Lack of pas in written language

Clare

Kwiziq community member

20 October 2018

7 replies

Lack of pas in written language

I have quite often noticed that pas or other negative word is missing in written French, in newspapers and in books. I don't have an example at hand, though. Why is this and when can it happen?

This relates to:
Informal negation: omitting ne -

Tom

Kwiziq community member

21 October 2018

21/10/18

Hi Clare,

There are numerous occasions where ‘ne’ may be used without ‘pas’.

I assume you are not referring to the ‘ne explétif’ but rather to cases where the ‘ne’ on its own invokes a true negative connotation (which the ‘ne explétif’ does not).

This construction is often referred to as the ‘literery ne’ since its use is largely limited to the literary domain.

1. Certain fixed expressions and proverbs which are largely hangovers from medieval French. E.g.

                À Dieu ne plaise ! – God forbid!

                Qu’à cela ne tienne ! – Never mind !

                Il n’est pire sourd que celui qui ne veut pas entendre – There is none so deaf as   he who will not hear

2. Certain expressions using avoir and être e.g.

                N’avoir cure de – not to care about  

                                Je n’ai cure de sa réputation – I don’t give a hoot about his reputation

                N’était – but for

                N’était son courage la bataille aurait été perdue – But for his courage  the battle would have been lost

3. The verbs cesser de (cease),  oser (dare), pouvoir  (be able),  savoir (know (how to), when followed by an infinitive e.g.

                Il ne cesse de crier – He never stops shouting, Il n’ose le faire – He doesn’t dare do it

                Je ne peux vous aider – I cannot help you,  Tu ne sais danser - You do not know how to dance

A useful acronym to help remember these verbs is COPS.

These are just some of the situations where ‘ne’ may be used on its own, I’m sure there are many more which can arise.

Hope it helps,

Tom

Clare

Kwiziq community member

21 October 2018

21/10/18

Thank you very much, Tom. That is a very helpful explanation and I now understand more about this. Am I right in thinking this use of the ne on its own is never used in speech?

Tom

Kwiziq community member

21 October 2018

21/10/18

Clare,

I would demur to the native speakers to detail the frequency of use in speech.

tom

Chris

Kwiziq community member

22 October 2018

22/10/18

There is the so-called "literary ne" in French. It is negation using solely ne, without pas. It is an advanced stylistic element of very formal French. I wouldn't concern myself with it now. But, of course, you're free to google it. ;)

Tom

Kwiziq community member

22 October 2018

22/10/18

Hi Chris,

This site purports to support learning up to level CEFR level C1.

This being the case, users at the appropriate level should not be discouraged from exploring and/or utilising all registers of spoken and written French.

Students attaining C1 will have displayed the necessary learning commitment to be equipped to embark on fully independent study and will usually be open to all means and methods of ameliorating their facility with the language.

In my opinion discussion of any topic should not be curtailed on the basis of difficulty or register.

tom

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

23 October 2018

23/10/18

Hi Clare, 

If I may add to Tom's excellent comments, the 'pas' will not often be omitted in everyday language as it sounds very 'precious'.

Hope this helps!

Clare

Kwiziq community member

24 October 2018

24/10/18

That's what I thought, thanks. I'll keep dropping the ne and keeping the pas in casual conversation! 

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