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To say that I don't know, I use

Je ne sais pas.

To me that means

I not I-know not.

So either ne or pas is redundant.

Can you just leave one out?

Also, if I is already encoded into sais, why the Je?

Can you just say:

Ne sais

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  • sais alone can mean tu sais, not only je sais – Toto Apr 9 at 16:17
  • Native language? P.S. Welcome to French SE. – Luke Sawczak Apr 9 at 18:08
  • @LukeSawczak ??? – Pascal Widmann Apr 9 at 19:15
  • @PascalWidmann I'm curious what your native language is, based on your questions. If it's English, the second question is quite surprising to me. Since I is encoded into am, can't we drop I? Since he is encoded into is, can't we drop he? Whereas if you knew Spanish, I would better understand where you're coming from. – Luke Sawczak Apr 9 at 20:39
  • I is encoded in am but he is not encoded in is, as is can also be used with she and it. So Am here works Is here doesn't. – Pascal Widmann Apr 9 at 21:13
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Outside the imperative mood, a conjugated verb requires a subject in French so you can't drop the pronoun here. I believe that's similar in English. Spanish and Italian on the other hand do not require pronouns, one reason is their verbal forms are clearly distincts phonetically.

About the redundancy, spoken French ususally drops the ne but in written French, the split negative is the norm. Technically ne and pas do not play the same role so they can't both be word-by-word translated to not.

There have already been dozens of questions about them:

Does "ne" not negate words that are already negative?

Does `ne` and `pas` have a different meaning?

Negation without pas

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