4

"Je ne sais pas nager" means "I don't know how to swim," if I'm not mistaken. So how do you say "I know not to swim"? (As when reassuring someone that you are not going to do something, e.g. to a parent "Yes Mom I know not to talk to strangers").

  • 2
    I find it worth mentioning that "I know not to swim" is "je sais ne pas nager". It's probably not what you mean, but it's different than "je ne sais pas nager". There is no ambiguity at play here. – Pierre Arlaud Jan 29 at 14:32
  • Why do you say "It's probably not what you mean"? – temporary_user_name Jan 29 at 16:59
  • "je sais ne pas nager" would mean I have the ability not to swim (when I want to). – Pierre Arlaud Jan 29 at 17:35
  • Oh, then that's not the same as "I know not to swim"-- that would be "I know how to not swim" (which I cannot think of any reasonable context for). – temporary_user_name Jan 29 at 18:09
  • Oh, yeah, that makes more sense! – Pierre Arlaud Jan 29 at 18:13
10

There could be different ways to express that, depending on the context:

Je sais qu'il ne faut pas nager

Je sais que je ne peux pas nager

  • Or quite simply “Je ne vais pas nager”. – Stéphane Gimenez Jan 29 at 8:48
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    To me the correct answer would be "Je ne sais pas nager" and "je sais que je ne dois/devrais pas nager". – Pierre P. Jan 29 at 17:06
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Your statement, "I know not to swim" is perhaps hard to translate because it is not entirely clear, in English, just what it means, which I think you have implicitly acknowledged by explaining the sort of context where it might be said. I think the slightly different statements "I know I should not swim" or "I know I can't swim" would not require this sort of explanation, and would thus be easier to translate. And their translations, respectively, would then be: "Je sais qu'il ne faut pas nager" (or "Je sais que je ne devrais pas nager", or "Je sais que je ne peux pas nager") for the first, and "Je sais que je ne peux pas nager" (or "Je sais que je ne sais pas nager" or "Je sais que je ne suis pas capable de nager") for the second.

Notice that one of these, "Je sais que je ne peux pas nager", retains the ambiguity of your "I know not to swim" - in both the French and the English here, it is not clear whether you will refrain from swimming because it is not allowed or because you are not capable.

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"Je ne sais pas nager" means "I don't know how to swim," if I'm not mistaken.

Right.

So how do you say "I know not to swim"? (As when reassuring someone that you are not going to do something, e.g. to a parent "Yes Mom I know not to talk to strangers").

I would use future simple for this:
Je ne nagerai pas (I will not swim)
Je ne boirai pas (I will not drink)

Or similar to Greg's answer, one could also say
Je sais que je ne dois/devrais pas nager (I know that I must/should not swim)

0

Indeed,

Je ne sais pas nager

translates to "I don't know how to swim". "I know not to swim" would be

Je sais que je ne dois pas nager

But the sentence is weird, even in english lacking a context. In you strangers example it is clearer :

Oui maman, je sais que je ne dois pas parler aux étrangers

0

I think the real problem here is that the questioner is stuck on a particular English syntactical construction and trying to replicate it in French, rather than do the obvious, namely, swim about first in English to find other ways of saying it in English. Je ne dois pas nager/je sais qu'il ne faut pas nager/il faut que je ne nage pas sound like they are all well within the questioner's ability, but he/she is just too stuck on one English construction to think of them.

  • It would behoove you to soften your phrasing so it doesn't sound like you're demeaning other site members. I had indeed thought of these things-- I didn't pose the question because of an inability to communicate the notion. I asked it because I was curious if there was a way to say specifically the same type of phrasing in French. – temporary_user_name Jan 29 at 23:24

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