The word “no” is a simple yet very important word in almost every language.
The word and its various usages allow us to express discontent, turn down requests, express excitement, or simply just complete an order at a coffee shop. There are several common ways to say “no” in French and several different terms used.
In French, the way in which you use the word “no” is crucial to getting your point across, because there are many different ways the word can be used to express different thoughts and feelings.
Expressing your opinions in another language can be quite difficult, but with enough practice, you will be a pro in no time! This article will teach you how to say “no” in French in 10 different ways.
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Overview — How to say no in French
It may seem like overkill to write an article just one one word — “no” — but the reality of language learning is that words by themselves carry little meaning, and linguistic and environmental context can be everything.
That’s why when expressing a negative sentiment, there are so many ways of doing it, from giving a blank stare, to shaking one’s head, to screaming “NO!” at the top of your lungs.
Many languages in fact do not have a direct translation for “no”. In Mandarin Chinese, for example, you need to put a verb in front of a negating particle for saying you don’t want, need, or intend to do something.
And going deeper, people from different culture backgrounds have varying dispositions towards saying “no”. Just as it would be abrupt to answer a question of “Would you like anything else?” with a singular “No!”, there is a similar degree of nuance in French, so it’s important to learn the right expression for every occasion.
1. Non — The classic “no”
The word non is the classic way to say no in French in the same way you would say it in English.
In English, when someone asks you a question, you use the word “no” to negate the question. For example, if someone asked you “is it cold outside today?” in English, you would answer “no”. (Or “No, it’s not.)
In French, the same sentence translates to “est-ce qu’il fait froid aujourd’hui?”, and you respond “non”. This is the direct word for no in French.
In French, it’s very important to watch your tone. Using the word non standalone can come across as harsh or rude. Adding a warm tone to the word will lighten it!
2. No, thank you!
When someone asks you if you’d like a pastry or to take a walk in the neighbourhood with them, sometimes you won’t want to or you won’t be able to. When this happens, we say “no, thank you!” The same thing applies in French. The direct translation of this phrase is non, merci with “merci” meaning “thank you.”
- Q: Do you want me to make you some tea?
- A: No, thank you.
- Q: Est-ce que tu veux que je te fasses du thé?
- A: Non, merci.
3. Not at all.
This next phrase is used to say no in a polite manner. There are times when someone will ask you if you are busy before sparking up a conversation. To politely answer, you can say “not at all.” In French, this translates to “pas du tout.”
- Q: Do you have a lot to do today?
- A: Not at all.
- Q: Tu as beaucoup à faire aujourd’hui?
- A: Pas du tout.
The word “never” is a sure way to get your point across when you don’t want to or won’t do something. In French, you say jamais!
- Q: Would you like to try escargot?
- A: Never!
- Q: Souhaitez-vous essayer l’escargot?
- A: Jamais!
5. Of course not.
Another way to say no is to say, “of course not”. In French, this is a much softer way of saying “never”. When asked a question in which the statement is false, you would answer “of course not,” usually due to the absurdity of the statement. In French, you would say bien sûr que non.
- Q: Is it true that you have travelled to 51 countries at the age of 20 years?
- A: Of course not.
- Q: Est-il vrai que vous avez voyagé dans 51 pays à 20 ans?
- A: Bien sûr que non.
Note: When writing bien sûr like this, it is a phraselet and does not need to agree with the gender of the speaker. See here for more details.
6. No, that will be all.
Imagine you are ordering food and drinks at a restaurant. The waiter jots down your order and then asks you if you would like to order anything more. If you’re finished with the order, you would answer “no, that will be all,” or a variation of this sentence. In French, you respond with non, ce sera tout. This applies to any situation in which you have finished providing information.
- Q: Would you like anything else?
- A: No, that will be all.
- Q: Désirez-vous autre chose?
- A: Non, ce sera tout.
7. Not yet!
Another way to answer no to a question is to say “not yet.” If someone asks you if you are finished working, or if you’re finished getting ready, or if someone has arrived yet, that is how you would typically answer when the answer is no. In French, you say “pas encore.”
- Q: Are you done getting dressed?
- A: Not yet.
- Q: Tu as fini de t’habiller?
- A: Pas encore.
8. Maybe later.
If you are too busy to do something at the moment, you will say “maybe later.” This indicates that the specific task will happen, but at a later time. In French, the direct translation is “peut-être plus tard.”
- Q: Are you coming to his party?
- A: Maybe later.
- Q: Est-ce que tu viens à sa fête?
- A: Peut-être plus tard.
9. No way!
When given exciting news, it is common for people to express their excitement with a “no way!” Although this isn’t the traditional way to say no, it’s used to express disbelief. In French, we say c’est pas possible! which directly translates to “that is not possible!”
- Q: I won the lottery!
- A: No way!
- Q: J’ai gagné la lotterie!
- A: C’est pas possible!
Note: you’ll note that c’est pas possible omits the negating ne ususally present in French. This is because the phrase c’est pas possible is quite colloquial. In a formal setting, using ne in the full phrase ce n’est pas possible would be appropriate.
10. I don’t think so
Another way to say no is to say “I don’t think so.” When you’re not sure of the answer to a question, or you see something that shouldn’t be happening, this phrase is used. The term in French is je ne pense pas or je crois que non. Both sentences are correct and acceptable to use.
- Q: Are you going to Emma’s party?
- A: I don’t think so.
- Q: Tu vas aller à la fête d’Emma?
- A: Je ne pense pas.
You can also make this more colloquial by removing the ne and saying Je pense pas. This is common in colloquial usage. See our guide to colloquial vs formal French for more.
You have just learned 10 different ways to say “no” in French. To really internalise these expressions, try coming up with your own examples to understand the different usages and contexts of the word.
Remember, the best way to learn a new skill or language is to practice. Try slipping some of the new expressions you learned today in your everyday conversations with friends and family. Oral practice is crucial to learning a new language.