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FR: Il n'est personne qui ne sçache ce que c'est que le vol

Discussion in 'French and English Grammar / Grammaire française et anglaise' started by romaryka, Feb 3, 2013.

  1. romaryka Junior Member

    English
    Along similar lines but in older French, years ago in my research I came across this sentence :

    "Il n'est personne qui ne sçache ce que c'est que le vol."

    Now I am having a doubt. For years I have translated this as "There isn't anybody who does not know what theft is." But is that a negative "ne" before "sçache" or a pleonastic "ne" which leaves the sentence in the (weirdly) affirmative?? In the second case, it would mean exactly the opposite : "Nobody knows what theft is."

    Help ! And … merci !
     
  2. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    In older French, the "ne" provides the negation. So you end up with a pretty typical French double-negative sentence: "Nobody doesn't know what theft is" = "Nobody could possibly be ignorant of what constitutes theft" = "Everybody knows what theft is."

    But you would be able to figure this out from context, right?
     
  3. Maître Capello

    Maître Capello Mod et ratures

    Suisse romande
    French – Switzerland
    Also, since the negation in older French was contained exclusively in the ne, the other half of today's negation (here: personne) was positive. In other words, your initial translation is perfect! :)

    Il n'est personne qui ne sçache ce que c'est que le vol.
    There isn't anybody who does not know what theft is.
     

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