FR: Qui ne dit mot consent

Discussion in 'French and English Grammar / Grammaire française et anglaise' started by Welshie, Sep 11, 2005.

  1. Welshie

    Welshie Senior Member

    England, English
    Surely "Qui ne dit aucun mot consent"?

    or even: "Qui ne dit pas un mot consent".

    Where's the rest of the negative?

    As far as I know "ne...mot" is not a negative form ?

    Help please :)
  2. Jean-Michel Carrère Senior Member

    French from France
    What is your question, Welshie ? The wording of the French saying "qui ne dit mot consent" is correct. This saying means that not voicing your objections (to a plan, an idea) implicitly means approving it. The saying is often used to blame someone who objects to a plan or idea a posteriori while he or she didn't object when the plan or idea was first proposed or put forward.
  3. OlivierG

    OlivierG Senior Member

    Toulouse, France
    France / Français
    Proverbs are often not written in modern language.
    Here, "aucun" is implied. It's an outdated way of speaking.
  4. Sev

    Sev Senior Member

    Béziers, France
    France, french.
    No the proverb is "Qui ne dit mot consent". I guess it's because it is a set phrase.

    There are some verbs you can use without "ne" but dire is not amongst them. Have a look HERE.
  5. Welshie

    Welshie Senior Member

    England, English
    I understand what it means, what I mean is why is there no "pas" or "aucun" in the phrase to signify anyone who does NOT say a word?

    If I had been asked to write that phrase I would have said:

    "Qui ne dit aucun/pas un mot consent"

    Why is it like this?


    I am too slow :)

    Thanks guys.
  6. Aupick

    Aupick Senior Member

    Strasbourg, France
    UK, English
    There is no 'pas' or 'aucun' because the other half of the negative in this sentence is... 'mot'! If you read Old French texts you discover that negatives were formed by just using 'ne' with a verb. Nothing else was necessary. Sometimes, however you could add other words to go with it to reinforce the negative:
    Il ne souffla mot = he didn't utter a word
    Il n'avança pas = he didn't move forward a step
    Je ne crois point ceci = I don't believe one iota
    Je ne vis personne = I didn't see a single person

    Some of these got stuck as set phrases, 'pas' above all, which lost its assocation with movement and came to be used with all negatives. Others more or less dropped out, except in formal or archaic expressions. Funnily enough, today it is the 'ne' that gets dropped and the 'pas' is left to bear the burden of making a sentence negative.
  7. OlivierG

    OlivierG Senior Member

    Toulouse, France
    France / Français
    Thanks for this, Aupick! I have learnt something today. :thumbsup:
    More explanation can be found here (in French), in the "Changements sémantiques" paragraph. Very interesting!
  8. cram1993 New Member

    français - Canada
    Hi Welshie,
    My mother tongue is French to begin with, so I can perfectly explain why. The reason why there's no "pas/aucun" is that in French you don't require a complete pair of "ne...pas" to make a negation. You could say: "Je n'ai pu y aller" or "Je n'ai pas pu y aller" which both means "I couldn't go there."
    French was made so that you don't require it. There's no exact reason why it is like that, but it doesn't always work either. Most of the time authors use this way of writing to give there text a higher level of writing.
    Hope my answer helped,
    See you !
  9. Keith Bradford

    Keith Bradford Senior Member

    Brittany, NW France
    English (Midlands UK)
    Not quite, Cram, because pouvoir is a special case.

    In Mediaeval French, there were many possible second halves of the expression ne... xxx such as:

    Ne... pas = not a step
    Ne... point = not a jot
    Ne... personne = not a person, nobody
    Ne... mot = not a word
    Ne... goutte = not a drop
    Ne... rien (from the Latin rem) = not a thing
    Ne... mie = not a crumb
    Ne... mais (from the Latin magis) = no more
    Etc. etc.

    Not all of these have survived, and some only in proverbial expressions.
  10. Giorgio Spizzi Senior Member

    Hullo, Welshie.

    There are quite a few rules governing the structure of negation in French. The discontinuous pattern "ne...pas" is the norm, but there are special cases where "pas" is omitted:
    "Je ne saurais te pardonner" is one.
    Besides, you can find "minimal pairs" of sentences in which the presence/absence of "pas" is responsible for different meanings:
    1. Il ne peut pas parler de ça" vs. "Il ne peut Ø parler de ça"
    2. Elle n'ose pas lui parler" vs. "Elle n'ose pas lui parler".

    All the best.

  11. jann

    jann co-mod'

    English - USA
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 21, 2012
  12. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    français Clodoaldien
    KB is very right.
    Those negations are a wee bit more recent than mediaeval, they date from the Renaissance, when French grammar became codified.
    Each negation was originally linked to a given verb :
    Ne... pas = not a step
    Ne... point = not a jot
    Ne... personne = not a person, nobody
    Ne... mot = not a word
    Ne... goutte = not a drop
    Ne... rien (from the Latin rem) = not a thing
    Ne... mie = not a crumb
    Ne... mais (from the Latin magis) = no more
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 12, 2012
  13. Keith Bradford

    Keith Bradford Senior Member

    Brittany, NW France
    English (Midlands UK)
    My authority (Alfred Ewart, The French Language, Faber 1966) says that "originally ne was used without an accompanying particle, but very early it began to be strengthened by the addition of a substantive or an adverb" (my emphasis). The examples he gives are all from Low Latin or German, so I guess he means the Early Middle Ages, around 600-1000 AD.

    He then goes on to say that pas and point had become accepted as the usual complements to ne by the 15th century, though goutte and mie were still in use in the 17th.

    Some are in occasional use even today of course; did you know that je n'y vois goutte was originally copied from je ne bois goutte - I don't drink a drop :) ?
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2012
  14. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    français Clodoaldien
    Yes, I do, and I was about to post something about this, but the post was deleted (not by me), so I thought that comment must have been off-topic.
    Your comment is citing part of the deleted post.

    Those negations were originally used specifically for a given "daily life" verb and were in fact double negations (je ne marche pas = I don't walk [even] a step/pace etc).
    Likewise, an expression like "qui ne dit mot" = qui ne dit rien (qui ne dit pas un mot). See also post #9 that I had overlooked.
    Ne... pas = not a step marcher
    Ne... point = not a jot voir
    Ne... personne = not a person, nobody etre/avoir etc
    Ne... mot = not a word dire
    Ne... goutte = not a drop boire (later confused/mixed with voir)
    Ne... rien (from the Latin rem) = not a thing all verbs
    Ne... mie = not a crumb manger
    Ne... mais (from the Latin magis) = no more pouvoir
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2012
  15. CapnPrep Senior Member

    At the same time, cram1993 is right, in the sense that all verbs were like pouvoir in earlier stages of French. As you and Aupick have both explained, in ne dit mot, the negation is expressed by ne alone. Mot reinforces the negation, but its primary syntactic function is realizing the direct object of the verb dit. In other words, it corresponds more closely to rien than to pas. It was never possible to say, for example, Il ne dit mot son nom to mean something like Il ne dit pas/point son nom.
    Not earlier than the 12th century for French.
    I know that many people believe this, but there doesn't seem to be any good evidence for it. The usual assumption is that ne boire goutte became ne voir goutte because the verbs sound so similar, but in fact the verbs sounded completely different in Old French (beivre vs. vedeir), except in the 3rd sing. pres. ind. (which is admittedly a frequent form). More problematically, according to Price (1990, 1997), there are no examples of goutte used with boire in any Old French texts. His alternative proposal is that ne voir goutte is a variant of another attested expression, ne voir larme (i.e. "I can't see the tears in my own eyes, it's so dark").
  16. JeanDeSponde

    JeanDeSponde Senior Member

    France, Lyon area
    France, Français
    Goutte dans une négation a des origines très lointaines, remontant au latin qui employait abondamment, tout comme le vieux français, des substantifs de comparaison dans les négations.
    Voir p. ex. cet article d'Alfred Schweighaeuser dans la revue de l'Ecole des Chartes (1852).
    Ce brave Alfred indique que ce qui est maintenant considéré comme un adverbe dans la négation (point, pas) était (est) en fait un substantif de comparaison, et ce depuis le latin.
    Je n'ai goutte d'argent, je ne l'aime goutte, je n'y entends goutte etc.
    Cela semble indiquer une origine plus vaste que la simple larme dans l'oeil : tous les substantifs indiquant une petite quantité ont été mis à contribution (je n'en ai brin).
    Les (très nombreux et très anciens) exemples cité par A.S. sont passionnants à ce titre.
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2012
  17. Nilak New Member

    français - France

    I'm sorry because I up this topic because first google's answer when i was searching "qui ne dit mot consent"! Thus all answers were wrong.

    In french you have negative form:

    "ne ... pas"
    "ne ... jamais"
    "ne ... rien"

    "Qui ne dit mot consent" isn't a negative form but it's a restriction form. Restriction form is based on :

    "Ne ... que"


    "Je ne mange que des pommes" it's restriction form. (I only eat apples)
    "Je ne mange pas autres choses que des pommes" it's negative form. (I don't eat other things than apples)

    "Qui ne dit mot consent" uses a restriction form because only quiet people agree.

    I hope my argument is clear because i'm not very good in english but my french is very good.

    Best regards
  18. Nicosito Senior Member

    French and UK English, ferpectly bilingual
    "Ne dit mot" means "ne dit pas un seul mot" how is this anything but negative?

  19. jann

    jann co-mod'

    English - USA
    Bienvenu, Nilak.

    Je ne vois pas du tout où vous voyez un "ne...que" dans "qui ne dit mot consent". Il n'y a pas de "que" dans l'expression et ce n'est par ellipse, parce qu'on ne peut pas omettre le "que" de la réstriction "ne...que" sans en perdre le sens.

    Je suis désolée de vous contredire, mais "qui ne dit mot consent" est bel et bien une négation héritée de l'ancien français, comme l'expliquent les réponses précédentes. :)
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2013
  20. L'Inconnu Senior Member

    If 'mot' is used restrictively, than the translation becomes....

    'Qui ne dit qu'un seul mot consent'

    ''Anything you say will be taken as acknowledgement of your consent.''

    Or, in other words, if you don't agree, keep your mouth shut.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2013
  21. pointvirgule

    pointvirgule Senior Member

    Mtl, QC
    langue française
    Nenni, Nilak. Like Nicosito and jann already said, the clause Qui ne dit mot is not a restriction but a negation, pure and simple.

    The English gist is, "He who doesn't utter a word is assumed to agree." An idiomatic translation would be, Silence is tantamount to consent. And for that very reason, well... I had to say something. ;)

    @L'Inconnu: "if you don't agree, keep your mouth shut" is the diametrical opposite of the meaning.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2013

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