When I first learned French, I came across the adverb guère used in negation to mean "hardly", "barely", or other similar words. Recently, while reviewing negation in French, I came across information that suggests that ne ... guère is rarely used anymore. For example, a user on a forum on WordReference said the following:

[This is one of the] old negative forms that French used to be more precise about the negation. Now they are mostly literary.

I know realize why my high school French teacher seemed surprised when I once used ne ... guère when talking to her.

If ne ... guère is no longer used in casual conversation, what would be the most suitable alternative? The most common term I have seen that seems equivalent in meaning is ... à peine, but a sentence like

Je vais à peine au bureau de poste maintenant.

seems a bit confusing to me because most of the negations I have studied in French are easily identifiable with the adverb ne (though I am aware of ne explétif where this is not the case). Is this phenomenon (adverbs with a negative sense, yet used without ne in negative sentences) common in French, or is it only in certain cases where awkward literary forms have been replaced?

2 Answers 2


When in Paris area, I very rarely hear guère in casual conversation but I believe it happens more when I'm in Southern France (in Provence at least) where you can still hear, possibly because the provencal gaire was very common :

Je vais plus guère à la poste.

Here are some alternatives:

user2233707's Je ne vais pas souvent au bureau de poste maintenant (formal).

J'y vais plus trop, à la poste.

J'y vais plus souvent, à la poste.

Je vais presque plus à la poste. (Thanks @LaurentS)

Ça m'arrive plus trop (or plus beaucoup) d'y aller, à la poste.

Beware that the way you identify negations would be useless with informal spoken French (like in my examples) because the ne has essentially disappeared from it.

  • 1
    La liste sera difficilement exhaustive mais j'ajouterais le très simple "presque plus"
    – Laurent S.
    May 29, 2021 at 12:36
  • Thanks very much for the response. It seems from this list that there isn't really one construction of "hardly" in French. Is this accurate? Another thing that also came to me as I was reading this answer was that if one were to use hardly in a different context, as in "I hardly know him/her," it seems like using presque plus or trop/souvent wouldn't make sense in that case. I'm wondering what your thoughts would be on this as well.
    – Kman3
    May 29, 2021 at 19:01
  • Here à peine would perfectly fit: Je le/la connais à peine.
    – jlliagre
    May 29, 2021 at 19:44
  • @jlliagre Alright, thanks for the assistance. I appreciate it.
    – Kman3
    May 29, 2021 at 19:54

As far as I am concerned, as a native speaker, for your example, I’d rater say « Je ne vais pas souvent au bureau de poste maintenant. ».

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