L12.7 Negation confusion

RobertC106

RobertC106

Lesson 12.7 starts off with the sentence:
Vous ne pouvez pas ouvrir un compte en banque.
Shortly thereafter, we are advised that, "When there is an indefinite article « un, une » ... in a negative construction, the article changes to « de »".

This is clearly not consistent with the earlier example, so I do some digging, and discover that this could be an instance of the Negative Indefinite Adjective, ne ... pas un(e). As I understand it, one has the option, with countable nouns, to use the ne ... pas un(e) negative adjective instead of ne ... pas de for the purpose of stressing the negative. However, this doesn't really seem appropriate for this example sentence (especially w/o explanation). Should this sentence be, Vous ne pouvez pas ouvrir de compte en banque, or am I missing something altogether?

 

Also, in, tu ne le trouves nulle part, it looks like nulle could also be an instance of a Negative Adjective (ne … nul(le)), as well as, what I believe is, the adverbial phrase, nulle part. I'd like to know what's what here.

 

Merci

 

Robert

 

Mitchell-Rocket-Languages-Tutor

Mitchell-Rocket-Languages-Tutor

Bonjour Robert,

 

UN(E) - DE in the negative

You are correct in your understanding that when an indefinite article is negated, the article changes to de. The explanation you found is also correct that this rule does not hold for a negative indefinite adjective. I'm going to use a simpler example to initially illustrate the point and built it out step-by-step. 

  • Je vois un chien. - I see a dog.

To make this negative, as you know, we need to wrap the negative adverb around the verb and replace the indefinite article (un) with de.

  • Je ne vois pas de chien. - I don't see any dogs.

If you want to say that you cannot see one or a single dog, then we use the structure: ne … pas un(e) or ne … pas un(e) seul(e) which maintains its indefinite article as is (i.e. un or une).

  • Je ne vois pas un chien. - I don't see one dog.
  • Je ne vois pas un seul chien. - I don't see a single dog.

Based on the above examples, i'm going to apply the same progression to your example.

  1. Vous pouvez ouvrir un compte en banque. - You can open a bank account.
  2. Vous ne pouvez pas ouvrir de compte en banque. - You can't open any bank accounts.
  3. Vous ne pouvez pas ouvrir un compte en banque. - You can't open one (or just ‘a’) bank account. 
  4. Vous ne pouvez pas ouvrir un seul compte en banque. - You can't open a single bank account.

The example in lesson 12.7 is one of structure 3. Essentially, it is the difference between ‘a’ and ‘any’. Of course, you can use either or but each one has different implications.

 

NE … NUL(LE) vs. NE … NULLE PART

Ne … nul(le) is a negative pronoun meaning ‘no one’ or ‘none of’ and is in the same category as the above ne … pas un(e) and ne … pas un(e) seul(e). 

  • Je n'y vois nul mal. - I don't see any harm in it.

Ne … nulle part is a negative adverb meaning ‘nowhere’ and is used in the same way as ‘ne … jamais’ or ‘ne … plus’.

  • Je ne la trouve nulle part. - I can't find her anywhere.

 

I hope this helps, let me know if anything isn't clear.

   -   Mitchell

RobertC106

RobertC106

Bonjour Mitchell.

 

Ok, but, I arrived at a somewhat broader conclusion, which you don't seem to be contradicting.
It seems that unless you want your negation to transform from "a/an" (un(e)) to "not any" (de), then you don't change the article to de, but instead, you invoke the indefinite negative adjective, and you end up with either not one (which is essentially no change) or not a single (depending on the choice of indef. neg. adj.).


Since this would seem to apply to a great many, although not all, un(e) situations when negated, it makes changing from un(e) to de, depending upon context/intent, seem more like an option, or even the exception, rather than the rule. Furthermore, you have the other two Indef. Neg. Art.'s, ne … aucun(e) and ne … nul(le)  to convey the notion of not any should you want to stress the negation. This is quite unlike the change from des to de upon negation, which follows logically from some to not any.

 

As for, tu ne le trouves nulle part, it just struck me as curious that if you start with an
indefinite negative adjective, and append a noun, part, you end up with an adverbial phrase. But starting with nulle part as the adverbial phrase, nowhere, makes more sense of it.

 

One last confusing bit which really has little to do with grammar, but rather, usage. I get how you can casually leave the ne out of ne ... rien, ne ... jamais, etc., since the remainder is negative in it's own right. However, plus without ne ... ? Someone would actually say, Il y a plus de lait dans le frigo., when what they really meant was, Il n'y a plus de lait dans le frigo.? How could this usage ever be anything other than just plain silly?

 

Merci, Mitchell.

 

Robert

Mitchell-Rocket-Languages-Tutor

Mitchell-Rocket-Languages-Tutor

Bonjour Robert,

 

De vs Un Convention

I see what you mean by taking it as optional and while that is not technically wrong, I think it is worth mentioning here that the convention, in French, when negating is still to default to using DE. That's because the use is broader, it requires less context and it is not emphatic. Comparatively, if you stick with the indefinite article, thereby employing the negative adjective (pas un/pas un seul), then not only are you purposefully being emphatic, but you are also limiting yourself to countable nouns. 

 

Ne…plus / …plus, really?

Yeah, objectively this makes no sense, but you will hear your example - verbatim - in France. It's similar to how some people use double negatives in American English (albeit the reverse issue), which technically makes no sense and essentially confuses the meaning of the sentence, but it's so pervasive now that it's accepted.

 

I hope this helps,

   -   Mitchell

RobertC106

RobertC106

Ok, fair enough, Mitchell. Once again, I think it's me trying to make sense of the example in the lesson. That is, why one would feel the need to stress the negation in telling someone they weren't able to open a bank account. Imo, it should be, Vous ne pouvez pas ouvrir de compte en banque, but then I wouldn't have had the occasion to familiarize myself with negative adjectives.

 

Ne … plus/… plus: Seems a great way to initiate a “Who's on first” type skit. Watching that should be mandatory for students of English.

 

Merci encore.

 

Robert

Ask a question or a post a response

If you want to ask a question or post a response you need to be a member.

If you are already a member login here .
If you are not a member you can become one by taking the free Rocket French trial here .