I learn French on my own, I do the exercises from "Grammaire-Cours de Civilisation française de la Sorbonne- 350 exercices, Niveau Superieur I".

In that book, there is an exercise as follows

Employer, si nécessaire, les articles qui conviennent.

Je ne bois pas... vin, mais.... jus de pomme

I knew that des, de la, du become de in negative sentences (or before an adjective followed by a noun, or in a sentence in which être is involved) then I decided to write that sentence as

Je ne bois pas de vin, mais de jus de pomme.

But the answer that book gives is

Je ne bois pas du vin, mais du jus de pomme.

So, in this negative sentence, du doesn't become de.

My question is: Why? Is it the case that in a complex sentence des, du, or de la doesn't become de?

  • 4
    In case you are not confused enough, as a French native, I would have instinctively gone for Je ne bois pas de vin, mais du jus de pomme. Your proposed sentence is clearly incorrect, because you have a "du -> de" replacement is the non-negative part of the sentence, but the book answer does sound weird too, with the absence of this replacement in the negative part. I could not explain why, but the book's answer refers to what you are currently doing (you are not drinking wine right now), while my proposition refers to an habit (you are not used to drinking wine).
    – Efferalgan
    Commented Oct 10, 2016 at 10:06

2 Answers 2


"Je ne bois pas de vin" is a generic statement : I don't drink wine, I don't like the taste. It's often said alone, you don't really need to add what you drink instead (and you probably don't always drink apple juice every time other people drink wine.

"Je ne bois pas du vin" refers to what you have in your glass right now : I'm not drinking wine, it's just grape juice. It makes more sense if it's followed by the correct information.

It doesn't make sense to say you're drinking apple juice when you say you don't drink wine as a general statement, so it implies you're talking about what you're drinking right now. It's textbook logic, you have to deduce context from the little information you're given. It's easier in a normal conversation, don't worry.

The second sentence still sounds weird and a little academic for a native. It's a little too formal, especially in a context where you could be drinking wine.

  • Which “second sentence” are you referring to? Commented Oct 10, 2016 at 13:29
  • Sorry, that wasn't clear. I meant the last one. "Je ne bois pas du vin, mais du jus de pomme." Commented Oct 10, 2016 at 13:32
  • 2
    Ok. It doesn't sound formal to me at all though. Sounds like standard French. Would you say “C'est pas du vin mais du jus de pomme que je bois” instead? Commented Oct 10, 2016 at 13:36
  • 1
    Maybe formal isn't the word, it wouldn't surprise me to see this in a book but in a conversation I'd say "C'est pas du vin, c'est du jus de pomme (que je bois)" or "je (ne) bois pas du vin, je bois du jus de pomme" Commented Oct 10, 2016 at 14:13

The sentences mean different things.

Je ne bois pas du vin, mais du jus de pomme.

translates best to English as

What I am drinking isn't wine, it's apple juice.

On the other hand,

Je ne bois pas de vin, mais du jus de pomme.

translates best to English as

I don't drink wine, but [I do drink] apple juice.

The negated partitive article emphasizes that the identity of something is not wine. For the same reason, the verb être always takes the full negative partitive and not just a "de":

Ceci n'est pas du vin.

Finally, I don't think I would word the second sentence this way in French; I'd prefer to repeat the subject somehow:

Je ne bois pas de vin, mais parfois je bois du jus de pomme.

However, I am not a native French speaker and this last intuition may be wrong.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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