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

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!


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.


Q&A

Olu

Kwiziq community member

7 November 2018

1 reply

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

Barbara

Kwiziq community member

7 November 2018

7/11/18

It changes in the negative to -> Je ne mange pas de pomme. 

Olu

Kwiziq community member

7 November 2018

0 replies

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?

Linda

Kwiziq community member

14 July 2018

2 replies

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

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

15 July 2018

15/07/18

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...

Gwen

Kwiziq community member

3 November 2018

3/11/18

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?

Linda

Kwiziq community member

14 July 2018

1 reply

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

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

15 July 2018

15/07/18

Hi Linda.

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

Robert

Kwiziq community member

1 July 2018

3 replies

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

Alan

Kwiziq community member

1 July 2018

1/07/18

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"

 

Robert

Kwiziq community member

2 July 2018

2/07/18

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

Alan

Kwiziq community member

2 July 2018

2/07/18

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.

William

Kwiziq community member

6 February 2018

1 reply

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?

Gruff

Kwiziq language super star

14 April 2018

14/04/18

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.

Max

Kwiziq community member

18 June 2017

1 reply

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."

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

19 June 2017

19/06/17

Bonjour Max ! I absolutely agree with you, and thanks to you, this question has now been fixed ! Merci beaucoup et à bientôt !

Melvin

Kwiziq community member

26 October 2016

2 replies

Salut,

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

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

26 October 2016

26/10/16

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 !

Melvin

Kwiziq community member

26 October 2016

26/10/16

Merci beaucoup ! :)

diane

Kwiziq community member

3 May 2016

4 replies

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

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

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

3 May 2016

3/05/16

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 !

ly fen

Kwiziq community member

13 May 2016

13/05/16

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

Shanti

Kwiziq community member

13 May 2016

13/05/16

Il n'a que une voiture mais deux

Shanti

Kwiziq community member

13 May 2016

13/05/16

Correction Il n'a qu'une voiture, mais deux
Getting that for you now.