Puisque tu es si occupé, tu peux ne pas venir avec nous, mon pauvre chéri.

Shouldn't the ne..pas comme before and after pouvoir? Why are they put after it?

  • I guess you meant : what's the difference between "Je ne peux pas venir" et "Je peux ne pas venir".
    – XouDo
    Commented Dec 11, 2021 at 19:49
  • @XouDo Silly me, yes you're right. I corrected it.
    – Manar
    Commented Dec 11, 2021 at 19:55

1 Answer 1


The most usual sentence:

Tu ne peux pas venir

means : You cannot come.

The one you quote:

Tu peux ne pas venir

is less used (but perfectly understood in France), its meaning is :

  • You can decide not to come.
  • You have the option not to come.

It literally translates to You can not come

  • in colloquial French the "ne" is usually dropped right? But that would leave the two sentences identical. Do you know how you'd go about saying "you can not come" in colloquial French? Would you be forced to preserve the "ne"?
    – Tristan
    Commented Dec 12, 2021 at 10:18
  • 4
    @Tristan Indeed, ne cannot be dropped without losing the distinction. "You can not come" would probably be "T'es pas obligé de venir' in colloquial French, without any "ne". Commented Dec 12, 2021 at 10:33

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