ne - it isn't always 'negative'
It is often easier to think of ne as part of a combination
A listener emailed us this morning with the following message:
I find the n' difficult sometimes. In the Lesson 161, for example, its inclusion makes me feel like it should say the opposite.
—> "Ce n’est qu’une tempête dans un verre d'eau."
Am I missing something? Isn't he saying 'It's only a storm in a teacup?"
Let's take a closer look…
Rather than thinking of the word ne as a 'negative' in its own right, think of the combination ne… que as only or but.
- 'Ce n'est qu'une tempête…' 'It is only a storm…' or 'It is but a storm…'
- Il ne nous reste qu'une seule solution. We have only one solution. (Literally 'There remains but one solution.')
- Je n'ai que quelques euros à payer. I only have to pay a few euros./I have only a few euros to pay.
The combination ne… personne which (rather than being a 'negative') means nobody, behaves similarly:
- Je n'ai vu personne. I saw nobody.
- Personne ne m'écoute. Nobody listens to me.
To summarise, rather than considering ne in isolation, it's better to think of it as part of a combination:
- ne… pas (no/not)
- ne… que (only/but)
- ne… jamais (never)
- ne… personne (nobody)
- ne… aucun (no - emphatically)
Comment(s)/question from georgechave on Nov, 21 at 03:32
This is very helpful.
Comment(s)/question from hughnagle on Nov, 21 at 09:09
You're welcome! Si vous avez des questions à nous poser vous-même, n'hésitez pas…
If you wish, you may comment on or ask a question about the above. You must log in to add a comment or ask a question.