Saying “non” in French for “no” is undoubtedly among the first French words you learned. But there are different ways to answer in the negative in French.
This article features audio recordings. Click the blue text next to the headphone to hear me say that word or sentence in French.
Note that when applicable, I used a modern spoken French pronunciation.
1 – Non, The Typical No in French
The typical way to say “no” in French is “non“. But be aware that “no” in French as in English is quite a powerful word.
If a friend kindly extends an invitation to you, are you going to just answer “no” in English? I don’t think so! You will nuance the “no”. It’s important to do so as well in French.
Please press on the audioplayer to listen to my recording of the example.
- Tu veux dîner avec moi samedi ?
Would you like to have dinner with me on Saturday?
- Ah, non, désolée, malheureusement je ne peux pas. Tu es libre un autre jour ?
Ah, no, I’m sorry, unfortunately I cannot. Are you available another day?
More about politely accepting or refusing an invitation in French in my article.
2 – Nope in French
In modern spoken French, the pronunciation of “non” changes.
To pronounce “non” properly in French, you need to push your mouth out like a kiss. It requires an effort of enunciation.
You’ll even see “non” written “nan” in text messages, or comic books… Anything that transcribes the way we speak.
3 – Not at all in French
Saying “not at all” in French is very common. We say “pas du tout“, and use it a lot in French politeness for example.
- Tu es sûr, ça ne te dérange pas d’ouvrir la fenêtre ?
Are you sure you don’t mind opening the window?
- Non, Pas du tout ! (note I pronounced this “non” as “nan”…)
I don’t mind at all!
Here is “pas du tout” used in context by my daughter Leyla when she was 4. She’s telling me a French mother’s day poem. Sooooo cute!!
4 – No Way in French
For a categoric French “no”, we’d use the expression “pas question” or “hors de question”.
- Je peux sortir ce soir avec mes amis ?
May I go out tonight with my friends?
- Pas question ! Tu as école demain !
No way! There is school tomorrow!
Funny this example comes to mind, as I just posted a video of my daughter (15 as I write this article) – just kidding, Leyla is super serious and a A student!
5 – You Must be Kidding in French
Another modern expression to say “no” in French is “tu plaisantes !!” as in “are you kidding me?”. Let’s call this one the ironic French “no”!
- Tu veux bien me prêter 10 Euros ?
Would you mind lending me 10 Euros?
- Tu plaisantes ?
You must be kidding!
6 – The English French No 😱
“Mais non” does exist in French, but it carries a strong emotion with it. It can be surprise, shock, anger, irritation… One thing is certain we don’t say “mais non” all the time !
I blame French singer Henri Salvador!
7 – Nay in French
There is a very, very old French expression that we sometimes still use as a joke, like saying ‘nay’ in English: “que nenni”. I insist, it’s a joke! But if you managed to drop it in a conversation, your French friends would be dumbfounded!
- Tu aimes les broccolis ?
Do you like broccoli?
- Que nenni ma tendre amie !
Nay my sweet lady!
8 – French No Gestures
When we say “no” in French, we usually shake our head side to side. We may also point the index, or shake our index side to side to say “no” with our hand.
9 – Synonyms For No in French
And there are many more ways of saying “no” in French… I can’t possibly list all the synonyms for “no” in French, but here is a start.
- je crois que non – I don’t think so
- je ne dis pas non – I wouldn’t say no to that
- mais non – of course not
- absolument pas – absolutely not
- au contraire – on the contrary (well, this doesn’t really mean “no” but it can be useful to reinforce the idea)
- moi non – as for me, no… I don’t
- n’est-ce pas? – no? right? isn’t it? (here also, tricky without an example but it can mean no in the right context, to reinforce a negative statement).
- non plus – not (that) either
- pas tout à fait – not exactly, not quite
- pas vraiment – not really
- que non ! – absolutely not!
- pas encore – not yet
- pas maintenant – not now
- plus maintenant – no longer
- jamais – never
- Oh non ! – Oh no!
- Aucun problème – no problem
- Bien sûr que non – of course not
So how do you learn these expressions? The best is to learn them in the context of a story, so you understand the meaning but also the intent behind it. I suggest you check out my French audiobook learning method: clear grammatical explanations illustrated with an ongoing novel recorded at different levels of enunciation (traditional French and modern spoken French)
Can you think of more ways of saying “no” in French? Please add them to the comment below – with an example if possible.