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[FRENCH] Why is this sentence like this?

I was asked to translate "I do not have a map"

I typed in "Je n'ai pas une carte" but it was wrong, what Duolingo says I should have typed was "Je n'ai pas DE carte."

Why is De used instead of Une?

August 26, 2017



This is just the structure in French negations to say someone doesn't have something. To say you don't have something ne + avoir + pas + de.

J'ai des stylos. I have pens. / Je n'ai pas de stylos. I don't have pens.

J'ai du beurre. I have butter. / Je n'ai pas de beurre. I don't have butter.

J'ai de l'eau. I have water. / Je n'ai pas d' eau. I don't have water.


Oh, that's interesting. Thank you!


Because 'de' does not mean 'of', here, like you might think (since it is its usual meaning) but 'any'. In French, we cannot say 'I do not have a map'; we have to say 'I do not have any map' (and use 'de' for that).

This 'any' only works in negative sentences, though. In questions, we have to use the same determiner as in the affirmative sentence.

  • I have a map = J'ai une carte.
  • I do not have a map = [Not possible in French]
  • I do not have any map = Je n'ai pas de carte.
  • Do you have a map? = As-tu/Tu as/Est-ce que tu as une carte ?
  • Do you have any map? = [Not possible in French]


If instead of 'un/une' we have 'du/de la' (some), it works in a similar way:

  • I have (some) bread = J'ai du pain.
  • I do not have bread = [Not possible in French]
  • I do not have any bread = Je n'ai pas de pain.
  • Do you have bread? = As-tu/Tu as/Est-ce que tu as du pain ? (literally: Do you have some bread?)
  • Do you have any bread? = [Not possible in French]


To clarify: 'de' = 'any' was a simplification. It is actually 'pas de' that means 'not... any'. This is why it does not work with questions.


I believe it's because "Je n'ai pas une carte" means I don't have one map when it asked you to translate I do not have a map, the difference being a map and one map.


...You know un and une translate to "a/an" right?

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