Thursday, July 23, 2015

Je ne sais pas

The French construction ne X pas has an interesting history. Originally, it was apparently popular in expressions like "Il ne marche pas": "He doesn't walk a step." The word 'pas' meant, literally, 'step.'

But then it "leaked" into other expressions, such as "Il ne mange pas": "He doesn't eat (a step?)." Finally, 'pas' displaced the "true" negative from the sentence completely, so today one can simply say "Il mange pas": literally, "I eat a step."

For more, see this site.

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