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French grammar - Only - the restrictive ne.. que

Only - the restrictive ne.. que

The restrictive ne que is used to express 'only' or 'except'

Ne must always be before the (first) verb but the position of que can vary and that changes the meaning. The position of que determines what is being restricted.

-- The que may come immediately before a second verb in which case only that verb is being 'done'.

-- Or it may be before the object noun in which case the restriction 'only' applies to that noun.

The ne.. que restriction can apply to nouns, verbs and prepositions.

If the restriction involves an indefinite quantity (du, de la or des) then:

-- A reduction of partitive to de does not apply if the partitive noun comes after the que.

-- A reduction of the negation partitive to de does apply if the partitive noun comes before the que.

Of course in many cases we could just use the work seulement ('only') to express restriction.

Examples:
Ils n'ont qu'un fils.
They only have one son.
Nous n'avons qu'une heure environ.
We only have about an hour.

environ means 'about'

Il ne regarde que les films étrangers.
He only watches foreign films.

étranger (m) means 'foreign'

Elle n'aime que le chocolat noir.
She only likes dark chocolate.
Il ne reste qu'une seule fleur sur le buisson.
There is only one flower remaining on the bush.

buisson (m) means 'bush'

Nous n'avons qu'une solution à ce dilemme.
We only have one solution to this dilemma.

dilemme (m) means 'dilemma'

Il ne faut que me donner l'argent pour ça.
(You) only have to give me the money for it.
Je ne veux aller qu'en Turquie pour mes vacances.
I only want to go to Turkey for my vacation.

ne..que with the preposition en

Je ne veux que nager.
I just want to swim.

ne..que with an infinitive verb nager

Nous ne voulons que manger de la glace.
We only want to eat ice cream.

ne..que with an infinitive verb manger

Elle ne vient ici qu'en été.
She only comes here in the summer.

en été means 'in the summer'

Il ne parle jamais que de sa fille.
He only ever talks about his daughter.

Double negative with a preposition de

Il ne prononce guère que des banalités.
He hardly utters more than platitudes.

Double negative

prononcer (verb) means 'to utter' or 'to pronounce'

banalité means 'banality' or 'trite remark'

Nous ne mangeons que des pâtes dans ce resto.
We only eat pasta in this restaurant.

The position of que changes the meaning

The precise meaning is 'In this resturants the only thing we eat is pasta.'

Nous ne mangeons des pâtes que dans ce resto.
We eat pasta only in this restaurant.

The position of que changes the meaning

The precise meaning is 'The only place we eat is pasta is in this particular resturant.'

Je ne trouve qu'une solution dans ce livre.
I can only find a solution in this book.

The position of que changes the meaning

The precise meaning here is 'In this book I did not find any more than one solution.'

Je ne trouve une solution que dans ce livre.
I can find a solution only in this book.

The position of que changes the meaning

The precise meaning here is 'Only in this book did I find a solution.'

Il ne peut lire que le français.
He can read only French.

The position of que changes the meaning

The precise meaning here is 'He can read only French.' - As opposed to English and German.

Il ne peut que lire le français.
He can only read French.

The position of que changes the meaning

The precise meaning here is 'He can only read French.' - As opposed to writing and speaking.

N'avez-vous que des pièces ?
Do you only have parts?

Reduction of negation partitive from de l' to de does not apply if the noun comes after the que

Nous n'avons que de l'espoir.
We only have hope.

Reduction of negation partitive from de l' to de does not apply if the noun comes after the que

Je n'ai pas d'amis suédois ; je n'ai que des amis français.
I have no Swedish friends; I only have French friends.

Reduction of negation partitive from des to de does not apply if the noun comes after the que

Je n'ai de billes que vertes.
I only have marbles that are green.

Reduction of negation partitive applies if the noun comes before the que

Il n'y a que des araignées sous cette roche.
There are only spiders under this rock.

Reduction of negation partitive from des to de does not apply if the noun comes after the que;araignée (f) means 'spider'

Il n'y a de fruits que des bananes.
There is no fruit except some bananas.

Reduction of negation partitive (de fruits) applies if the noun comes before the que

J'ai seulement un livre.
I only have one book.

Of course we could just use seulement instead of ne..que

Il mange seulement des pâtes dans ce resto.
He only eats pasta in this restaurant.

Using seulement instead of ne..que

Il mange des pâtes seulement dans ce resto.
He eats pasta only in this restaurant.

Using seulement instead of ne..que