Negating infinitives in indirect speech

Look at the sentences:

Le professeur dit de ne pas courir
The teacher says not to run

Il est important de ne pas bouger.
It is important not to move.

Il m'a appris à ne pas avoir peur.
He taught me not to be scared.

J'espère ne pas faire d'erreurs.
I hope not to make a mistake.

Note that if a sentence has two verbs but it's the infinitive verb (a verb that's not conjugated) that requires negation, ne pas goes before the infinitive rather than around it.

Note: If there is a pronoun before the infinitive, ne pas precedes it.

Ma mère m'a dit de ne pas le faire
My mother told me not to do it

Je t'ai demandé de ne pas lui dire.
I asked you not to tell him.

 

See also Position of negation with two verbs (conjugated + infinitive) 

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources


J'espère ne pas faire d'erreurs.
I hope not to make a mistake.


Le professeur dit de ne pas courir
The teacher says not to run


Il m'a appris à ne pas avoir peur.
He taught me not to be scared.


Il est important de ne pas bouger.
It is important not to move.


Je t'ai demandé de ne pas lui dire.
I asked you not to tell him.


when there is a pronoun before the infinitive


Ma mère m'a dit de ne pas le faire
My mother told me not to do it


Q&A Forum 7 questions, 18 answers

William C1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Can this negation be used as an imperative command

Le professeur dit de ne pas courir.

Can "ne pas courir" be used as the negative imperative "Don't run !"

Asked 4 months ago
TomC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor Correct answer

Hi William,

Yes, this construction can be used for generalised commands such as may be found in a school playground or corridor.

On French trains there used to be, maybe there still is, where windows can be opened, a warning is posted:

"Ne pas se pencher au dehors"

Hope this helps,

Tom

Can this negation be used as an imperative command

Le professeur dit de ne pas courir.

Can "ne pas courir" be used as the negative imperative "Don't run !"

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MichaelC1Kwiziq community member

Negating infinitives

Why “Il ne faut pas confondre” as opposed to “Il faut ne pas confondre”?

Asked 4 months ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi Michael,

Although there's no overall difference in the meaning of both sentences, Chris is correct in saying that it negates slightly different things.

The important thing is that both are correct and would translate -

You must not mistake...

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Both look like good sentences to me, just that each negates a different thing:

Il faut le dire. -- One must say it.

Il ne faut pas le dire. -- One (not must) say it, i.e., one doesn't have to say it.

Il faut ne pas le dire. -- One must (not say) it., i.e., it is mandatory not to say it.

It would be nice if a native speaker commented on that, too, because sometimes French minds seem to work differently. ;)

Negating infinitives

Why “Il ne faut pas confondre” as opposed to “Il faut ne pas confondre”?

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ChiomaA1Kwiziq community member

In the sentence J'espère ne pas faire d'erreurs, can't we say instead: J'espère DE ne pas faire d'erreurs?

Asked 7 months ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi Chioma, 

Normally you will not have a 'de' after espérer and another verb as in to hope to do.

It is archaïc and you will find it mainly in literature...

J'espère ne pas vous avoir fait attendre trop longtemps pour répondre à votre question....

Bonne continuation!

ChiomaA1Kwiziq community member

Merci beaucoup!

In the sentence J'espère ne pas faire d'erreurs, can't we say instead: J'espère DE ne pas faire d'erreurs?

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RonC1Kwiziq community member

Is there going to be an in depth lesson on the prepositions “de” “a” or no preposition?

Asked 8 months ago
ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Some verbs simply use à others use de and some can use both. It is something you have to learn together with the verb.

CécileKwiziq team member

I am working on a list of verbs which are followed by 'à' or 'de' but not sure if that would be useful on its own as very very long....

ChiomaA1Kwiziq community member

It would be helpful, n'importe how long or short. :) 

Do share, please. 

Is there going to be an in depth lesson on the prepositions “de” “a” or no preposition?

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William C1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Can the infinitive be implied?

Can the infiniive be implied in this construction? For example: J’aurais pu traduire le titre, mais j'ai décidé de ne pas. (I could have translated the title but I decided not to.)
Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi William,

You have to finish the sentence with 'to do it' or it seems unfinished in French.

I would prefer, however, 

"...mais j'ai décidé de ne pas le faire" not to repeat 'traduire' which I was taught to avoid at school...

Hope this helps!

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

No, I don't think that would work in French. You would need to say:

J'aurais pu traduire le titre, mais j'ai décidé de ne pas le traduire. -- I could have translated the title, but I decided not to translate it.

William C1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

I understand!

Thanks Chris and Cécile

Can the infinitive be implied?

Can the infiniive be implied in this construction? For example: J’aurais pu traduire le titre, mais j'ai décidé de ne pas. (I could have translated the title but I decided not to.)

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LeahC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

why isn't it "Premiere erreur de ne pas faire" but is "Premieur erreur a ne pas faire"?

Asked 2 years ago
AurélieKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Bonjour Leah !

This is an excellent question.
The difference here relates to impersonal expressions.

Here's the rule:
- When you have a real subject, like "première erreur" - i.e. to do. - and that the infinitive is used intransitively (without a object), then the structure is:
[subject/adjective] + à + [infinitive]

La première chose  à faire... 
The first thing to do... 
C'est bon  à savoir. 
That's good to know. 

- When you have a *dummy* subject - i.e. it is to do - the structure is:
il est/c'est + [adjective] + de + [infinitive]

Il est difficile de parler. / C'est difficile de parler. 
It's hard to talk. 
Il est important de faire confiance à ses amis. 
It's important to trust one's friends.

I hope that's helpful!
À bientôt !

AurélieKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Bonjour Helen !

Here it's not a case of impersonal expressions, but a case of reported (or indirect) speech, hence the use of de  : 

Je lui demande de venir.   -> I ask him to come.

Bonne journée !
LeahC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
Merci beaucoup! Cela m'aide. Hope I can remember it. Best, Leah
HelenA2Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
Je t'ai demandé de ne pas lui dire".  If this is a "real subject"and no direct object"wouldn't this be "à"? >> Je t'ai demandé à ne pas lui dire". Are we using de because there's an indirect object?
LeahC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Bonsoir Aurelie,

Merci beaucoup!

why isn't it "Premiere erreur de ne pas faire" but is "Premieur erreur a ne pas faire"?

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Susan C1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

When does "de" precede the negated infinitive? In the examples,

it does, except for one, where it doesn't (the example with "à" would explain itself, of course).
Asked 3 years ago
AurélieKwiziq team member
Bonjour Susan ! The negation "ne pas" will come after the preposition "de", but in this case: "J'espère ne pas faire D'erreurs." the "d' " is not the preposition, but the partitive "des" which became d' because this is a negative sentence. Think that you say "espérer quelque chose" and not "espérer DE quelque chose". I hope that's helpful! À bientôt !
Susan C1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
Preposition and partitive - vive la différence! Thanks for explaining.

When does "de" precede the negated infinitive? In the examples,

it does, except for one, where it doesn't (the example with "à" would explain itself, of course).

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