Ways to Say No in French

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Written By Jessica Knight

Founder of Linguatics. Passionate multilinguist.

“Yes and “No are likely to be in the handful of first words you learn in French. Heck, you might already know the French word for “no” without beginning to learn the language. The word for “no” in French is “non. But using it as a standalone is a pretty strong response.

There are times when a little more tact is required. Sure, you can soften the blow of a “no” with your delivery by adjusting your body language and tone of voice but sometimes a more casual “no” is necessary.

If you want to refuse politely, for example, making sure that no feelings are hurt. In a casual situation you might want the French equivalent for “nope” or “nah”. In a stressful or coercive situation you might need a very firm and absolute “no way!”

There’s more to negation than you might think, but don’t sweat it as we are going to give you a variety of ways to say “no” in French and some great negative phrases that may come in handy along the way.

How to Say “No” in French – An Overview

Non, merciNon, désoléeNan,Que non!
No thanksNo, sorryNope/nahAbsolutely not!
Pas du toutNot at all 
Hors de questionNo Way
Mais nonNot so/ but no
Çe sera toutThat Will Be All
Bien sûr que non!Well, of course not!
Tu plaisantes!Are you kidding me!

Ways to Say “No” in French


Most of us might already know the typical way to say “no” in French is “non“. 

The word will serve most purposes but isn’t the friendliest. If you are invited out you might want to appear a little warmer, offering something other than a strong “non”.

You have to understand nuance in order to speak French politely, and make friends!

The polite thing to do is to follow the word “non” with a “thank you” or an apology depending on the situation you find yourself in.

“Non, merci” is the way to say “no, thank you”. Perhaps the waiter comes to ask if you might like something else to eat or drink and you are already stuffed and ready to leave…

Read  Ways To Say Water In French

A Non, merci is the easiest response or you could say “çe sera tout” which we will look at later but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. 

Back to the friendly invitation scenario…

Perhaps you would love to go but can’t make it for whatever reason, then you would want to add the word “désolé”. 

Take a look at the example below;

  • “Tu veux dîner avec moi dimanche?” (“Would you like to have dinner with me on Sunday?”)
  • “Ah, non, désolée, je ne peux pas, j’ai des plans.” (“Ah, no, I’m sorry, I can’t, I have plans”)

Of course, the tone of voice goes a long way here to demonstrate that it is an “unfortunately not” type of “no”.

In fact, pronunciation is very important! 

Among friends you might want to give a very casual “nope”; the French equivalent is still “non” but it is pronounced lazily. 

As opposed to enunciating at the front of your mouth you relax the jaw opening the word and rounding the vowel sound.

It will come out more nasally, almost as “nan”. This is the modern, informal way to say “no” in French which is equivalent to “nah” or “nope”.

You won’t hear it formally, but in pop culture, it is even sometimes spelled “nan” instead of “non” to be hip.

Another way you might hear the word “non” used is as an interjection which shows dismay “Oh non” which translates directly as “Oh no!”. 

Finally, you may hear “Que non!”, que means that, so the literal translation here makes little sense, but you should just view the “que” as a strengthener of the “no”.

So, it turns into something more like “absolutely not!”. 

The real phrase for this is “Absolument pas” but you will likely encounter a flabbergasted “que non” more frequently (and it’s easier to remember!).

Pas du tout

This negative phrase is used in a positive context when you don’t mind doing whatever it is you are asked. 

“Pas du tout is heard all the time in France, it means not at all. If a question is asked in the negative it quite often follows the word “non” making it a double negative and giving it its positive edge.

Read  Ways To Say Egg In French

Politeness is paramount in French etiquette, take a look at this example;

  • “Tu es sûr, ça ne te dérange pas?” (“Are you sure you don’t mind?”)
  • “Non, Pas du tout!” (“No, Not at all!”/”I don’t mind at all”)

Hors de question

Sometimes in life you need a categorical no! 

You could use “Absolument pas” like we already mentioned, but something far more frequently used is “hors de question”.

You can probably guess by looking at the words used that it means “out of the question!” 

Although we would probably consider that a little dramatic as an expression in English the French use it more casually so it is more comparable with “no way”.

The other way to say “no way” is “pas question”, see the example below;

  • “Je peux aller à la fête?” (“May I go to the party?”)
  • “Pas question! Tu as école demain!” (“No way! You have school tomorrow!”)


This one should be self-explanatory enough, when you need to respond “no” to anything you can’t commit to or physically do, then “impossible” is a good choice.

“Est-ce que tu peux  m’aider demain?” (“Can you help me tomorrow?”)

“Impossible, je suis hors de la ville” (“Impossible! I’m out of town”)


The French are an international bunch and English is widely understood so don’t be surprised if you hear an English “no” in modern times!

Mais non

We often see “mais non” and “Mais oui” taught as ways to say yes or no in French but the reality is that “mais non” isn’t another way to say “no”, it is used (rarely) and it more of an exclamation of disagreement, or shock even. 

They use “mais non” when presented with something negative that they disagree with, typically something personal. If you understand how the French use of “si” works, which we explained in our “how to say yes in French” article, “mais non” functions similarly.

  • Je suis gros de toute façon (“I’m fat anyway”)
  • Mais non, ce n’est pas vrai! (“But no, that’s not true!)

So how do you learn these expressions? The best is to learn them in the context of a story, so you understand the meaning but also the intent behind it. 


Granted, this one again is essentially an expansion for “no”.

“Jamais” is the French word for “never”, so you could say “non, jamais” or if you are in a casual situation simply “jamais” will suffice.

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Çe sera tout

This one isn’t exactly no, and it is very specific, used only when you’re finished ordering. The phrase “çe sera tout” means “that will be all”.

  • “Désirez-vous autre chose?” (“Would you like anything else?”)
  • “Non, ce sera tout” (“No, that will be all”)

Bien sûr que non

“Bien sûr que non” is another phrase to be careful with, it is tricky to understand even broken down as the word for word translation is misleading when compared to its use.

It means something like “well sure that no” which you might be led to believe is “well surely not”, but a better way to think of it is as “never” or “of course not” but in response to something absurd! You may even want to imagine a “duh” in there for good measure!

  • “C’est vrai que ton grand-père était millionnaire?” (“Is it true that your grandfather was a millionaire?”)
  • “Bien sûr que non !Où as-tu entendu ça !” (“Of course not! Where did you hear that?”)

Tu plaisantes!

How about an exasperated no? A sarcastic or ironic one even?

A great modern expression to have in your repertoire is “tu plaisantes!

 “Le plaisanterie” is French for “joke”, it is where we get the word pleasantry from. In this phrase it means “you’re kidding me!”

  • Pouvez-vous me prêter 20 euros Can you lend me 20 Euros?
  • Tu plaisantes? You must be kidding!

Other Useful Negative Phrases in French

Sometimes we want to say no when we disagree or we are giving a negative opinion the following phrases could be useful for giving a difference of opinion;

  • “Au contraire” – “On the contrary”
  • “Je crois que non” – “I don’t think so”
  • “Moi non” – “For me no”
  • “Je ne dis pas non” – “I wouldn’t say no to that”
  • “Pas tout à fait” – “Not exactly, not quite”
  • “Pas vraiment” – “Not really”

If you want give a vaguer “no”  in response then you might want the following terms;

  • “Pas encore” – “Not yet”
  • “Pas maintenant” – “Not now”

No in French – Final Thoughts

There is only one real way to say no in French and that is “non” but you can be creative with the way you word it, careful with the way you deliver it and throw in a few good synonyms to help express yourself negatively without being mistaken as rude.

With any luck, this guide will have given you enough vocabulary to politely or fervently decline, and disagree regardless of the scenario.

We have tried to keep things on the casual and colloquial side so you should be able to negate your way through like a local!

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