A quote attributed to Blaise Pascal

Je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte.

is often translated

I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter.

Why the n' before ai and why isn't that translated I have not made this longer?


It's hard to see, but the negation is actually ne ... que meaning "only," so literally it means, "I made this one longer only because ..."

Je n' ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que...

  • I find questionable translations of this phrase many places, including the "literal" translation on WikiQuote. Jul 26 '18 at 2:26

Actually, you will use «ne ... que parce que» to answer a negative question. So your sentence must be the answer of a question (implicit or explicit) like :

Pourquoi ne l'avez vous pas faite plus longue ?

It may imply you are asked to justify about what you did. You could also say :

J'ai uniquement fait celle-ci plus longue parce que...

which means the same thing.

Adding some other sentences with the same structure :

Je ne fais que passer
I am only passing through

Il ne va au sport que pour se vider la tête
He only goes to sport in order to empty his mind

Les cloches de l'église ne sonnent que le jour
Church's bells only ring during the daytime

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.