expletive Ne – ne explétif


Let's Define It!

What's an *expletive*?

In French, ne is described as an expletive when you use it without it having its usual negation effect. (NB. Ne turns into n' when followed by a vowel or silent h)

In which contexts does the "ne" explétif occur?

  • In dependent clauses to express fear, doubt or prevention:

Je crains qu'elle n'ait raison sur ce point. / I'm afraid she is right on that point.

Il a allumé un feu pour éviter que son chien n'ait froid. / He lit a fire to avoid to prevent his dog from being cold.

Le prof ne doute pas qu'ils ne soient intelligents. / The teacher doesn't doubt that they're intelligent.

  • after certain subordinate conjunctions like à moins que, avant que, de peur que, de crainte que the "ne" explétif can also be used.

Il révèlera ton secret à moins que tu l'avoues toi-même en premier. / He will reveal your secret unless you disclose it yourself first. 

  •  In a dependent clause following a comparison:

Cette homme est maintenant plus raffiné qu'il ne l'était il y a cinq ans. / This man is now more sophisticated than he was five years ago.


Let's Pronounce It!

What does it sound like in French?


Let's Have an Example or Two!

Can a little reinforcement do the trick?

Find below a few sentences with the "ne" expletive in use:

Je crains qu'il ne soit trop tard pour son audition. / I am afraid he is too late for his audition.

Il lui a donné de l'argent pour le taxi pour éviter qu'elle ne soit en retard pour le concert. / He gave her money for the cab to prevent her from being late. 

Je mangerai ton chocolat à moins que tu ne dises non. / I will eat your chocolate unless you say no.


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