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negation "ne"

Hi, I was doing revisions for the things that I have studied, and apparently they do introduce new things to you while you're revising. Here's what I got

Elle ne mange que des légumes.

The translation for "ne" being "(negation)" So naturally I translated it as

She didn't eat vegetables

And duolingo's translation is

She only eats some vegetables.

Can someone explain the usage of "ne" for me? Why does a "ne mange" translates as "only", when hovering over the word "ne" shows "(negation)"

Merci beaucoup :)

July 9, 2012



Duolingo is right: je ne parle pas = i don't speak. je ne vois rien = i see nothing ; je ne mange que deux pommes = i eat only two apples (litt: nothing but), je ne mange jamais la viande = i never eat meat. je ne joue plus = i don't play anymore


"elle ne mange que des légumes" is not negative, despite the presence of "ne". It is a "locution" meaning "only" and synonymous with "seulement" : "elle mange seulement des légumes". for "ne" to really mean something negative, you need another part to the "locution" : "elle ne mange pas de légumes" (does not eat), "elle ne mange plus de légumes" (does not eat any more), "elle ne mange jamais de légumes" (never eats), etc.


Thanks for that explanation Sitesurf - I came across it in the inverse tree and my instinct was to write "Elle ne mange que DE fruits". I got it wrong, of course, so I went hunting around to discover why and came across this post through a Google search. Very helpful as always :)


Also remember that "elle ne mange que des fruits" is the plural of "... qu'un fruit...". :-)


Merci. I understand that you may say "Au dejeuner, elle ne mange qu'une pomme" but would you ever be in an situation to say "un fruit" or does that imply "a piece of fruit"?


Oui, "une pomme" is "un fruit".


i love duolingo. but questions such as these suggest you would be wise to invest in a good, detailed grammar book to go along with it!


"She didn't eat vegetables" will be translated in French as "Elle n'a pas mangé les legumes" meaning: she was not hungry or didn't like it With "Elle ne mange que des légumes." I will understand that she is vegetarian


Just to add to the good answers of siebolt, Sitesurf and Callipedie, the "que" is as important as, or maybe more important than, the "ne". In casual speech, not writing, French speakers sometimes completely swallow the "ne" so that this sentence would sound like "elle mange que des légumes" to me but would be understood as "elle NE mange que..." by another French speaker. (This dropping of the "ne" is even more common with forms of negatives, especially in "ne...pas", so it is better known.)


thanks everyone for the great answers! I understand usage of ne more now :) @legatrix - what grammar book would you recommend?


@sephquartz I would recommend "Practice Makes Perfect Complete French Grammar". I highly recommend any language books by McGrawHill as they tend to be very cheap and very useful. http://www.amazon.com/Practice-Perfect-Complete-French-Grammar/dp/007178781X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1342451695&sr=8-1&keywords=complete+french+grammar

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