In French "ne" is typically used with "pas." How is the meaning of the sentence changed when "ne" is not used with "pas," but used with "de" instead, as in "Il n'est de charme qu'en toi même" ?

  • There's nothing so charming like you. My guess, but I am not a native speaker.
    – V.V.
    Nov 10 '17 at 6:54
  • I'd rather say "There is no charm but inside you".
    – jlliagre
    Nov 10 '17 at 10:52
  • THANKS TO THOSE WHO OFFERED TRANSLATIONS! Typically, "ne" in French is used with "pas." In the line of poetry I quoted, "ne" is used with "de (quelque chose) que" which does not translate literally. I was hoping someone could remind me of what the use of "ne" without "pas" employing "de" instead... means as an expression.
    – abelflower
    Nov 10 '17 at 21:45

The two-word construct ne … pas is the “basic” way to form a negation in French. The two-word construct ne … que is not really a negation: it means “only”. You can see it as a negation meaning “no other than” or “no more than”, but often other languages would not use a negation.

Je ne peux rester que cinq minutes.   (I can only stay for five minutes.)
Il n'y a du charme qu'en toi-même.   (There is charm only in yourself.)

Il n'est de … que …” is a variant of “Il n'y a de … que …” that is no longer used in everyday French or even in typical literary French, but is still fairly common in poetry. In English, you might use a negation and but to preserve the poetic phrasing.

Il n'y a de charme qu'en toi-même.   (There is no charm but in yourself.)


This poem is using the same pattern multiple time:

Il n'est de charme qu'en toi même (There is no charm but in yourself)
Il n'est clarté que dans tes yeux (There is no light but in your eyes)
Il n'est blancheur que sur ton front
Il n'est ciel pur que dans ton cœur

Prose French would use il n'y a ... que instead of il n'est ... que

Il n'y a du charme qu'en toi-même (There is only charm in yourself)

Il n'y a de la clarté que dans tes yeux


One shouldn't confuse ne pas (not) and ne que (only):

Il n'a pas vingt ans. -> He is not 20 years old (i.e. he is either younger or older than that).

Il n'a que vingt ans. -> He is only 20 years old.


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