How would you respond negatively to the following question:

Q. Chacun a fait un exercice?

Is it:

A. Aucun a fait un exercice.


A. Aucun n'a pas fait un exercice.

3 Answers 3


I'd say:

Personne n'a fait d'exercice. (Nobody has done any exercise.)

  • 2
    @cl-r: Je pense qu'utiliser «ne» sans «pas» est correct. Pour signifier «tout le monde l'a fait» il faudrait écrire «Personne ne l'a pas fait»
    – Toto
    Aug 21, 2013 at 13:48
  • 10
    This sentence doesn't sound right to me. I could say “Personne n'a fait d'exercice”, or “Personne n'a fait un seul exercice” (which to a mathematician means that each person did either zero or at least two exercices, but to anybody else means that each person did zero exercices). Aug 21, 2013 at 21:17
  • See the revision history to understand the above comment french.stackexchange.com/posts/7320/revisions
    – Samie Bee
    Oct 3, 2019 at 14:40

To give you the long answer:

In fact, you were not trying to make a double negation, but to build a negative in French.

You thought that "aucun" was a negative pronoun, meaning "no-one". You were not far, but you fell into a treacherous trap: it is a positive. "Aucun" really means "a few" (or rather meant, because it is quite obsolete) and it is a plural:

D'aucuns sont venus.

The only negation in French is ne (n').

Aucun... ne => No a few => No one

Since in French (as a thumb rule) zero is a singular, you now have to say:

Aucun n'est venu.

But "aucun", used in that negative way, should refer to people/things you already referred to (why that is, is probably a question of habit). So if it is clear which group of students you are talking about, it is perfectly correct.

To avoid that problem, you should use "personne". Personne is also a positive. It really means... "someone".

"As-tu vu personne?" = "As-tu vu quelqu'un"? => "Have you seen someone?"

In French, the only negation is "ne" (n').

ne... personne / personne... ne => "not one" => nobody


Personne n'a fait...

The problem is, modern French usage tends to forget this and the meaning of "personne" is reversed, to mean "no-one":

- As tu vu quelqu'un?

- Non, personne

The only way to tell is with the context. I tend to avoid this, if I can, because it is ambiguous.

"Un/de" in negative sentences

And finally, a little detail (not mandatory, but it will improve the quality of your French): in a negative sentence, "un" tends to become "de".

- As-tu vu un chien?

- Non je n'ai pas vu de chien.

Hence the final answer could be:

Personne n'a fait d'exercice.


The logical, negative answer to the question:

Chacun a fait un exercice ?

can be:

Non, chacun n'a pas fait un exercice.

or the equivalent:

Non, tous n'ont pas fait un exercice.

meaning at least one person didn't do one exercise1.

Non, il y en a au moins un qui n'a pas fait d'exercice.

The reply suggested elsewhere so far:

Personne n'a fait d'exercice.

is negatively answering to a different question which is:

Quelqu'un a fait un exercice ?

1 - or everyone did more than one exercise but this would be controversial.

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