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French grammar - Passé composé, negation and word order

Passé composé, negation and word order

When using the passé composé with any form of negation, the position of the past participle depends on which word is paired with ne in the negation.

Adverb: if the ne is paired with an adverb (such as pas, point, plus, guère, jamais, rien) then the past participle is outside the negation.

Noun: if the ne is paired with a noun (such as personne, aucun(e), nul(le), nulle part, ni) then the past participle is inside the negation.

In the case of the restrictive ne..que, the que tends to want to stay close to the object so the past participle is typically before it.

Examples:
Je ne l'ai jamais mangé.
I never ate it.

Adverb - jamais so past participle is outside

N'avez-vous pas fini ?
Aren't you (formal male singular) done?

Adverb - pas so past participle is outside

Je ne le lui ai pas dit.
I didn't tell him.

Adverb - pas so past participle is outside

Je ne le lui ai jamais dit.
I never told him.

Adverb - jamais so past participle is outside

Je n'ai vu personne.
I saw nobody.

Noun - personne so past participle is inside

Nous n'avons vu que la première ébauche.
We only saw the first draft.

que so past participle is inside

ébauche (f) means 'draft' or 'sketch'

Ils n'ont fait aucun effort.
They made no effort.

Noun - aucun so past participle is inside

Je ne lui ai dit que deux mots.
I only said two words to him.

que so past participle is inside

Je ne le lui ai jamais dit.
I never told him.

Adverb - jamais so past participle is outside

Je ne lui ai jamais téléphoné.
I never phoned him.

Adverb - jamais so past participle is outside

Je ne le lui ai pas dit.
I didn't tell him.

Adverb - pas so past participle is outside

Je n'ai pas vendu mon camion.
I did not sell my truck.

Adverb - pas so past participle is outside

Elle n'a rien dit.
She didn't say anything.

Adverb - guère so past participle is outside

Je n'ai guère fini mes devoirs.
I haven't finished my homework.

Adverb - jamais so past participle is outside

Tu n'as jamais entendu cette chanson.
You've never heard this song.

Adverb - jamais so past participle is outside

Elle n'a commis aucune faute.
She made no mistake.

Noun - aucun so past participle is inside

commettre (verb) means 'to commit'

commettre faute (verb) means 'to make a mistake'

Je n'ai vu ni la lune ni les étoiles.
I saw neither the moon nor the stars.

Noun - ni so past participle is inside

Il n'a plus jamais voulu être seul.
He never wanted to be alone again.

Adverb - plus so past participle is outside

Elle n'a plus jamais cru personne.
She never believed anyone again.

Adverb - plus so past participle is outside

Je n'ai jamais aimé le football ni le basket.
I never liked football, or basketball.

Adverb - jamais so past participle is outside

Je n'ai voulu que nager.
I only wanted to swim.

que so past participle is inside

Mon oncle n'a jamais parlé que de sa fille.
My uncle never spoke of anything but his daughter.

que so past participle is inside