I’m doing my french homework and I’m curious if the french/francophone people say ‘why not’ as ‘pourquoi non’. If not, what’s the equivalent of it?

  • 5
    Greg's answered it. I just wanted to add that pourquoi non would be (somewhat unsurprisingly) the translation to "Why 'no'?".
    – Circeus
    Apr 27, 2018 at 5:18
  • Also, in the special case: "Do you want to come? -No. -Why not?", in French we'll just use "Pourquoi ?", not "Pourquoi pas ?". Aug 1, 2019 at 12:32

5 Answers 5


There is a very common equivalent: pourquoi pas ?


For queries like this one may consult the webpage linguee.fr. In your case


shows how to interpret why not depending on the context. As the others have already pointed out it would mostly be pourquoi (ne) pas.

As a further example consider the case one wishes to find the interpretation of tag questions in French (..., isn't it?), that is the kind of question which seeks confirmation of a statement just made.

Le voilà (typing isn't it? in the search area):



One sees the common (mostly formal nonetheless; see the comments accompanied my response and the reference therein and the links below) n'est-ce pas ?



  • 1
    Beware of n'est-ce pas. It is almost never used in day to day French and I mostly read/hear it from non native people assuming it matches the usage of isn't it and similar question tags. See french.stackexchange.com/questions/9155/…
    – jlliagre
    Apr 27, 2018 at 11:31
  • @jlliagre Thanks a lot!!! I guess my french grammar books (for Greek or Anglophones) need an update:-)!
    – Dimitris
    Apr 27, 2018 at 11:37
  • 1
    I concur with Jiliagre: a more common equivalent in every day conversations would be the shorter "non?" (only with a positive form), or "hein ?": C'est chouette, non ?/C'est chouette, hein ?
    – Greg
    Apr 27, 2018 at 11:42
  • Upvoted just because the approach to answering is good. SE isn't a phrase lookup site but a place for holistic answers like "Here's how to solve this on your own / some relevant context."
    – Luke Sawczak
    Apr 27, 2018 at 11:47
  • @Greg : D'accord:-)! I modified slightly my answer to take into account the feedback.
    – Dimitris
    Apr 27, 2018 at 11:54

"Pourquoi pas ?" is indeed very common as a question for "why not?" If you want to build a sentence out of it, you can say Pourquoi ne pas ____ ?, which stands for why not ____?

Why not go to Paris instead?

Pourquoi ne pas aller à Paris à la place ?

  • Why not go to Paris instead.
    – Lambie
    May 3, 2022 at 18:05

TL;DR as Greg wrote, say pourquoi pas.

In general, it's hard to predict whether non or pas will appear in a given expression. A good tool to resolve these cases is Google Ngrams.

For example, here's a comparison of pourquoi non and pourquoi pas showing that pas wins:

pourquoi pas vs. pourquoi non

But here's a comparison of non seulement and pas seulement showing that non wins:

pas seulement vs. non seulement

So it depends on the phrase.

To do a deeper check if you're still not sure which one to say after that, I suggest linguee.fr as dimitris mentioned. There you can find translated chunks in English and French and make sure that it's used the way you think it is. Here's an example from a search for pourquoi pas :

Et pourquoi pas un vélo ou des chaussures de marche ? →
Why not a bike or walking shoes?

As Arkeen wrote, when asking why not do a specific thing, you should use the regular negation ne ... pas followed by the infinitive :

Pourquoi ne pas poser ta question en ligne ?


Note that while, as already answered, pourquoi pas ? is the natural translation of "why not?", pourquoi non ? used to be valid and was still be used in the 20th century literary French.

Moreover pourquoi non ? can still be used in modern French but only in reply of a non and would match "why no?" instead of "why not?".

– Tu viens ?
– Non !
– Pourquoi non ?

Here, non is just repeated like any other word would be, e.g.:

– Tu choisis quelle couleur ?
– Rouge.
– Pourquoi rouge ?
(Why red ?)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.