This question is on the opening paragraph of La Princesse de Clèves by Madame de La Fayette (édition Lepetit, 1820), or specifically des as highlighted.

La magnificence et la galanterie n’ont jamais paru en France avec tant d’éclat que dans les dernières années du règne de Henri II. Ce prince était galant, bien fait, et amoureux : quoique sa passion pour Diane de Poitiers, duchesse de Valentinois, eût commencé il y avait plus de vingt ans, elle n’en était pas moins violente, et il n’en donnait pas des témoignages moins éclatants.


  1. If I wanted to say that someone did not give signs (tokens etc.) of something, would that be as follows?

    il n’en donnait pas de témoignages

    (Here I am following the rule that the plural indefinite article des becomes de when negated.)

  2. If yes to 1, what accounts for des remaining as des in the quoted paragraph? Does it for example have to do with moins éclatants modifying the noun?

  3. If the answer to 2 is indeed modification by moins éclatants, what other sorts of things can come after témoignages (i.e. modify it) so as to force des to remain des?

  • Good question. Because I don't know the exact triggers for this behaviour, I won't attempt a full answer. But certainly both can be found in the wild. The more questions I see on this type of structure, the more I suspect that pas de + [nom.] is a marked structure interchangeable with pas de + [det.] + [nom.] in weaker contexts / less fixed constructions. Still cooking that thought, though, so it's probably half-baked. :p Also, are you confident that in the wider context these témoignages are not definite? (It seems unlikely that they've been referred to before, but just a thought.)
    – Luke Sawczak
    Commented Feb 4, 2017 at 18:59

2 Answers 2


The sentence is not to be taken literally as a negation.

What is stated here is that Henri II was giving multiple striking evidences of its passion for Diane de Poitiers.

et il n’en donnait pas des témoignages moins éclatants

is close to:

et il n’en donnait pas moins des témoignages éclatants

and means:

et il donnait des témoignages (de sa passion) aussi éclatants (que vingt ans auparavant)

  • 1
    Nicely resolved!
    – Luke Sawczak
    Commented Feb 4, 2017 at 21:11
  1. Yes

  2. Yes. Another way to phrase it might have been

les témoignages qu'il en donnait n'étaient pas moins éclatants

  1. Any adjective would work. Here's another example

Son four chauffait mal, mais ne cuisait pas des pains moins délicieux

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.