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This is a thorny question I’ve discussed with a lot of native French speakers, only to find that even my French colleagues seem to be split over this grammatical point.

I instinctively choose the following constructions in conversation, and for some reason I can’t quite put my finger on, I notice I don’t opt for the reflexive construction for the 2nd sentence with “rien”.

Some native speakers don’t agree with some of them, while others give them the green light. The 4th one with “mieux” is an especially controversial construction.

Tu t’y connais en menuiserie, hein ? { reflexive }

Je n’y connais rien en menuiserie. { non-reflexive }

Je ne m'y connais pas beaucoup en menuiserie. { reflexive }

Personne ne s’y connaît mieux en menuiserie que Felix. { reflexive }

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    The base forms are: connaître [direct object] versus connaître à [which then takes the Y] and se connaître. I'd say: je ne m'y connais pas beaucoup en menuiserie=a "populaire" forme. The verb does not "take" en. It takes à, the EN is a propositional adjunct to the verb. Super proper French would be: Je n'y connais rien à la menuiserie. – Lambie May 12 '17 at 17:47
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You cannot use the reflexive construction when connaitre has a direct object:

  • Je n'y connais rien / pas grand chose/ que dalle en menuiserie.

  • Qu'est-ce que tu y connais ?

With the reflexive construction there's no direct object:

  • Il s'y connait en menuiserie.
  • Je m'y connais beaucoup en menuiserie.
  • Tu ne t'y connais pas du tout en menuiserie.
  • Est-ce que tu t'y connais (en menuiserie) ?
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The reflexive form you are looking for is:

Je ne m’y connais pas en menuiserie. { reflexive }

But this sentence is longer than:

Je n’y connais rien en menuiserie. { non-reflexive }

That's why we prefer the non-reflexive way, I guess.

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