Superfluous Ne
July 29, 2010 1:39 PM   Subscribe

Is ne superfluous before devoir in the french?

I'm translating an article in French (trying, anyway), and it seems that in this translation (on ne devrait postuler une corruption du texte), the ne needs to be superfluous in order to make sense with the surrounding context. However, it doesn't seem to follow the rules required for ne to be superfluous that I'm aware of. And running it through Google translate, it seems to recognize it as being superfluous, as well. So my question is, why? What rule is it following?
posted by SpacemanStix to Writing & Language (17 answers total)
Can you provide more context for the phrase? Without that, it's kind of hard to answer your question.
posted by asterix at 1:45 PM on July 29, 2010

I think the problem is that pas is omitted and it's ok.

On ne devrait pas postuler une corruption du texte.
posted by mareli at 1:49 PM on July 29, 2010

One should not postulate a corruption of the text.

Does that make sense in the context?
posted by mareli at 1:50 PM on July 29, 2010

The "pas" is often dropped in spoken French but not usually the "ne." The "ne" can appear along in certain cases (called the expletive ne) but this does not appear to be one of them. I don't know that it's superflous, it might be a typo. I would not trust Google on this. It has a habit of disregarding words that it can't parse in context.
posted by proj at 1:59 PM on July 29, 2010

I just reversed that, sorry. The "ne" is dropped but not the "pas" in spoken French. Duh.
posted by proj at 2:01 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

On ne devrait pas... is right. But for postuler, I'd go with assumer . Postuler does not have the same signification in french, a faux-ami. It means to apply for a job or position.
posted by CitoyenK at 2:03 PM on July 29, 2010

Best answer: Is that the complete sentence, or are you cutting it off?

There are two cases in which you can see "ne" without pas:

1) With the verbs pouvoir, savoir, cesser, and oser, in which case the "ne" can negate the phrase itself.

2) The "ne expletif" which comes after certain conjunctions such as "Il craint que..." In this case, the "ne" does not negate the clause.
posted by helios at 2:04 PM on July 29, 2010

Response by poster: It seems from the context it should be "one should postulate a corruption in the text."

This is the entire sentence:

On ne devrait postuler une corruption du texte que si celui-ci n'a aucun sens tel que transmis, ce qui n'est pas evident ici.

I translated it (roughly) such, assuming the ne is superfluous:

"One should postulate a corruption of the text if it does not have sense when transmitted, which is not evident here."

If the first ne is not superfluous, I'm not sure what to make of the meaning. It would seem to be overkill on the negations.

However, my French is rough at this point, so maybe I'm just missing the sense of the sentence.
posted by SpacemanStix at 2:10 PM on July 29, 2010

Best answer: The ne works with que here, with the meaning of 'not... unless...'.

So your sentence means something like this: "We should not assume the text is corrupted unless it makes no sense in its current form, which does not appear to be the case here."
posted by Dragonness at 2:21 PM on July 29, 2010 [4 favorites]

posted by proj at 2:24 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: That's it! I didn't notice the ne ... que connection until you pointed it out, and that clears everything up.

Merci beaucoup!
posted by SpacemanStix at 2:33 PM on July 29, 2010

Mais de rien!
posted by Dragonness at 2:34 PM on July 29, 2010

Here's a primer on using ne...que to negate in french.
posted by blue_beetle at 3:06 PM on July 29, 2010

In future, the WordReference language forums are a good place to take questions like this if you need a quick answer--AskMe's 32 minutes being, uh, incredibly slow.

Not that I want to divert language-related questions away from AskMe, however, so post them here too!
posted by lapsangsouchong at 3:52 AM on July 30, 2010

For what it's worth, I disagree with CitoyenK on the meaning of postuler and assumer. Postuler is the right word in that particular context (logics). To use assumer here is an angliscism. It means to take on/upon or to accept (responsability, duty, situation), not to suppose/to presume. Native French speakers who read a lot of English may use it in that sense though, as to assume is actually very practical.
posted by elgilito at 5:46 AM on July 30, 2010

The ne...que means 'only.'

' devrait...que' means "...should only be..."
posted by fso at 8:28 AM on July 30, 2010

Response by poster: The ne...que means 'only.'

That's how I learned it too, but it seems to carry the same sense as "not... unless" in this case, so we're good.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:30 AM on July 30, 2010

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