The following sentence was written in a novel1:
On ne peut trouver plus libre.
DeepL translates this to:
You can't get more free.
I don't know how I could arrive at DeepL's translation.
If I were to translate the sentence literally, my attempt would see "ne..plus"; and I would have difficulty with the word "libre":
"You can no longer find/believe/consider libre",
where "libre" is an adjective meaning "free". I don't know what "libre" is applying to; (it is not applying to the verb "trouver", since "libre" is an adjective!). But maybe "libre" can be used as an adverb, given that I see that in WordReference, "libre" is used as if it's an adverb in the expression "vivre libre ou mourir" ( = "live free or die"). So maybe my translation could be "You can no longer believe freely".
I would have been able to accept DeepL's translation more easily, if the sentence had instead been:
On ne peut pas trouver plus libre.
On [∅] peut pas trouver plus libre.
My understanding is that you can never delete the "pas" in "ne..pas", leaving "ne" by itself:
As far as I understand, if a verb is surrounded by ne..pas, you're allowed to delete the "ne" in informal speech, but you're not allowed to delete only the "pas".
I also understand that, in formal registers, "ne" sometimes appears without a negation word (ie, without a word like "pas", "plus", "jamais", etc), but this only happens when "ne" is being used as "Ne explitive"; and when this happens, the "ne" isn't really expressing negation at all (ie it isn't "ne..pas" with the "pas" deleted), and thus the "Ne expletive" can be deleted with very little change in meaning. But DeepL indicates that the "ne" in the original sentence is defintely creating a negation, so the "ne" in the original sentence is definitely not a "Ne expletive"!
So, I see at least three issues that are confusing me:
- How does the verb "trouver" (in "trouver libre") communicate the idea of being free? Is it an idiom? Or are the normal meanings of "trouver" (eg, "find / believe / consider", according to WordReference) involved?
- "libre" is an adjective, but I don't see any noun or linking-verb (eg "être", "devoir", etc) for the adjective to apply to!
- What is the negation in the original sentence? Is it "ne..plus"? Is it instead "ne..pas" but the "pas" being deleted (even though I thought that this was impossible")?
How can I understand how "On ne peut trouver plus libre" can be translated as "You can't get more free"?
1. From "La Bête à sa Mère", by David Goudreault, Chapter 1