Negatives without "ne"

Discussion in 'French-English Vocabulary / Vocabulaire Français-Anglais' started by s0uper, Nov 11, 2006.

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  1. s0uper

    s0uper Member

    Hey everyone, new here :) I hope this isn't too much of an obvious question. My French teacher's never mentioned it, but she does have a tendency to do that with pretty important things XD (I didn't get taught about putting pronouns before verbs until I asked!)

    I've come across people using the following; [subject] [verb] [pas], eg. "Je sais pas" - missing out the "ne" prior to the verb. Is this just a colloquialism? Or does it have a different nuance to "Je ne sais pas" etc.?

    Thanks for any help! :D
  2. carolineR

    carolineR Senior Member

    Indian Ocean
    this is just oral French as opposed to written French. Same meaning exactly :)
  3. john_riemann_soong

    john_riemann_soong Senior Member

    Singapore / United States
    English, Singlish, Chinese; Singapore
    What is the role of the initial "ne" anyway? How did it come about? In Latin (I don't know Latin), I assume one particle was used, as I observe from Spanish use of "no".

    Usually leaving out the "ne" in "ne...pas" and "ne...rien" statements can work because you can literally translate "je sais pas" to "I know not" (which actually sounds stronger than "I do not know" or "I don't know").

    I'm curious, because currently I think the only role "ne" has is in current language is to clarify the negativity of the particle (where plus could mean "more" or "no more", "personne" can both mean "person" and "no one", "je ne sais quoi" to clarify the negativity of the "quoi", etc.) but it was the original particle from Latin.
  4. Franglais1969

    Franglais1969 Senior Member

    English English, français rouillé
    There is a thread on this forum about this very subject, which was done recently.

    Unfortunately, I am unable to locate it at the moment.
  5. s0uper

    s0uper Member

    Thanks for the explaination, Caroline. I suppose it makes sense, since it's obvious what's meant with or without the "ne", right? :)

    John, I initially thought the same thing - "I know not" etc. I'm going with Caroline's explaination though, since I've really only heard it in speech. "I know not" seems to be more of a formal, written expression I think :)
  6. gilou Member

    France - french
    Yes, this is one of the weird thing that you learn with french étymology:

    ne is the négative particle (from latin).

    First step:
    At some point in french history, a complement to verbs was added in the négative form (to make the negation stronger). I think that this was already the case in vulgar latin.
    So we get:
    Je ne bois goutte (I don't drink a drop) [still in modern french as "Je n'y vois goutte"]
    Je ne mange mie (I don't eat a crumb)
    Je ne marche pas (I don't walk a step)
    Je ne vois point (I don't see a speck)
    Je ne vois personne (I don't see a human being)
    With that construction, some words acquired a negative meaning:
    Je ne vois rien (I don't see a thing) which gave to rien (latin res, rem thing) the meaning of nothing in modern french (but still its old meaning in idioms like "ni rien ni personne").
    same for jamais (Latin iam magis, yet more) which got the negative meaning of never, nevermore.

    Second step:
    the construction ne + verb + pas and ne + verb + point becomes the standard way to negate any verb (and are never more a stronger negation). The meaning of point as speck and of pas as step is lost in the verbal construction at this stage.
    (other constructions with rien, personne, jamais, are used as a stronger negation)

    Third step: ne + verb + point diseappears, only ne + verb + pas remains in standard french (ne + verb + point exists in french dialects ("patois"))

    Last step: modern colloquial french: use of verb + pas instead of ne + verb + pas.

  7. john_riemann_soong

    john_riemann_soong Senior Member

    Singapore / United States
    English, Singlish, Chinese; Singapore
    It is indeed only a colloquial expression ... but I think in English it's a curious thing too. "I know not" sounds so strong because it is archaic-sounding, I bet when the dummy "do [not/n't]" auxiliary was first introduced those centuries back, it would have sounded stronger because of the emphatic meaning.
  8. david314

    david314 Senior Member

    Clayton, Missouri
    American English
    See recent thread "C'est pas grave"? D.
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