The French Seldom Use the NE Part of the Negation

Author: Camille Chevalier-Karfis

In modern spoken French, the “ne” part of the negation in French tends to disappear. We glide over it so you may hear a small “N’ sound or nothing at all.

You probably learned in school that the negative in French is formed with two words surrounding the verb: “ne” (or n’) and “pas”.

Then, you go to France, and you are shocked to never hear the “ne.”

It’s because we don’t use it. Rather, I should say, we glide so quickly over it that it disappears to the ear.

1 – The Ne Disappears in Spoken French

First, you should know that no French person today in France would say: “Je NE comprends pas” like the over-enunciated French teaching method are teaching you.

When French people speak, they are likely to say something that sounds like “Jeun compran pa”, gliding over the “ne” part of the negative.

In Paris, we even omit the “ne” altogether; the “je” becomes kind of a “sh” sound and the whole thing is pronounced “shcompran pa.”

2 – Spoken French is Different From Written French

We still write “Je ne comprends pas.” – with all the silent French letters!

This is why I often say that written French and spoken French are like two different languages.

However, when someone texts for example, you’ll see “j’comprends pas”, immitating the way we actually speak. This is not correct or proper French, and I don’t encourage you to write this way, but you’ll see it.

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3 – Without the “ne” How do you Know the French Sentence in Negative?

So, how do you know a sentence is in the negative if you don’t say the “ne” in French?

You need to focus on the other parts of the negative:

  1. the “pas” or…
  2. “jamais” (never),
  3. “rien” (nothing),
  4. “aucun” (no or none),
  5. “person” (no one),
  6. and other negative words

that replace the pas, to understand that the sentence is in the negative.

4 – Schools Seldom Teach This Modern French Pronunciation

Unfortunately, schools and recordings made for students of French don’t usually teach this modern “street” French pronunciation. They over-enunciate French, they hang on to a “prettier”, fancier and proper French language that is nowadays a fiction…

If this concept is new to you, it is essential you train on it with audio recordings featuring modern French -I highly recommend you check out my unique downloadable French audiobooks, featuring different speeds of recording and enunciation, and focussing on today’s modern glided pronunciation.

Author: Camille Chevalier-Karfis

Camille Chevalier-Karfis

Born and raised in Paris, I have been teaching today's French to adults for 25+ years in the US and France. Based on my students' goals and needs, I've created unique downloadable French audiobooks focussing on French like it's spoken today, for all levels. Come to Paimpol and enjoy an exclusive French immersion homestay with me in Brittany.

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It’s not just slang. The French everybody speaks in France today is NOT the overly enunciated, extremely formal French usually taught to foreigners.