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"Ne" without "pas"

I saw the sentence "Je ne peux l'imaginer." on a lesson. It was on a timed lesson on the phone app, though, so I couldn't comment there. Why does this sentence not have "pas" in it?

April 22, 2020



A few verbs including pouvoir (pouvoir is by far the most common, there are a few others but I can't think of any off the top of my head) can be negated without needing pas; note that this is formal and mostly restricted to official writing or speech. "Je ne peux pas l'imaginer" is equally correct, and in everyday speech you'll hear "J'peux pas l'imaginer"


You are right. I just checked and found this:

"In formal, usually written French, there are certain verbs and constructions that can be made negative with just ne – the inclusion of pas or some other negative word is not required. Cesser, oser, and pouvoir never need pas and are commonly used without it."

Doug, you wrote: "I saw the sentence 'Je ne peux l'imaginer' on a lesson"

It seems that if that construction (without a "pas") is what Duolingo intended to write, then it should have been mentioned in the tips.


You can leave out the "pas" with verbs like "pouvoir" or "savoir": "je ne sais", "je ne peux". However, this sounds like something straight out of the 19th century (or very formal). Nowadays you'd say "je ne sais pas" (everyday speech: "je sais pas" or "j'sais pas") or "je ne peux pas". The only other case when you can leave out the "pas" is when you replace with another negative word like "jamais" or "rien": "je ne dis rien", "je ne pourrais jamais imaginer ça".


You don't always have pas.

For example:

Je ne vais jamais l'école. (I never go to school)



That's only because "jamais" (i.e., "never") is replacing "pas" ("not"), in this particular sentence.


Some verbs don't need it if you want to sound more formal. In other cases, you can replace «pas» with, for example «jamais», «aucun/aucune», «plus», etc. It depends on the verb and what you want to say. In most cases it means the same thing. A few examples : «Je ne mange pas de pommes» -> «Je ne mange aucune pomme.» or «Je n'aime pas ça» -> «Je n'aime plus ça»

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