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French grammar - Neither nor -

Neither nor -

The emphatic coordinating conjunction allows us to negate a sequence. can be used with both nouns, pronouns, verbs.

When used with nouns, any indefinite articles (un, une and des) or partitive articles (de) disappear altogether. The definite article (le, la or les) remains.

But when used with a list of verbs, each verb needs to be individually negated with a ne.

With this negation only the definite articles can be used. And then only when referring to specific objects.

More familiarly, you may hear with pas replacing the first ni. The meaning is not changed.

Il n'a ni frères ni sœurs.
He has no brothers or sisters.
Il ne veut ni les chaussettes rouges ni les chaussettes bleues.
He doesn't want the red socks or the blue socks.
Je ne vois ni la lune ni les étoiles.
I see neither the moon nor the stars.
Elle ne prend ni lait ni sucre avec son café.
She takes neither milk nor sugar with her coffee.

The partitive de disappears

On ne voit ni route ni chemin.
You can't see a road or a path.

The indefinite article disappears.

Je ne veux ni le fromage ni le lait.
I want neither the cheese nor the milk.

The definite articles remain when referring to specific objects

Jean_Paul ne prend ni miel ni lait avec son thé.
Jean-Paul takes neither honey nor milk with his tea.
Je ne peux me déplacer ni à Paris ni à Toulouse ce week-end.
I can't get to either Paris or Toulouse this weekend.

se déplacer means 'to move about' or to get to'

Nous ne marchons ni ne courons.
We don't walk or run.
Nous ne parlons ni de politique ni de religion.
We are not talking about politics or religion.
Ce gâteau ne contient ni beurre ni huile.
This cake does not contain butter or oil.
Je n'aime ni les chiens, ni les chats, ni les poissons, ni les canards !
I don't like dogs, cats, fish or ducks!

The list of ni's can be as long as the listener can bare!

Elle ne mange ni pain, ni pâtes, ni riz.
She does not eat bread, pasta or rice.
Ni Pierre ni Marie ne peuvent le faire rapidement.
Neither Pierre nor Marie can do it quickly.
Je ne peux ouvrir ni celui-ci ni celui-là.
I can open neither this one or that one.

a list of demonstrative pronouns

Elle ne peut mentir ni à son père ni à sa mère.
She can't lie to her father nor to her mother.

a list of indirect objects

On ne peut s'asseoir ni ici ni là - rester debout est la seule option.
One can sit neither here nor there - to remain standing is the only option.

a list of adverbs

Il ne mange ni ne boit.
He neither eats nor drinks.

a list of conjugated verbs

Je ne veux ni chanter ni danser.
I don't want to sing or dance.

a list of (second) verbs in the infinitive.

Personne ne peut entrer ni sortir.
No one can enter nor leave.

a list of (second) verbs in the infinitive.

Je n'aime pas le sport, ni la musique.
I don't like sports or music.

pas replacing the first ni is not uncommon.

Nous ne trouvons pas Gérard, ni Victor.
We can't find Gérard, nor Victor.

pas replacing the first ni is not uncommon.