Toutefois, l’administration Trump n’a pas surgi de nulle part. C’est l’aboutissement d’un processus prolongé, avec notamment le vol des élections de 2000.

{vs}: Toutefois, l’administration Trump n’a surgi de nulle part.

I intuitively grasp that the omission of "pas" sounds odd here in the light of the meaning of the sentence, but I cannot offer a rationale for using "pas" despite the presence of the negative word "nulle" that usually does not allow the addition of "pas".

I assume this is not about a double negation at work here.

{incorrect: e.g.}: Elle ne pouvait pas se cacher nulle part.

  • If you want to stretch your understanding of double negation a bit, try « Rien n'existe pas » (can't remember where I first saw it but here's one usage), a modern take on the Victor Hugo quote. :)
    – Luke Sawczak
    Nov 5, 2017 at 0:49
  • @LukeSawczak Can you take a look at my comment below? Now I think this is not about a double negation, after all. If we replace « de nulle part » with « subitement », it all seems straightforward enough. Nov 5, 2017 at 16:51
  • I guess it's fair to avoid calling it"double negation if we mean only verbal negation. (It's true that nulle part can't replace pas.) But in a looser usage meaning two "negative polarity" items that end up with a positive meaning...
    – Luke Sawczak
    Nov 5, 2017 at 20:52

1 Answer 1


There is a double negation.

l’administration n’a pas surgi de nulle part.


l'administration a surgi de quelque part.

i.e., the admistration didn't emerge out of nowhere.

  • Hi. How do you interpret the meaning of "Trump n’a surgi de nulle part"? Nov 4, 2017 at 21:10
  • 1
    I interpret it as an non idiomatic sentence. That should be either a surgi de nulle part or n'a pas surgi de nulle part
    – jlliagre
    Nov 4, 2017 at 21:19
  • Hi. Shouldn’t we consider the phrase « de nulle part / subitement » to have nothing to do with negation, just like « au milieu de nulle part »? « Ce n’est pas comme si Trump avait surgi de nulle part. »: This "si" clause is an affirmative structure through and through despite the presence of the word « nulle ». So adding « ne ... pas » to « surgir de nulle part » seems like a single negation, not a double negation, the way I see it now. I think the word « nulle » had me confused there. Nov 5, 2017 at 16:45
  • I mentioned double negation because de nulle part is the negation of de quelque part like nowhere is the negation of somewhere.
    – jlliagre
    Nov 5, 2017 at 17:02
  • I suspect "n'a surgi de nulle part" is not possible because it's a set phrase. Surgir de nulle part fonctions as a whole verb, which prevents "connecting" nulle and ne (already a somewhat literary construction in the first place) as a two-part negation. Just like you can't pull disjoin it into a relative: la part d'où a surgi l'administration trump is downright ungrammatical.
    – Circeus
    Nov 6, 2017 at 1:57

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