Tous ne sont pas de vils flagorneurs, bien sûr... Mais ils le sont pour la plupart, hélas.

In this sentence, it is obvious that the phrase "tous ne sont pas" means "not all of them are". It makes me wonder, though, how you express the idea "all of them are not" or "none of them is" (complete negation) in contrast.


Are you certain "all of them are not" is a 'complete' negation? Anyway, I would say that a complete negation in french would be "None of them is", translated exactly into "Aucun n'est [un vil flagorneur]" (note the use of singular, like in english).

  • Does the following phrase also express "not all of them are"? Merci. "Ils ne sont pas tous de vils flagorneurs." Jun 29 '16 at 6:59
  • Yes, they are both partial negations. "Tous ne sont pas" is more formal than "Ils ne sont pas tous", but they express the same quantification and they have the same grammatical construction in the sentence.
    – Lucile
    Jun 29 '16 at 7:02

Partial negation:

Tous ne sont pas de vils flagorneurs.

Ils ne sont pas tous des vils flagorneurs.

Complete negation:

Aucun n'est un vil flagorneur.

I think you cannot make a complete negation with 'tous'. You must use 'Aucun' (= 'None (of them)').

  • In your second sentence, I notice that you have used "des vils" instead of "de vils". I wonder why? Merci. Jun 29 '16 at 10:46
  • @LUNA I would say you can use both in this case, 'de' is more formal, so I should maybe have used it. Maybe I'm even wrong and it's 'de' only. I don't know the rule, I would mostly use 'de' if there is a qualifying adjective before the name ('Ils ne sont pas tous de(s) vils flagorneurs'), but a sure thing is you cannot use 'de' without a qualifying adjective before the name ('Ils ne sont pas tous des flagorneurs vils'). Maybe this can help you: francaisfacile.com/exercices/exercice-francais-2/… , I need to think about it.
    – Destal
    Jun 29 '16 at 11:32

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