Basically my original question, like you pointed out, had to with whether falloir acts like "must" or like "it is necessary" with respect to negation. And it seems the answer is that "Il ne faut pas le dire" = "Il faut ne pas le dire" = "You must not say it". Is that right?
     
  10. OlivierG

    OlivierG Senior Member

    Toulouse, France
    France / Français
    I understand what remosfan means.
    "falloir le dire" means it absolutely has to be said
    In Boolean arithmetic :
    NOT "falloir le dire" = it has not absolutely to be said, i.e. it is not absolutely necessary to say.
    The logical way to write "it must not be said" should then be "il faut ne pas le dire". This form is not used in French.
     
  11. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    England
    English (England)
    Yes they can. It's quite hard to use the right vocab just to highlight where the negation should fall. I didn't appreciate that it was impossible to say "il faut ne pas le dire" in French in the same way you could say "il faut se taire". I'm still slightly surprised, but more than happy to bow to the opinion of others on this, since I've never been aware of this as an issue before.

    Olivier - is it potentially ambiguous, then, can "Il ne faut pas le dire" mean "It is necessary to not say it" or "you must not say it"?
     
  12. Markus

    Markus Senior Member

    Paris, France
    Canada - English
    remosfan, I agree that it seems very illogical as well which is why I was surprised when I learned it. OlivierG, just to clarify, is it correct that "il ne faut pas le dire" translates to "it is necessary not to say it", i.e. "You must not say it"? I was taught that it cannot be used as a negation of necessity (i.e. it cannot mean "it's not necessary to say it, but you could if you wanted to", i.e. "You don't have to say it"), but since there seems to be some controversy can we get this clarified? I hate it when I find out something I "know" is incorrect. ;)
     
  13. Icetrance Senior Member

    US English
    It is interesting to note that the construction "il ne faut pas" does not always mean "one must not."

    If one places the the adverb "nécessairement" after this construction, the meaning changes.

    Example: Il ne faut pas nécessairement être intelligent pour y travailler.

    Translation: You don't (necessarily) have to be intelligent to work there.

    Il ne faut pas appeler ta mère? = Don't you have to call your mother?

    It doesn't mean "Isn't it necessary that you don't call your mother"?

    It's not always the case then that "il ne faut pas..." means "one must not..."
     
  14. wster Senior Member

    Somewhere in Grevisse
    American and Canadian English
    What is the difference between il ne faut pas.. and il faut ne pas...?

    In English, we distinguish between it is not necessary to eat and it is necessary to not eat, but in French, it doesn't seem to work the same way.

    Can somebody clear this up for me?

    Thanks in advance.
     
  15. CapnPrep Senior Member

    France
    AmE
    You are correct, Il ne faut pas X usually means, in fact, Il faut ne pas X or Il faut que « pas X ».
     
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2011
  16. wster Senior Member

    Somewhere in Grevisse
    American and Canadian English
    Thanks. So one can say both and they mean the same thing? (Provided we don't include any modifiers like nécessairement.)
     
  17. CapnPrep Senior Member

    France
    AmE
    The normal way to say it is with the negation around faut: Il ne faut pas manger. You can say Il faut ne pas manger, but it sounds unnatural, so I would recommend avoiding it in most situations.
     
  18. wster Senior Member

    Somewhere in Grevisse
    American and Canadian English
    Thanks so much. Was reading Grevisse all day, but figured I'd bother you to get an answer to this. ;)
     
  19. Maître Capello

    Maître Capello Mod et ratures

    Suisse romande
    French – Switzerland
    Saying il faut ne pas adds some emphasis to the negation. It stresses it as a command. But, I agree, the second sentence below would sound odd in most contexts.

    Il ne faut pas manger. = You must not eat. / You don't have to eat. / You don't need to eat.
    Il faut ne pas manger. = You have to not eat.

    On the other hand, there are cases where I would definitely say, il faut ne pas, never il ne faut pas, e.g.:

    Il faut ne pas être intelligent pour échouer à ce test. = You have to be unintelligent to fail this test.

    which by the way means more or less the same as:

    Il ne faut pas être intelligent pour réussir ce test. = You don't need to be intelligent to pass this test.

     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2012
  20. NKOS

    NKOS Junior Member

    Mumbai, India
    English & Hindi
    If I'm not mistaken, and do correct me if I'm wrong, in French 'ne pas' don't occur together, it's always 'ne ... pas'
     
  21. Oddmania

    Oddmania Senior Member

    France
    French
    Not in the situations Maître Capello discussed! :)

    Le vase ne peut pas être rouge : the vase can't be red (it's not possible).
    Le vase peut ne pas être rouge : the vase may not be red (it doesn't have to be red, it's not compulsory. It can be blue for instance).
     
  22. undergreenwoodtree Senior Member

    England
    English-England
    Ok, so in the words of Maître Capello, "Il ne faut pas manger" means 1) It is necessary not to eat (i.e. Don't eat!) but also 2) It's not necessary to eat (i.e. You don't need/have to eat). Interesting...because the two things ain English are very different from each other
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2012
  23. NKOS

    NKOS Junior Member

    Mumbai, India
    English & Hindi
    That's odd because 'You must not eat' is very very different from 'You don't need to eat' and they can't have the same 'Il ne faut pas manger'
     
  24. CapnPrep Senior Member

    France
    AmE
    Of course they can. Every language has ambiguous structures (and they are not necessarily the same from one language to the next). However, as explained in the previous messages of this thread, the more natural interpretation of Il ne faut pas manger is "You must not eat". In order to express "You don't need to eat", one would normally add a modifier (like nécessairement, forcément) or choose a different verb altogether (again, see above).
     
  25. undergreenwoodtree Senior Member

    England
    English-England
    Exactly, that's what I thought. However, it is very explicit in the words of Maître Capello and I'm sure it stands. It would just be safer to use a different verb.
     

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