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Would "No one has arrived" be "personne n'est pas arrivé" or "personne n'est arrivé"? In which case will the "pas" absorbed by personne as in "Personne ne me connaît ici"? Or "personne" never goes with "pas" because it already carry/equivalent to a negative meaning, such as "Je ne connais personne ici"?

Google translate gives me "personne n'a arrivés". If it is correct, why "n'a arrivés" and not "n'est arrivés", and why plural "arrivés" for "personne"? I thought it has a singular meaning.

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The correct translation is indeed

Personne n'est arrivé

And as you correctly deducted, "personne" already has a negative meaning so you shouldn't combine it with "pas" (but keeping the ne or in this case n'). If you do so, it's called a double négation. Double negations are usually tricky and therefore used very rarely and most of the time to induct confusion.

As in mathematics, double negation turns out to be positive.

Personne n'est pas arrivé (Nobody hasn't arrived)

means

Tout le monde est arrivé (Everybody has arrived)

or, if you want to use a plural ("Tout le monde" having a singular meaning being seen as one whole group)

Toutes les personnes sont arrivées (All the people have arrived)

where you should be careful not to mix up la personne/les personnes the noun , meaning "the people" and personne the pronoun meaning "nobody".

The Google translation you mention is indeed completely wrong but would be understood if ever you express it that way.

When refering to things instead of people, rien (nothing) should be used instead of personne (nobody). The grammatical use would be almost the same, at least regarding negation :

Tu n'as rien compris

... no "pas" in this sentence, rien conveying negative meaning.

Note that in this case rien comes between auxialiary and verb. "Tu n'as compris rien" isn't correct. I couldn't give a technical explanation about why though... I think your confusion might come from the fact rien is actually translated differently in English depending you're speaking positively or negatively. Actually as I think about it I guess it's more correct in English too to use "not ... anything" than just "nothing". I already heard sentences like "I didn't do nothing", but it's not how I was taught English...

  • Thanks Laurent. Will rien behaves similarly as personne ? "Tu n'as rien fait", "Rien ne s'est fait"(nothing has been done) and not "rien ne s'est pas fait". Also, what is the difference between "Tu n'as rien compris" and "Tu n'as compris rien"? – Kenny Jul 16 '15 at 8:50
  • I edited my answer to include "rien" – Laurent S. Jul 16 '15 at 9:13
  • Minor remark: I am OK with the double negation, but the opposite of "personne" is not "tout le monde", it is "quelqu'un". Same as with "Tout le monde n'est pas arrivé": some are here, but not everyone yet. – Chop Jul 16 '15 at 10:36
  • If personne has absored the negation, why do we still need ne as negation ? As in english nobody has arrived , nobody carries the whole negation meaning, the verb is in affirmative form. – Kenny Jul 16 '15 at 10:50
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    @Kenny > please ask a different question and if you wish put a reference to this one, but I don't think this is related in any way.Your additional interrogation is about tenses and not the use of "Personne" and should then be part of another question. Note that not all tenses are "translatable" directly to French; Without further context, it can often be discussed whether to use or not a continuous tense for example. "Je bois de la vodka" could be translated to "I'm drinking vodka" (=> right now) or "I drink Vodka" (=> usually; I've nothing against vodka) – Laurent S. Jul 16 '15 at 13:04
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Would "No one has arrived" be "personne n'est pas arrivé" or "personne n'est arrivé"?

No one has arrived is translated with Personne n'est arrivé.


In which case will the "pas" absorbed by personne as in "Personne ne me connaît ici"? Or "personne" never goes with "pas" because it already carry/equivalent to a negative meaning, such as "Je ne connais personne ici"?

The word personne (in French) is twofold. In your question the nature of personne is the second in the list:

  • It can be a noun. The translation in English is person. Its gender is feminine. And more than one plural exist: people/persons
  • It can be a negative indefinite pronoun. Its translation is anyone/anybody/somebody/someone if used without ne (negation); if used with ne (negation) its translation is nobody. Its gender is masculine.

personne (indefinite pronoun) in the sense of nobody is very common.

personne (indefinite pronoun) with the meaning of anybody/anyone/somebody/someone is less common. Examples:

  • faire quelque chose comme/mieux que personne ~= to do something better than anyone/anybody (else)
  • sans personne pour m'aider ~= without anyone ou anybody to help me
  • personne de blessé? ~= anyone ou anybody hurt?

You don't use personne and pas together to emphasize a stronger negation for example. I have never seen that in a sentence.

Laurent gave a good example of the usage of double negation in his answer (excellent mention).


Google translate gives me "personne n'a arrivés". If it is correct, why "n'a arrivés" and not "n'est arrivés", and why plural "arrivés" for "personne"? I thought it has a singular meaning.

Google Translate uses probability theory and statistics. The translations are fallible at times, not like a dictionary for example. I suggest not to rely on Google Translate and use dictionaries or site like this one.

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    Thanks ;). No I don't count on Google translate for sure. I use it mostly for orthography purpose, to correct accents or when I am sure 80-90% and need some further help. – Kenny Jul 16 '15 at 8:46
  • I can't think of an example where "Personne" would be used without "ne" and translated to "anyone/anybody/somebody/someone". For those I would rather use French word "Quelqu'un". – Laurent S. Jul 16 '15 at 8:53
  • I updated my answer with some examples – Ely Jul 16 '15 at 9:02
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    Thanks. Indeed I didn't think about these. "Quiconque/qui que ce soit" might also be a good fit though, but your examples are indeed more usual. – Laurent S. Jul 16 '15 at 11:15

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