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