Un, une become de or d' in negative sentences (indefinite articles)

You've already seen how to use indefinite articles un or une to express a/an (see Using un, une to say "a" (indefinite articles))


Now look at these negative sentences:

Il a une voiture. - Non, il n'a pas de voiture!
He has a car. - No he doesn't have a car!

Tu as un animal familier? - Non je n'ai pas d'animal familier.
Do you have a pet? - No, I don't have a pet.

J'ai un frère mais je n'ai pas de soeur!
I have a brother, but I don't have a sister.

Indefinite articles un and une become de or d' (in front of a vowel or mute h) after a negative expression (ne...pas / ne...jamais / ne...plus ... etc.) in order to express no / any.

ATTENTION: 

This rule does NOT apply to sentences using the verb être and other Verbes d'état, with which the indefinite article doesn't change:

Je ne suis pas une menteuse !
I'm not a liar!

Mon chien n'est pas un labrador.
My dog is not a Labrador.

Il reste un ami loyal. - Non, il ne reste pas un ami loyal !
He remains a loyal friend. - No, he doesn't remain a loyal friend!

Elle est devenue une excellente danseuse. - Non, elle n'est pas devenue une excellente danseuse !
She became a great dancer. - No, she didn't become a great dancer!


EXCEPTION:
 

When you want to emphasise the meaning of ONE (un/une) - not just a/an - as in He doesn't have ONE car, but TWO, you will keep un/une in the negative sentence - but here it doesn't mean no/any:

Ils n'ont pas une maison, mais deux !
They don't have ONE house, but TWO!

Also see Du, de la, de l', des all become de or d' in negative sentences (partitive articles) 

Note that definite articles (le, la, l', les) don't change in negative sentences: 
J'aime le chocolat. -> Je n'aime pas le chocolat.

 

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Je ne suis pas une menteuse !
I'm not a liar!


Mon chien n'est pas un labrador.
My dog is not a Labrador.


Elle est devenue une excellente danseuse. - Non, elle n'est pas devenue une excellente danseuse !
She became a great dancer. - No, she didn't become a great dancer!


J'ai un frère mais je n'ai pas de soeur!
I have a brother, but I don't have a sister.


Il reste un ami loyal. - Non, il ne reste pas un ami loyal !
He remains a loyal friend. - No, he doesn't remain a loyal friend!


Tu as un animal familier? - Non je n'ai pas d'animal familier.
Do you have a pet? - No, I don't have a pet.


Ils n'ont pas une maison, mais deux !
They don't have ONE house, but TWO!


Il a une voiture. - Non, il n'a pas de voiture!
He has a car. - No he doesn't have a car!


Q&A Forum 11 questions, 20 answers

une vs de soeur

how come it's incorrect to write "je n'ai pas une soeur" as opposed to "de soeur"?

Asked 4 days ago

The question "how come" is always tempting to ask and often difficult to answer, simply because languages aren't math and don't always follow the rules of logic.

In this case, it may help that English, too, doesn't use the definite article after negations. If someone asks you, "Do you have a sister?" you answer with, "No, I don't have a sister," and not "No I don't have one sister". In French it is similar.

une vs de soeur

how come it's incorrect to write "je n'ai pas une soeur" as opposed to "de soeur"?

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JoA0

J'ai lu un livre -> je n'ai pas lu de livre? J'ai fait du ski -> Je n'ai pas fait du ski?

Asked 8 months ago

Je ne fais pas du ski

J'ai lu un livre -> je n'ai pas lu de livre? J'ai fait du ski -> Je n'ai pas fait du ski?

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OluA1

For example with the verb manger. Je mange une pomme, Does it become "je ne mange pas *une* pomme or *de* pomme?

Asked 10 months ago
It changes in the negative to -> Je ne mange pas de pomme. 

For example with the verb manger. Je mange une pomme, Does it become "je ne mange pas *une* pomme or *de* pomme?

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OluA1

I obseved that change of the indefinite article to de/d' is in sentences with the verb Avoir. With the exception of Etre does it apply to other verbs?

Asked 10 months ago

I obseved that change of the indefinite article to de/d' is in sentences with the verb Avoir. With the exception of Etre does it apply to other verbs?

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Which is correct "du" or "de" in the sentence "Je ne fais pas ____ cheval.

Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq language super starCorrect answer

Hi Linda, 

it is - "Je ne fais pas du cheval" for 'I don't ride horses' i.e. 'I can't ride'.

You might say "Je ne fais pas de cheval aujourd'hui" for I won't ride today.

So a bit trickier than first thought...

I don't understand, aren't we suppose to use de in "Je ne fais pas de cheval" since it's negative? It is because faire is irregular?

du

Which is correct "du" or "de" in the sentence "Je ne fais pas ____ cheval.

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Which is correct "de la" or "de" in the sentence "Je ne joue pas ___ guitare."

Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq language super starCorrect answer

Hi Linda.

It is- "Je ne joue pas de la guitare" as the the expression is 'jouer de la guitare'.

de la

Which is correct "de la" or "de" in the sentence "Je ne joue pas ___ guitare."

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After ne...pas, is des ever used ?

Asked 1 year ago

Yes, after être or other verbes d'état (there's a link to the full list in the lesson).

For example:

"Ce ne sont pas des choses aisées à dire" - "these are not easy things to say"

 

Except for être and other verbs of state, is des used after ne ... pas ?  

It's also used in some figurative expressions:

"ça ne casse pas des briques"

"les chiens ne font pas des chats"


I'm not sure why "de" is not used in these examples.

no

After ne...pas, is des ever used ?

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Verbs other than être

Your exercise mentions that être does not use this construction with negative statements. Are there any other verbs that don't use it?
Asked 1 year ago
GruffKwiziq language super starCorrect answer
Hi William - yes as the note explains, it's all the verbs of state. There's a link to a list of them, but case you missed it these are the French verbs of state.

Verbs other than être

Your exercise mentions that être does not use this construction with negative statements. Are there any other verbs that don't use it?

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MaxA1

English grammr? Better written as "He has a brother, he doesn't have a sister."

I think the translation would be better as "He has a sister, he doesn't have a brother."
Asked 2 years ago
AurélieKwiziq language super star
Bonjour Max ! I absolutely agree with you, and thanks to you, this question has now been fixed ! Merci beaucoup et à bientôt !

English grammr? Better written as "He has a brother, he doesn't have a sister."

I think the translation would be better as "He has a sister, he doesn't have a brother."

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Salut,

If the verb of a negative sentence is être, would it still be possible to change un / une to de / d'? Merci beaucoup. ^^
Asked 2 years ago
AurélieKwiziq language super starCorrect answer
Bonjour Melvin, No, just like with partitive articles, this rule doesn't apply to complements following the verb "être". Thanks to you, I've now added a note to the lesson :) Merci et à bientôt !
Merci beaucoup ! :)

Salut,

If the verb of a negative sentence is être, would it still be possible to change un / une to de / d'? Merci beaucoup. ^^

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How would you say, "He does not have one car. He has two."?

Il n'a pas une voiture. Il en a deux.
Asked 3 years ago
AurélieKwiziq language super star

Bonjour Diane,

If you wanted to emphasise the number of cars he has, you could indeed say:
"Il n'a pas une voiture. Il en a deux.",
and even more colloquially, you could say:
"Il n'a pas une voiture, mais deux !"

Thank you for pointing out that case, we added this distinction to the existing lesson:
https://french.kwiziq.com/revision/grammar/un-and-une-become-de-or-d-in-negative-sentences-indefinite-article

Merci et à bientôt !

Bonjour, Peut-on dire : "Il n'a pas seulement une voiture, mais deux." Merci d'avance.
Il n'a que une voiture mais deux
Correction Il n'a qu'une voiture, mais deux

How would you say, "He does not have one car. He has two."?

Il n'a pas une voiture. Il en a deux.

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