When nothing is used alone as a reply to a question in English, it is translated by rien: 'what are you doing?'—'nothing' = 'que fais-tu?'—'rien'. Nothing as a pronoun, when it is the subject of a verb, is translated by rien ne (+ verb or, in compound tenses, + auxiliary verb): nothing changes = rien ne change; nothing has changed = rien n'a changé. Nothing as a pronoun, when it is the object of a verb, is translated by ne...rien; ne comes before the verb, and before the auxiliary in compound tenses, and rien comes after the verb or auxiliary: I see nothing = je ne vois rien; I saw nothing = je n'ai rien vu.When ne rien is used with an infinitive, the two words are not separated: I prefer to say nothing = je préfère ne rien dire.For more examples and particular usages, see the entry below.
- I knew nothing about it je n'en savais rien we can do nothing (about it) nous n'y pouvons rien nothing much pas grand-chose nothing else rien d'autre I had nothing to do with it! je n'y étais pour rien! it's nothing to do with us ça ne nous regarde pas to stop at nothing ne reculer devant rien (to do pour faire) he means nothing to me il n'est rien pour moi the names meant nothing to him les noms ne lui disaient rien for nothing (for free) gratuitement (pointlessly) pour rien
phr (nothing but)
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