Why do we have pas trace instead of pas de trace as highlighted in this excerpt from L'Étranger by Camus?

Sur le pas de ma porte, j’ai trouvé le vieux Salamano. Je l’ai fait entrer et il m’a appris que son chien était perdu, car il n’était pas à la fourrière. Les employés lui avaient dit que, peut-être, il avait été écrasé. Il avait demandé s’il n’était pas possible de le savoir dans les commissariats. On lui avait répondu qu’on ne gardait pas trace de ces choses-là, parce qu’elles arrivaient tous les jours. J’ai dit au vieux Salamano qu’il pourrait avoir un autre chien, mais il a eu raison de me faire remarquer qu’il était habitué à celui-là.


My grammar book says that you have to use the partitive article to mean "not any" and gives these examples:

Ne buvez pas de vin.
Elle n'a pas de plume.

Because trace is a countable noun, the Camus sentence would seem to fit the plume example.

Please explain the logic behind pas trace in a way that I can apply it to other sentences. For example is it any time the noun in question is itself followed by de (as here, trace de)?

  • 1
    Your grammar book is correct. I think “garder trace” (instead of “garder une trace”) is just an idiom, but I can neither think of a more general grammatical construct that it's part of nor find this specific combination of words in a dictionary. Dec 12, 2015 at 13:53
  • looks like "on n'a pas idée de dire çà" or "il n'y a pas lieu de discuter", but I just cannot explain the grammatical point that lies here under.
    – OznOg
    Dec 12, 2015 at 17:04
  • I agree with @Gilles that “garder (& perdre) trace [de]” (just like “keep/lose track [of]” in English) are probably fixed expressions/idioms. Also, even if the French noun “trace” is countable/*dénombrable* as you mention (& to the extent that its being countable adds to the confusion), perhaps looking at “keeping/losing track [of]” in English as expressing an uncountable notion as a whole (replacing “maintaining/failing to maintain awareness [of]”) might help (where “awareness” is uncountable in English, and perhaps its French counterpart “conscience” is, too).
    – Papa Poule
    Dec 12, 2015 at 23:00

2 Answers 2


There are lots and lots of combinations of verb + noun without an article.

  • To have and common verbs can be combined with a lot of nouns: avoir envie, avoir faim, prendre acte, prendre froid, donner congé, donner raison, …

  • It also happens with specific verbs and nouns.

Sometimes the meaning is evident, sometimes, it is specific. It is impossible to know them all. They are in dictionaries.

  • garder trace = garder une trace

  • ne pas garder trace = ne pas garder de trace


Think of

garder trace de...

as a whole.
"de" would be used in a sentence like:

on n'en a pas gardé de trace.


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