Usage de faut (Part 2)

In the last post, we saw how to translate in French the idea of “needing to” using “il faut”.

In this post, we will explore its negative counterpart, “il ne faut pas”.

While “il faut” means “(someone) needs to”, “il ne faut pas” rather translates the idea of “mustn’t”.

One mustn’t fall!!!

 - Boubou, you mustn’t accept candies from strangers. 

- Yes Mom!

     You mustn’t (shouldn’t) believe everyone!

We mustn’t fight!

We mustn’t make noise!

In speech, people will commonly replace “il ne” with “i”( generally written “Y” in comics or transcriptions) and the expression will sound like this: /Ee foe pah/

One mustn’t yell!

… And sometimes, they’ll drop “il ne” altogether:


Il ne faut pas” can also be used with a determined subject, using the subjunctive, in which case the expression comes to mean “(someone) had better not…

Il ne faut pas que  (quelqu’un) (fasse quelque chose).

In the above example:

Il ne faut pas” means “had better not“;

que” stands for “that“;

(quelqu’un) would be the person who had better not doing the action;

And (fasse quelque chose) is the action that should not happen.

 She’d better not know we are preparing a party!

You’d better not see this!

Okay, you say, but then how do I convey the idea of “don’t need to”, as in I don’t need to take the trash out?

Answer: In this case, the expression “pas besoin de/pah bzwan dd/ is used with “avoir”.

I don’t need to take the trash out…

… But I do it anyway, because I’m nice!

You don’t need to run! There is enough coffee for everyone. 

So here you go.  The uses of  “il faut” in the negative.

And I’ll leave you with an interesting saying: Il ne faut pas vendre la peau de l’ours avant de l’avoir tué. Meaning don’t count ones chickens.

Questions? comments? Don’t hesitate to write!


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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I came across a notation of the difference between, for example, ‘I shouldn’t go’ = “ll ne faut pas que j’y aille” and “je n’ai pas besoin d’y aller” = ‘I don’t need or have to go’–but that was it, just a notation.

    So I wondered, if “il faut” means “it’s necessary,” does “il ne faut pas” mean “it’s NOT necessary” or “shouldn’t”? Since they are two different things, and since the notation was made by a native French speaker, I wanted to be clear on that subtlety. As always, you put your finger on the subtle difference and pointed it right out and made it clear. So I’m clear on that point. :-)

    Now, what about “devoir”? Do “je dois” and “je ne dois pas” mean “I should (have to)” and “I don’t have to (am not required to) or “I SHOULD not (am required to NOT do something).” My next question is, in French, is there no impersonal way to say “It’s not necessary” (it’s not true that one should”) without meaning “should not”–no direct connotative opposite of “il faut”? Maybe something like “on ne besoin pas de”? “It’s not necessary to staple your papers” versus “You shouldn’t staple your papers,” as a random example.

    I hope I’m being clear :-/ Thank you, as always.


  • Very good point! As you’ll see, very often in French the difference is not so much in which verb is used, but rather at which tense it’s conjugated.

    I musn’t: Je ne dois pas
    I shouldn’t: Je ne devrais pas
    You shouldn’t have: Tu n’aurais pas dû / Vous n’auriez pas dû
    I don’t need to (I am not required to…) : Je n’ai pas à + infinitve
    ex: Je n’ai pas à faire ce travail. (I am not required to do this job = it is not part of the job description)
    I don’t need to (it’s not necessary): Je n’ai pas besoin de + infinitive
    ex: Je n’ai pas besoin de faire tout ça pour réussir. (I don’t need to do all this in order to succeed)

    So for your second question, I think the expression would be: ne pas avoir besoin de.

    I hope this answers it! Happy New Year to you.

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