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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

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.


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


Q&A

Max

Kwiziq community member

6 September 2017

4 replies

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.

Gruff

Kwiziq language super star

6 September 2017

6/09/17

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!

Max

Kwiziq community member

6 September 2017

6/09/17

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.

Gerilyn

Kwiziq community member

1 February 2018

1/02/18

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...

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

1 February 2018

1/02/18

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!

Tomas

Kwiziq community member

9 September 2016

7 replies

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

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

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

12 September 2016

12/09/16

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

Kwiziq community member

14 November 2016

14/11/16

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?

Melanie

Kwiziq community member

6 March 2017

6/03/17

I was taught the same in the '70s.

Khoi

Kwiziq community member

26 March 2017

26/03/17

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.".

Max

Kwiziq community member

6 September 2017

6/09/17

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.

Max

Kwiziq community member

6 September 2017

6/09/17

My first class was in 1963. POINT for emphasis was not taught at any point. Point!

Max

Kwiziq community member

6 September 2017

6/09/17

Merci d'avoir fait le point.....

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