Les garçons ont de l'eau. (The boys have [some] water)
Les garçons n'ont pas d'eau. (The boys do not have water)

Here are the things I am aware of:

  • I have read this answer
  • de la has been changed to de l' and means "some" here.
  • de means of
  • de la can also mean of the
  • d'eau is the contracted form of de eau and means of water

Despite the above facts, I still do not understand why in the second sentence, "de l'eau" has been changed to "d'eau". Why is the following sentence wrong?

Les garçons n'ont pas de l'eau.

For me, "Les garçons n'ont pas d'eau" is literally translated to "The boys do not have of water" which does not make sense to me.

Can I conclude that "The boys do not have meat" should be translated to "Les garçons n'ont pas de viande" instead of "Les garçons n'ont pas de la viande"?

  • The partitive used to denote absence of something is de alone (You can find a detailed breakdown of the many uses of de here: french.stackexchange.com/a/11570) Commented Feb 20, 2015 at 21:11
  • 1
    «Pas d'eau» does not mean «of water».It means «any water» ...
    – NT01
    Commented Feb 21, 2015 at 7:22

1 Answer 1


In a negative sentence "pas de" is never followed by an article. For example:

"Je veux de l'eau". Negative: " Je ne veux pas d'eau".

"J'ai acheté des livres". Negative: "Je n'ai pas acheté de livres".

"Il a de la pitié pour elle". Negative: "Il n'a pas de pitié pour elle".

"Il mange des haricots" Negative: "Il ne mange pas de haricots".

With "c'est" or "ce sont", you would use an article. For example:

"C'est une bonne occasion". Negative: "Ce n'est pas une bonne occasion".

"Ce sont des livres très rares". Negative: "Ce ne sont pas des livres très rares".

  • It is not the case with être, devenir : ça n’est pas de l’eau, ça ne deviendra pas du vin*.
    – GAM PUB
    Commented Aug 18, 2020 at 18:46

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