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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")?

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    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. – Laure Mar 2 '17 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 Mar 2 '17 at 16:02
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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 Mar 2 '17 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 Mar 2 '17 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 Mar 2 '17 at 16:00
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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.

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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 Mar 2 '17 at 16:24
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    @Falc: Je ne suis riche que de mes amis is much better :-) No reason to drop that ne. – Frank Mar 2 '17 at 16:38

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