Forum Rocket French French Grammar The subjunctive and negation

The subjunctive and negation

OrenJ

OrenJ

In module 22 about impersonal expressions, the is this example: “j'ai peur que tu ne puisses venir.” I have seen this “semi” negation previously and question why it is not “j'ai peur que tu ne puisses pas venir"?

Mitchell-Rocket-Languages-Tutor

Mitchell-Rocket-Languages-Tutor

Bonjour Oren,

 

This is a tricky one, because it is not 100% clear. I will try to explain it, but I will insert a caveat now that you may not walk away from this with a clear idea of this phenomenon. 

 

There is a grammatical phenomenon in French called the ‘expletive ne’ which is a formal structure used after certain negative verbs that express fear, warning, denial, doubt etc.. This actually adds no meaning to the sentence, but rather draws attention to what comes before it. As I mentioned it is formal, and many would see it as snobbish, if you used in spoken language. Anyway, here are a couple of examples:

  • Évitez qu’il ne vous voie. (Avoid letting him see you.)
  • Avant que vous ne preniez une décision … (Before you make a decision …)

In these example, the ‘ne’ simply adds emphasis to what precedes it. Normally, it does not negate the verb it precedes. Based on this, let's look at a couple more examples:

  • J’ai peur qu’il ne le fasse. (I'm afraid he'll do it.)
  • J’ai peur qu’il ne le fasse pas. (I'm afraid he won't do it.)

Based on this logic and these rules, let's look at your examples:

  • J'ai peur que tu ne puisses venir. (I'm afraid you can come.)
  • J'ai peur que tu ne puisses pas venir. (I'm afraid you can't come.)

As per these rules, things seem pretty clear: ‘ne’ = not negative and ‘ne … pas’ = negative. However, French being French, they like to muddy the waters. Sometimes people can drop the ‘pas’ in the negative form (usually spoken form) and we rely more on context and tone to discern whether it is negative or positive (relatively easy when you are having a conversation with somebody).

If you want to use the negative, then I suggest going with ‘ne…pas’, just be warned that some native speakers may drop the ‘pas’.  

 

I understand that this may not be the crystal clear explanation you were after, but unfortunately, that is so often the case with French. At any rate, I still hope this helps!

   -   Mitchell

Mitchell-Rocket-Languages-Tutor

Mitchell-Rocket-Languages-Tutor

Bonjour Oren,

 

This is a tricky one, because it is not 100% clear. I will try to explain it, but I will insert a caveat now that you may not walk away from this with a clear idea of this phenomenon. 

 

There is a grammatical phenomenon in French called the ‘expletive ne’ which is a formal structure used after certain negative verbs that express fear, warning, denial, doubt etc.. This actually adds no meaning to the sentence, but rather draws attention to what comes before it. As I mentioned it is formal, and many would see it as snobbish, if you used in spoken language. Anyway, here are a couple of examples:

  • Évitez qu’il ne vous voie. (Avoid letting him see you.)
  • Avant que vous ne preniez une décision … (Before you make a decision …)

In these example, the ‘ne’ simply adds emphasis to what precedes it. Normally, it does not negate the verb it precedes. Based on this, let's look at a couple more examples:

  • J’ai peur qu’il ne le fasse. (I'm afraid he'll do it.)
  • J’ai peur qu’il ne le fasse pas. (I'm afraid he won't do it.)

Based on this logic and these rules, let's look at your examples:

  • J'ai peur que tu ne puisses venir. (I'm afraid you can come.)
  • J'ai peur que tu ne puisses pas venir. (I'm afraid you can't come.)

As per these rules, things seem pretty clear: ‘ne’ = not negative and ‘ne … pas’ = negative. However, French being French, they like to muddy the waters. Sometimes people can drop the ‘pas’ in the negative form (usually spoken form) and we rely more on context and tone to discern whether it is negative or positive (relatively easy when you are having a conversation with somebody).

If you want to use the negative, then I suggest going with ‘ne…pas’, just be warned that some native speakers may drop the ‘pas’.  

 

I understand that this may not be the crystal clear explanation you were after, but unfortunately, that is so often the case with French. At any rate, I still hope this helps!

   -   Mitchell

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