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The rule is that to make a French verb negative, you need ne in front of the verb and pas after it. This is proper French grammar and is what you should always write:
|Je ne veux pas y aller.||I don’t want to go.|
|On ne sait pas.||We don’t know.|
|Ne touche pas !||Don’t touch!|
|Il n’y en a pas.||There isn’t any.|
The reality of French pronunciation is another matter, as you’ve probably noticed in movies, on TV, and when listening to native speakers.
First of all, ne should theoretically be pronounced as a full syllable: [nə]. In reality, this is virtually never done outside of poetry – instead, the vowel is dropped:
|Je n’veux pas y aller.|
|On n’sait pas.|
|N’touche pas !|
Secondly, in informal speech, ne is dropped altogether:
|Je veux pas y aller.|
|On sait pas.|
|Touche pas !|
|Il y en a pas.|
This also occurs with other negative words:
|Je n’aime plus cette émission.|
J’aime plus cette émission.
|I don’t like this show any more.|
|Il ne va jamais au ciné.|
Il va jamais au ciné.
|He never goes to the movies.|
Native speakers are often critical about teaching this "incorrect" grammar, but I’ve heard far too many stories about first visits to France (and remember my own) during which communication was hindered by not being aware of this ubiquitous aspect of pronunciation. This is how the French speak, so even if you don’t want to drop your ne’s, you still need to be aware that many people do.
Ne … pas is only used with verbs. With other parts of speech, pas always negates on its own: Pas without ne.
- Ne … pas and other negative adverbs
- More negation
- Informal pronouns
- Informal questions
- Informal pronunciation
- Conversational French
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