Some Aspects of French Negation
French has a two-part negation for verbs, consisting of the ne particle (a global negation), and one of several other words clarifying the type of negation:
Simple Verbs and Position of the Negation
Usually, the element ne comes before the verb which is marked for tense. Thus a simple verb is usually positioned between the ne particle and the qualifying part of the negation:
Note: ne always comes before object pronouns - me (myself), te (you), le (him/it), la(she/it), lui(him/her/it):
The Elided ‘e’- ne and n’
As with other words ending in a vowel in French, the e of the ne particle is elided(contraction)when directly preceding a word beginning in a vowel (or with a silent ‘h’ then a vowel):
Compound Verbs and Position of the Negation
Compound verbs are composed of the past participle of a verb [i.e. mangé (eaten), parlé (talked), which remains unchanged in terms of tense] and an auxiliary (supporting) verb such as have avoir (have) and être (be).
It is the auxiliary verb which is marked for tense, and so it is the auxiliary verb which becomes sandwiched between the first part of the construction, ne, and the second (qualifying) part of the negation:
There is an exception, however, when personne (no one) and nulle part (anywhere) are used with compound tenses, with these secondary negation particles following the whole compound verb (and thus following the same negation construction as that of simple verbs):
Ne..que (only) in compound tenses can take both positions, depending on the intended meaning, as it is strictly speaking an adverb and not a negation:
In fact, with ne...que the negation construction is not strictly necessary, and the same thought can be expressed positively with the word seulement (only):
Spoken and Written Usage
In colloquial French it is common to drop the ne altogether in fast speech (but not in writing).
It is also common in current literary style to omit the pas particle with the verbs vouloir (towant), pouvoir (to be able to) and savoir (toknow).
Thus we have:
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