A colleague just asked me about a file on my computer, and I answered him that the file is not a virus, but I'm doubting if I did it correctly.
Let's compare with the sentence "There are no viruses":

English Dutch French
There are no viruses Er zijn geen virussen Il n'y a pas de virus
It's not a virus Het is geen virus "Ce n'est pas un virus." OR "Ce n'est pas de virus."

I went for the first choice, but I'm afraid it might be an anglicism.

Which one is right?

1 Answer 1


The first sentence is right. Orally, that would more likely be: C'est pas un virus while the first one would be Y'a pas d'virus.

The second sentence ("être pas de virus") just doesn't work.

What would be possible:

Ce ne sont pas des virus. (There are things, but they are not viruses.)

Ce n'est pas du virus. (Colloquial, taking virus as uncountable.)

  • Do you have some "official" reference?
    – Dominique
    Feb 22, 2023 at 15:36
  • 1
    @Dominique you can check in any grammar how negation is formed. C'est un virus. -> Ce n'est pas un virus. However, il y a (=there is) is a somewhat special grammatical structure: il y a -> il n'y a pas de.
    – Roger V.
    Feb 22, 2023 at 21:25
  • Il n'y a pas un virus is also possible but can be ambiguous (pas un virus, mais trois !) while pas de virus is not ambiguous.
    – jlliagre
    Feb 22, 2023 at 23:53
  • How does “ce ne sont pas des virus” mean ‘there are things, but nothing like viruses’? Wouldn’t it just be ‘these aren’t viruses’? Feb 23, 2023 at 0:54
  • 1
    Ah, okay – I misunderstood, then. I would phrase that as ‘there are [some] things, but they’re not viruses’, since ‘nothing like’ means ‘completely dissimilar to’ (≈ il y a bien des trucs, mais ils ne sont absolument pas comme des virus). Feb 23, 2023 at 12:00

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