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French grammar - Negative pronouns - rien and personne

Negative pronouns - rien & personne

We previously saw how to use ne..pas to negate a verb in French.

There are many negative pronouns that can replace pas in the ne..pas negative construction to further detail the negation.

Rein and personne are two such pronouns:

ne..rien means 'nothing' or 'not any'

ne..personne means 'nobody' or 'no one' or 'not anyone'

Both of these are subject pronouns and are therefore always the subject of the (negated) sentence.

And as such, like any other subject noun, they can begin a sentence. But the ne should always precede the verb.

Je ne mange rien.
I eat nothing.
Ça ne vaut rien.
It is worth nothing.
Ils n'ont rien dans leurs sacs.
They have nothing in their bags.
Il ne pense à rien.
He's not thinking about anything.

Recall penser à is to 'think about' so penser à rien is 'to think about nothing'

Il ne veut rien dire.
He doesn't mean anything. *OR* He doesn't want to say anything.

Recall that vouloir dire is used for 'to mean'

Il n'y a rien dans cette boîte.
There is nothing in this box.
Je ne vois personne.
I do not see anyone.
Il n'y a toujours personne dans le resto.
There is still no one in the restaurant.
Il ne reste rien.
Nothing is left.
Il ne reste personne.
There is no one left.
Rien ne me dérange.
Nothing bothers me.

déranger (verb) means 'to bother'

Rien ne se passe.
Nothing is happening.

se passer (verb) means 'to happen' or 'to take place'

Personne ne joue dans le parc.
Nobody plays in the park.

jouer (verb) means 'to play'

Personne ne mange dans ce bistrot.
No one eats in this bistro.

bistrot (m) means 'bistro'

Pourquoi tu ne dis rien à propos de ma cravate ?
Why don't you (familiar) say anything about my tie?

à propos de means 'about' or 'on the subject of'

Ils n'ont rien dans leurs sacs à dos.
They have nothing in their backpacks.

sac à dos (m) means 'backpack'

Je pense qu'il n'aime personne.
I think that he doesn't love anyone.
Rien ne m'énerve.
Nothing bothers me.

s'énerver means 'to be bother by (something)' or 'to get worked up'

Personne n'est en retard.
Nobody is late.
Rien n'est plus facile.
Nothing is easier.

Here plus has the meaning 'more' so plus facile = 'easier'

Ça ne fait rien.
It does not matter.

A very common colloquialism - literally 'That makes nothing'