Negating French verbs using "ne... pas"

In English we can turn a positive phrase into a negative one with the use of our word not.

He is here / He is not here.

The "not" itself is important, but it doesn't work alone. The sentence is made negative because the verb is made negative. In our example above the verb happens to be "is".

He is / He is not

Put the "not" anywhere else in the sentence and it won't make much sense. (Unless you're a fan of ridiculous irony... "He is here.... NOT!")

Understanding this makes it easier to understand how to form negatives in French. In order to turn a sentence negative, we need to make our verb negative. And to make a verb negative in French we simply wrap the verb in two little words: ne.... pas.

Play audio Je sais = I know

Play audio Je ne sais pas = I don't know

Play audio Ils viennent aujourd'hui = The come today

Play audio Ils ne viennent pas aujourd'hui = They do not come today

Play audio Il veut danser = He wants to dance

Play audio Il ne veut pas danser = He does not want to dance

Note that when the verb begins with a vowel, ne contracts into n' and it's added to the verb. For example:

Play audio Tu aimes les chats = You like cats

Play audio Tu n'aimes pas les chats = You do not like cats