I would like to know how commonly these constructions are used:

  • ne point
  • ne littéraire
  • ne explétif

I have never seen ne point used, I have only seen ne explétif used once in a book.

However, I see ne littéraire used all the time, especially in newpapers, online papers. Especially in headlines, maybe because they can shorten the headline by not using pas, I don't know.

I am but a very small sample, and my experience is anecdotal. But I would like to know what to focus on.

Would you say ne littéraire is the most commonly used construction and the others are rare?

Is a good knowledge of ne explétif required to start to read common day novels written in 2017? Or is this simply no longer used in today's litterature. If I picked out 10 random books in the local French Fnac store, would any of them contain the ne littéraire or would it be like trying to find a needle in a haystack?

2 Answers 2

  1. What you call the ne littéraire (i.e. a standalone ne with a negative value) is not just literary but standard written (and sometimes spoken) French, although limited to set expressions or some specific verbs.


    Ils ne peuvent accepter, si je ne m'abuse.

    Il n'est pire sourd que celui qui ne veut entendre.

  2. You didn't see ne point because it is very outdated, outside regional spoken French.

  3. The ne explétif (i.e. a standalone ne with no negative value) is common in written French and can also be heard in non colloquial spoken French. You need to understand its usage not to confuse it with a negation.

See also:

Why is the "pas" missing?

"Il n'est" without "pas": ne littéraire?

Quelle est la fonction du "ne" quand il est tout seul?

  • This is why no one understands me when I say ne point...
    – Luke Sawczak
    Nov 2, 2017 at 15:43
  • Oui et ce qui est curieux dans cette histoire est le nombre d'étiquettes qu'on a pu donner à ce truc parfois dit ne-[discordanciel, modal, abusif, pléonastique...]
    – MC68020
    Nov 22, 2019 at 20:46


  • "Ne.... point" is used the normal way.

"pas" is not the only negative-meaning 2nd particle, there's also "point" (old or formal), "jamais", "goutte" (very old), "mie" (very old), "personne", "guère" (old or formal), "plus",etc...

There are all constructed on this model:



For "aucun", "rien", "plus de.." (not meaning "more" here!), it's the same thing ne... rien, but the construction is a bit different (it's the only difference).

Je ne vois rien (rien = adverb).
Je n'ai plus de papier. Je n'ai aucun papier) = used as indefinite articles.

You can see that the negation requires always the "ne", but the 2nd negative particle can have different grammatical natures.

But they have in common: it's always the "ne...negative particle".
The dual-made negation.

So, when you have ne... pas, or ne...point, it's exactly the same.
They are both the 2nd negative particle, have the same meaning
(With this only difference: "point" is stronger, older-sounding and more formal, than the 'simple' and common "pas")
And they have the same grammatical nature. Both are used as negative adverbs.

They are interchangeable (if you ignore the difference in intensity).

We see it rarely, for the reason I mentioned. You can find it often in poetry, or even in novels, when the writer or the character wants to express a "strong no", in a very formal (and old-fashioned) way).

It's still used in modern French.

2/ There's no "ne littéraire", maybe you mean the "ne explétif".


You cannot express a negation without "pas", or one of its equivalents I gave above.
(at least in modern French).

"ne" is also used with "que", but it's not a negation.

Je ne fais que jouer.

Something like "je ne joue" could be said in some context in old French, but not in the modern language. So forget the negation without the 2nd negative part.

4/ "ne" explétif.

As I said, "ne" is always mandatory in French, the only case where it's not, it's when you talk orally, it's accepted to skip the "ne" because it's spoken French, but it doesn't make it grammatically correct. It's only tolerated, in some contexts, because people talk fast.

When you write, it's tolerated when you want to sound informal. But it doesn't make it grammatically correct.

So, to describe the "ne" explétif, it's a "ne" that you add when it's not a negation.
So, it has nothing to do with the theme of your topic "negations".

It's used with verb express a fear, a doubt.

It has zero negative meaning.

Je crains que tu ne sois en retard.
J'ai peur qu'il ne soit trop tard.

The "ne" explétif is always used in modern French.

It's very often skipped in the modern language, but it's not recommended.

  • Effectivement, il y a quelques erreurs dans cette réponse, que je corrigerai plus tard, j'ai écrit un peu à la va-vite. Je n'ai pas le temps de corriger maintenant les imprécisions.
    – Quidam
    Nov 22, 2019 at 20:42
  • Quelques erreurs ne valent pas un downvote.
    – Quidam
    Nov 23, 2019 at 23:04

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