The question is on the highlighted line of the Moralité to Le petit chaperon rouge as collected by Perrault.

On voit ici que de jeunes enfants,
Surtout de jeunes filles
Belles, bien faites, et gentilles,
Font très mal d’écouter toute sorte de gens,
Et que ce n’est pas chose étrange,
S’il en est tant que le loup mange.
Je dis le loup, car tous les loups
Ne sont pas de la même sorte :
Il en est d’une humeur accorte,
Sans bruit, sans fiel et sans courroux,
Qui, privés, complaisants et doux,
Suivent les jeunes demoiselles
Jusque dans les maisons, jusque dans les ruelles.
Mais hélas ! qui ne sait que ces loups doucereux
De tous les loups sont les plus dangereux.


  1. How do you say in today's French, "It is not a dog"? "Ce n'est pas de chien" or "ce n'est pas chien" or something else?

  2. How do you say in today's French, "It is not a strange thing"? "Ce n'est pas de chose étrange" or "ce n'est pas chose étrange"? If answers to 1 and 2 are different (one uses "pas de + noun" and the other "pas + noun") what accounts for the difference?

  3. Assuming that today's form is "pas de + noun" for both 1 and 2, was "pas + noun" the usual form at the time of Perrault or is there some other explanation?

1 Answer 1

  1. That would be: Ce n'est pas un chien; de chien would be used in il n'y a pas de chien (there is no dog), du chien in the dubious ce n'est pas du chien (that's not dog).

  2. Standard French would be Ce n'est pas une chose étrange (chose is a regular sustantive). Poetical/literary might be Ce n'est pas chose étrange (chose is used here as an invariable word). See chose1 and chose2 in the tlfi.

  3. Today's form is pas un. At the time of Perrault, the form without an article was probably more common but unlikely the usual one. In some cases, several forms are still possible:

Il n'y avait pas homme plus heureux !

Il n'y avait pas d'homme plus heureux !

Il n'y avait pas un homme plus heureux !

  • Thank you. What do you mean by "dubious"? Is it perhaps when people aren't sure what it is and someone is offering that, at any rate, it is not a dog?
    – Catomic
    May 10, 2016 at 6:55
  • By dubious, I mean this sentence would essentially be used when wondering what kind of meat is something. Think That's not chicken vs That's not a chicken.
    – jlliagre
    May 10, 2016 at 7:14
  • 1
    I think the reason is that chose was used as pronoun very earlier on, like “something”, or “quelque chose” in modern French. May 10, 2016 at 7:39
  • @StéphaneGimenez Indeed, answer updated. Thanks.
    – jlliagre
    May 10, 2016 at 8:22
  • Am I to understand that plus heureux is making two more forms available? That is to say, am I to understand: 1. There is only one way to say that there was no dog or no man, i.e. "il n'y a pas de chien" and "il n'y a pas d'homme." 2. But when the noun is modified by something like plus heureux then we get two more acceptable forms? Or do we get three forms only when the thing is homme? What is doing the trick?
    – Catomic
    May 10, 2016 at 10:14

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