i've seen the following sentence: "Je ne suis riche que de mes amis" (it's from a song).

As i understand it translates as "I'm rich only from my friends", when you add the "pas" - it translates literally (which ofc doesn't make sense) - "I am not rich that of my friends"

so, why when adding "ne" without the "pas" the meaning is changed like that? is this some kind of a rule? (ne without pas is always "only")?

  • 1
    It's "ne que" not "ne" alone. I expect the answer to this question should answer yours as well. A search on the site with "ne que" will return more answers to your question.
    – None
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 11:15
  • Never be surprised to find that "que" has more meanings than expected. :D In sentences like this, when I'm forced to do a word-for-word translation (e.g. for a student who has trouble seeing the structure), I translate it as "but" or "except" and that gets close to a natural translation. "I'm not rich except for my friends."
    – Luke Sawczak
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 16:02

3 Answers 3


No, ne without pas doesn't mean "only" - ne ... que does.

So the translation is "I'm rich only from my friends" (I'm rich only thanks to my friends, thanks to friendship.)

  • ahh! j'ai compris, Merci!
    – ArielB
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 11:21
  • I don't think the translation is accurate. I would translate as my only wealth is my friends. I don't think thanks to is appropriate here.
    – Frank
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 15:22
  • ye well i can relate to that, alot of french sentences are not translated directly to english, but i understood the context.
    – ArielB
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 16:00

I would translate the sentence as:

My only wealth is my friends.

It is not possible to add pas in the sentence Je ne suis riche que de mes amis.


Note that the 'ne' in this phrase is not technically necessary, and since you say it comes from a song, might only be there for artistic reasons.

Je suis riche que de mes amis will be understood the same.

Additional note: both forms are a little bit stilted and contain some measure of poetic license. Drawing 'rules' from such phrases is not the best idea.

  • ye, i've read that there's not always proper french in songs, so its not a good way to learn. thanks for the tip!
    – ArielB
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 16:24
  • 1
    @Falc: Je ne suis riche que de mes amis is much better :-) No reason to drop that ne.
    – Frank
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 16:38

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