Understanding ne ... point (negation)

Look at these expressions using ne... point (not):

Il n’est point poli comme son frère.
He's not polite like his brother.

Je ne lui ai point révélé mon secret.
I didn't reveal my secret to him.

Les plus âgées n'étaient point les plus raisonnables.
The eldest ones were not the most sensible.



Note that the negation ne... point is an old-fashioned way to say ne ... pas (not). It is used mostly in the written form, as it sounds very formal nowadays. 

 

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Les plus âgées n'étaient point les plus raisonnables.
The eldest ones were not the most sensible.


Je ne lui ai point révélé mon secret.
I didn't reveal my secret to him.


Il n’est point poli comme son frère.
He's not polite like his brother.


Q&A Forum 2 questions, 11 answers

MaxC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

NE PAS VOULOIR

Je ne veux pas parler avec elle means I REFUSE to speak with her. NE PAS VOULOIR always entails a refusal. To say I don't want to talk with her would be Je n'ai pas envie de parler avec elle. Does any one disagree with the above? This seems pretty fundamental.
Asked 2 years ago
GruffKwiziq team member
Hi Max - I'm not sure which example or test questions you're referring to as this lesson is about ne... point, nonetheless, I wouldn't interpret ne vouloir pas as a refusal. Certainly if the tone was very strong you could see it that way, but equally if the tone were mild then it could mean a mild desire not to speak. If you wanted to refuse, you'd say Je refuse de parler avec elle, as in English. Hope that helps!
MaxC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
Gruff, I think you are correct. I find nothing in CNRTL to support what I was taught on more than one occasion in HS & at Purdue. Thanks for clearing this up.
GerilynC1Kwiziq community member
Max, perhaps you're thinking of this distinction: Je ne voulais pas partir avec elle... [mais à fin, j'ai cédé et nous sommes partis ensemble.] Je n'ai pas voulu partir avec elle... [et alors, nous sommes partis séparément.] (A teacher explained to me that "Je n'a pas voulu" is almost like saying "I refused to".) So it's a distinction that appears in past tenses, but not in the present (since there's only one present tense in French). I believe this distinction also holds in affirmative sentences: Je voulais partir sans elle. [but I didn't] Je voulu partir sans elle [and so I did]. I teach French but am not a native speaker, so I can't attest to this with 100% conviction - mais j'ai des amies qui sont francophone de naissance, alors je vais leur poser la question. À suivre...
CécileKwiziq team member
Hi Max, As a native speaker I can confirm that these are different nuances of meanings of not wanting to do something. Je ne veux pas parler avec elle = I don't want /wish to speak to herJe n'ai pas envie de parler avec elleI don't feel like speaking to her ( for whatever reason, not in the mood etc..) and as Gareth says - Je refuse de parler avec elleI refuse to speak to her which is stronger and categorical , she must have upset you in some way !!! Hope this helps!

NE PAS VOULOIR

Je ne veux pas parler avec elle means I REFUSE to speak with her. NE PAS VOULOIR always entails a refusal. To say I don't want to talk with her would be Je n'ai pas envie de parler avec elle. Does any one disagree with the above? This seems pretty fundamental.

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TomasC1Kwiziq community member

Is ne...point used for also for emphasis?

I thought that was one of the uses in oral language.
Asked 3 years ago
AurélieKwiziq team member
Bonjour Tomas ! My guess here is that you heard this: "Je ne veux pas. Point." which actually means "I don't want to. Full stop.", and is indeed a form of emphasis. However, this case has nothing to do with the negative expression "ne...point" :) I hope that's helpful! À bientôt !
Susan C1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
Tomas and I may have been similarly taught: it was drummed into my head that one used, ne . . . point instead of, ne . . . pas to make a point, so to speak. Given that my French classes were more than 50 years ago, could there have been a change in usage?
MelanieC1Kwiziq community member
I was taught the same in the '70s.
Khoi C1Kwiziq community member
I was also taught the same in the '60s. Even my wife who speaks French fluently and went to French schools from kindergarten also thought the "ne .. .point" construct was used to show emphasis. However she said in modern usage that distinction might no longer exists. For whatever it's worth I would like to share the following comment from Word Forum (https://forum.wordreference.com/threads/ne-%E2%80%A6%E2%80%AFpoint-ne-%E2%80%A6-pas.86492/) : " Point est archaïque, effectivement, et on ne l'utilise donc point, sauf par plaisanterie ou pour faire plus littéraire. Ceci dit, si l'on met de côté cet aspect, pas et point me semblent totalement interchangeables. À l'origine, la négation dite avec point était plus forte que celle exprimée avec pas, mais cette distinction n'est plus faite.".
MaxC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
My understanding has always been that NE POINT is simply an alternative - similar to WHILE versus WHILST. I find NE POINT sort of quaint and seldom hear it in conversation. I rarely see it in contemporary written French. I have never seen NE POINT used for emphasis.
MaxC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
My first class was in 1963. POINT for emphasis was not taught at any point. Point!
MaxC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
Merci d'avoir fait le point.....

Is ne...point used for also for emphasis?

I thought that was one of the uses in oral language.

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