Lesson 7.1



Paul defines 'aucun' on its own as meaning 'a single' (although in the sentence it is not actually 'on its own' as it is part of ne . . aucun as 'Il n'y a aucun . . .' ). Can you provide reference/s to this translation because I can find 'aucun' references that use this definition - not in Cambridge or Collins dictionaries, amongst others? It seems more usual to translate as 'no', 'none' or 'any' - and although the latter may be close to 'a single', it is not the same in English.


Salut MCK !

Thank you for your question. Aucun is one of those words that it can be a bit difficult to pin down a translation for, since it can be translated so many different ways. 

You're right to say that most bilingual dictionaries will include "no," "none," and "not any" for aucun; "not one" is also sometimes included. The translation of "not a single" can indeed also work; in fact, since aucun is similar in meaning to pas un seul, "not a single" actually gives a more accurate impression of its exact meaning. 

Although "not any" is a very common translation for sentences that use the ne ... aucun construction, it's also more helpful to think of aucun as "a single" rather than "any" because in English, "any" is used with plural words, while in French, aucun is used with singular words. Thus, thinking of aucun as "a single" can help you remember that the word that comes after should be singular, not plural.

Note that it can be easy to fall into the trap of strictly adhering to the translations provided in dictionaries, but it's important to keep in mind that they often only provide one or two possible translations for a given meaning, and that these are usually just the most commonly used translations. The fact that most words don't really have a perfect one-to-one translation between languages makes this even trickier. The best thing to do when learning a new language is to try to look at the words as they're used in that language, and not to try to pin them down too much to any one translation in English. 

I hope that this is helpful! Let me know if you still have any questions on this.

À la prochaine,


P.S. - I can see your point of how Paul's reference to aucun "on its own" might sound a bit confusing, since you're right: aucun is generally used together with ne. You'll likely only see it by itself in literary texts. What he meant here though was that he wanted just to focus on the aucun part of the construction, so that he wouldn't have to repeat ne and "not" every time. A different choice of words would indeed have made things clearer on Paul's part. Our apologies for the confusion there.

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