I would like to say something along the lines of “we did not have to + infinitive”. Instead of present e.g. il faut + infinitive, I was thinking “il ne fallait pas”? But I struggled for it to make sense. For example:

We did not have to wear a uniform.

How would I say this?

  • note that even in the present, "il ne faut pas qu'on porte un uniforme" means "we must not wear a uniform" and not "it's not required that we wear a uniform."
    – hunter
    Nov 27, 2015 at 8:27

2 Answers 2


If spoken French, the first person plural is fading out. You'll more likely hear:

  • On ne devait pas porter d'uniforme. (Uniform forbidden) ("ne devait" is often pronounced "n'devait", the "ne" might even be dropped in lazy French - "On devait pas...")

  • On n'avait pas besoin de porter un uniforme. (Uniform not needed)

  • On n'était pas obligés de porter un uniforme. (Uniform not required)

  • Even though this is indeed fading out, I don't find the use of "nous" so strange to hear/read. I would also add "Nous n'étions pas obligés de..." , "Nous ne devions pas ..." . Also, in the case of a "forbidden uniform", I would rather use "Nous ne pouvions pas/On ne pouvait pas", because "ne devait pas" refers to an absence of obligation, while "ne pouvait pas" refers to an interdiction. Unless I've been wrong for a very long time :-)
    – Laurent S.
    Nov 27, 2015 at 9:59
  • @LaurentS. About nous vs on when used as the direct subject of a verb, the fact is the latter has mostly replaced the former in native spoken French and is only retained in formal speak nowadays. Studies about the subject show a usage trend slowing down to between 10% and less than 1%. See for example erudit.org/revue/arbo/2015/v/n5/1032665ar.pdf . About "Uniform forbidden", I agree with your remark. This part was not in my original reply and was added later by someone else.
    – jlliagre
    Nov 27, 2015 at 11:00

Here are two possibilities:

Nous n'avons pas dû porter l'uniforme.

Nous n'étions pas obligés de porter l'uniforme.

  • J'ajouterais "Nous n'avons pas eu à porter l'uniforme"
    – Random
    Nov 26, 2015 at 8:19

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