Homepage Forums About French PAS before or after the verb?

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    Brendan asks:
    Bonjour Anne
    Thank you for your comprehensive lesson on devoir. I have a question on one use of the verb… J’ai dû ne pas le voir.= I must not have seen him. I have been taught that ne & pas are always on either side of the conjugated verb in the passe compose. Can you tell me a little more about this construction? are there other such uses?
    Brendan Costelloe

    Anne answers:
    Yes Brendan, NE and PAS are indeed on either side of the helping verb in a regular STATEMENT sentence. An example would be:
    Je ne l’ai pas vu. —
    I didn’t see him/her.
    Note that with a modal verb (devoir, vouloir…), PAS stays between the helping verb (ai) and the past participle (dû, voulu) .
    Je n’ai pas voulu le voir. — I didn’t want to see him/it.
    Je n’ai pas dû le voir. — I didn’t want to see him/it.
    However, in a negative sentence with an infinitive verb (VOIR), PAS is placed before the main verb.
    J’ai dû ne
    pas le VOIR. — I must have not seen him/it.
    J’ai voulu ne pas VOIR le film. — I wanted not to see him/it.
    Here is a more comprehensive explanation on negative infinitives.
    Negative infinitive form
    Negative infinitive adverbs come before the verb – except for ‘personne, nul/le and aucun/e’ – and are often used as a command. Sometimes ‘pas’ is omitted in order to get a more formal statement.
    To not speak – Ne pas parler.
    Do/To not speak too loud – Ne pas parler trop fort
    Speak with no one. – Ne parler à personne.
    To mean no harm. – Ne penser à aucun mal.
    To see no problem. – N’y voir nul inconvenient.
    I hope that helps.

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