Learning French for beginners includes « non », but there are several translations for « no » in French. In some situations, answering « non » can be considered as rude. Although French people are generally direct, they can be courteous too and using additional words or expressions in French will add nuances.
If you wish to expand your linguistic skills in French, read this lesson to learn how to say « no » in French.
1 – The traditional « non »
-Est-ce que vous habitez à Londres ?
– Do you live in London?
2 – « Oh non ! » the surprised and empathetic « no »
« Oh no! » is an emphatic way to express a disappointment and show that you sincerely feel sorry for what happened.
-Il a été licencié ce matin
Oh non ! ce n’est pas possible
-He has been made redundant this morning
Oh no! how is that possible?
3 – « Malheureusement non » : « Unfortunately no »
« Malheureusement non » literally tranlated as « unfortunately no » is a polite way to decline requests while and say you feel sorry for not being able to answer positively.
-Est-ce que tu es libre pour venir dîner à la maison samedi ?
Malheureusement non, je suis déjà prise
-Are you free to come to dinner this Saturday?
Unfortunately no, I already have another engagement
4 – « Jamais de la vie ! » « Out of the question »
This emphatic expression expresses that it is out of the question to do something.
-Vous pensez un jour escalader le mont Everest ?
Non, jamais de la vie, je ne tenterai une chose pareille.
– Do you think that one day you will climb Mount Everest?
Not a chance/ not in a million years!
5 – The polite no : « Non merci »
If you are in a shop, the sales assistant might ask you if you need help. If you prefer looking by yourself without his/her assistance, you can reply with the following expression : « non merci je regarde »
-Bonjour madame, est-ce que je peux vous aider ?
Non merci je regarde
-Hello, can I help you ?
No thank you, I am just looking
6 – In a shop : « Non merci, c’est tout » « No thanks, that’s all »
When you buy something at the bakery, in a food shop or on the market, the sales assistant is likely to ask you if you would like something else. If you have finished your purchases, you can simply answer : « non merci, c’est tout »
-Et avec ça, vous désirez autre chose ?
Non merci, c’est tout
-And with this, would you like something else ?
No thank you, that’s all
7 – « Moi non plus » : « Me neither »
The French expression « moi non plus »s expresses agreement with a negative statement. Note that « moi » can be replaced by a name, a noun, or another stressed pronoun
-Gaspard n’aime pas les haricots verts
John non plus
-Gaspard doesn’t like green beans
Neither does John
8 – « Non, jamais » : « No, never »
Ne …jamais = never
-Est-ce que vous avez visité le Japon ?
Non, je n’ai pas jamais visité ce pays
-Have you ever visited Japan ?
No, I have never visited this country
9 – Pas du tout – Not at all
« Non pas du tout » can be used in a response to a question when you wish to emphasis on the negation.
-Vous croyez qu’il dit la vérité ?
Non pas du tout
-Do you think he is telling the truth ?
No, not at all
10 – « Pas encore » – « Not yet »
If you are supposed to do something, but have not done it yet or if someone asks you if you have ever done something, you can use the negation « pas encore ».
-Est-ce que tu as déjà réservé ton billet d’avion ?
Non pas encore, je le ferai ce week-end
-Have you already reserved your plane ticket ?
Not yet, I will do it this week-end
13 – « Mais non ! » The contracdictory no
This is a highly emphatic way of saying « no ». For example, if someone makes a statement that you consider to be absolutely untrue or if you try to reassure someone who self-criticizes, you can use « mais non ».
-Je suis stupide et je suis laid(e)
Mais non, ce n’est pas vrai
-I am stupid and ugly
No, it’s not true
14 – Quand je dis non c’est non –When I say no, it means no
You will use this emphatic sentence to clearly express and repeat that once you have expressed a statement, this is for good and you will not change your mind.
-Maman, s’il te plaît, je voudrais des bonbons
C’est la quatrième fois que tu me le demandes, non. Quand je dis non, c’est non !
-Mummy, I would like some sweets please
This is the fourth time that you ask me this. No. When I say no, it means no
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It’s an unyielding mystery: how is it that France, known worldwide for its joie de vivre, is often plagued by such doom and gloom?
From lack of trust in the future assatisfaction, to scepticism regarding the educational and social welfare systems, French life seems pervaded by a certain melancholy.
Are the French bons vivants also incorrigible grouches? Behind their continuous criticism lies a hidden discontent, whose roots are tied to French identity and culture. At least that is what many international surveys suggest.
A French contradiction
A 2014 survey conducted in 51 countries by Gallup International, qualifies French people as pessimism world champions, far ahead the Afghans or even the Iraqis. The study revealed that only 17% of the French population thought 2015 would be more promising than 2014.
It goes without saying that migrants and expats living in l’Hexagone should also be affected by this strange disease. But they’re not. According to economist Claudia Senik in her book ‘L’Economie du bonheur’, they are just as happy in France as they are elsewhere. Similarly, Canadian, Swiss and Belgian Francophones also, seem exempt of the French pessimistic attitude.
“French unhappiness isn’t linked with objective circumstances, but rather with the values, beliefs and perception of reality that the French have,” says Senik. “It is the result of a cultural phenomenon relating to representations or manners of being that have been handed down from generation to generation, even if their causes have disappeared.”
Senik notes that despite having free access to healthcare, education and high quality facilities, the French are suffering from a deep-seated melancholy. If it isn’t linked to French living standards – which are envied in most other countries – then where exactly does this lack of happiness, reassurance and optimism come from?
An overly rigid educational system
According to a 2009 study conducted by the Organisation de Coopération et de développment économiques (OCDE) on children’s wellbeing in its 34 member countries, France ranks 23rd in educational wellbeing and 22nd in school life quality. It seems therefore that the French malaise takes root, amongst other factors, in the early stages of school education.
France’s ultra-competitive school system is a two-tier system. It relies on discriminatory assessment favouring good grades and encouraging strong students while ignoring its weakest.
Peter Gumbel, author of ‘French Vertigo’, presents quite an alarming overview of the French school system in his book, They Shoot School Kids, Don’t They?’. He denounces “an unforgiving, demeaning and often humiliating culture. A culture that has made a cult out of high-pressure evaluation and yet gives only short shrift to the notion of individual motivation”.
The French system lies far from the Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian models, whose methods are based on encouragement rather than punishment. For instance, American educators – whether teachers or parents – constantly encourage their children in sports and studies, even if child’s level of skills isn’t the best.
This explains why French unhappiness isn’t linked to objective circumstances, but rather to the French’s values, beliefs and perception of reality.
Let’s not forget that participation and group work, play an important role very early on in schooling. When it’s the case, children develop self-confidence, which will serve as a very valuable asset throughout their lives.
Worrying, on the other hand, is what separates French schoolchildren from others. If we were to go by international surveys, we could describe them as particularly anxious. According to an OCDE study, French students are amongst the most stressed when it comes to Maths, for example. And from there on, it’s easy to understand that present pessimistic adults are the result of past stressed schoolchildren.
A more hopful youth ?
Luckily, there have been more than encouraging signs in France that prove otherwise, – especially amongst Generation Y.
According to French philosopher Michel Serres, having only known a networked world and growing up in a digitalised era, Gen-Y’s “way of being – connected, horizontal and creative at the same time – innervates everything in our society”.
Serres paints a portrait of the young generation in ‘Thumbelina: The Culture and Technology of Millennials’. Many of them have gone overseas during their studies, for internships or even for their first job. For them, it’s an opportunity to encounter another reality that offers life and work prospects that are sometimes more engaging than the restrictive prospects they’ve been brought up with.
This trend however doesn’t seem limited to French borders only. Growing up with Internet and entrepreneurial success stories such as that of Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, Gen-Y as a whole, is in the midst of witnessing the fall of old economic, political, social and educational models.
Perhaps, this new generation’s boldness, creativity and pragmatism is already blowing new winds of optimism over the country.
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