"There is nothing to eat."
Translation:Il n'y a rien à manger.
"De" is only used after certain verbs.
The "à" here is being used to have a passive infinitive.
I wouldn't be too hasty with that direct translation into english ...there are MANY instances in french where "de" and "a" do not translate directly into english and where the english version uses "to" but the french version uses "de".
I struggled with this through all of my french classes, and still don't have it down because it isn't as simple as a direct translation.
The construction "pour + verb" is used for purpose ("Il l'a fait pour nous aider." He did it [in order] to help us.) or description ("Il est trop avare pour nous aider." He is too stingy to help us). (Examples from http://french.about.com/od/grammar/a/preposition_pour.htm)
The word "à" is used instead in passive constructions, when the verb is modifying a noun (usually with indefinite words like "something" or "anybody"). The passive infinitive can also be translated into the English passive form, e.g. "There is nothing to be eaten".
it's not a double negative in French, as "rien" etymologically means "thing".
You can see that clearly in "ne... personne", in which "personne" is initially a positive word.
"There isn't nothing to eat" (double negative in English) would be "Il n'y a pas rien à manger"... oddly enough.
I think I need a native francophone here. "pas de . . ." is good French. "rien de. . ." is also good French, as in "rien de nouveau." I might be led to think that it is the following infinitive, "manger," that demands "à," but then there's "Cà ne coûte rien de demander." Is this just an idiomatic usage, or is there more going on here?
I'd appreciate some clarification.
You would use "anything" instead of "something" to make it sound, and be, correct.
Both are just fine in English:
"There is nothing to eat"
" There isn't anything to eat"
Note that French uses a double negative, negating the verb (n'y a) and the object as well (rien). The literal translation would be " There isn't nothing to eat" , but in French (Spanish, too) double negatives aren't a problem.
- ne ... pas = [do] not
e.g. "I want this" = "Je veux ça" / "I don't want this" = "Je ne veux pas ça
e.g. "There is enough salt" = "Il y a assez de sel" / "There is not enough salt" = "Il n'y a pas assez de sel"
That's the basic negative.
- "ne ... pas" + "quelque chose" makes "ne ... rien" = "not" + "something" makes "nothing"
e.g. "I want something" = "Je veux quelque chose" / "I want nothing (or I don't want anything)" = "Je ne veux rien
e.g. "There is something to eat" = "Il y a quelque chose à manger" / "There is nothing to eat" = "Il n'y a rien à manger"