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Question about the below translation of a software product:

Is pas spécifié correct, or should it be ne pas spécifié ?

And for floor 0, which is more common, rez-de-chaussé or parterre* ?
Dictionary says rez-de-chaussé, but my feeling tells me parterre.

Software translation

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3 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

In this case the dictionnary is right, "rez-de-chaussée" (with an 'e' at the end) is a better translation than parterre which means a part of a garden with an aesthetic purpose.

"Pas spécifié" is not good french, when there is no data we would most likely say : "non spécifié".

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Exactly what I wanted to say! I would add that "parterre" is also the lowest part of a theater or a cinema: "Un billet, s'il vous plait. -Parterre ou balcon ?" –  Oltarus Jan 17 '12 at 11:45
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You have 3 questions here.

  • Floor 0 is "rez-de-chaussée" in French (at least the way it's spoken in France).

  • "Pas spécifié" is acceptable to a degree in spoken French, not so much in written French, "non spécifié" would be better.

  • "Pas" or "ne pas". Again, that's a verbal ellipsis. Ne should always be there, but in spoken French, it often disappears. This can lead to ambiguity.

Originally, ne is what makes the negation. The etymology of "pas" and "jamais" are exactly the opposite of their current meaning because of this. The only remainder (and cause of ambiguity is "plus"). There is a direct parallel with not and ever/more in English.

For example, "Je (ne) mange jamais de bonbons" ("ne" is rarely used in speech) would mean "I (n)ever eat sweets.". No one today would understand jamais in this context to mean ever or always: it's always understood as never. However, there are cases where the "ever" meaning is still used. For example: "Il court plus vite que jamais." (More than ever).

I'm not aware of any similar example with "pas" (although my understanding is that it comes from similar Latin roots and constructs).

There is still an ambiguity when you say "J'ai plus de bonbons."

  • If you pronounce "plusse", it's meant as it's written ("I have more sweets.")
  • If you pronounce "plu", ne is implied and should be written "Je n'ai plus de bonbons." (i.e. no more).
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Except here, “pas spécifié” is short for “n'est pas spécifié”, so *“ne pas spécifié” would be incorrect. –  Nikana Reklawyks Dec 2 '12 at 1:33
    
@NikanaReklawyks, sure, you need a verb with ne and pas. I never said otherwise. “ne pas spécifié” would indeed be incorrect. –  Bruno Dec 2 '12 at 14:28
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“Rez-de-chaussée” and “pas spécifié” are correct translations.

Parterre has very specific meanings in French. And “ne pas spécifié” is not grammatical and moreover could be mistaken for “ne pas spécifier” which is an injunction and not a piece of (non) information.

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