Whether you want to decline an offer or deny something emphatically and definitively in a French speaking country, saying “no” in French is necessary and knowing how to say it is important.
There are ways to say “no” in French in formal and informal situations.
So regardless of whether you’re a beginner or an advanced French student, you’re always going to need to know the appropriate word or phrase for these situations.
Chances are you’re already aware of the most common way to say “no” in French.
If that’s the case, and you’re looking for a few other alternatives, I’ll give you some other variations.
How do you say ‘no’ in French?
The straightforward way to say “no” in French is non.
It’s easy to remember since it’s very similar to the English equivalent. What you might struggle with as a beginner, though, is the pronunciation of this French word for “no”.
How is the word non pronounced in French?
When pronouncing non in French, remember that it’s quite different to English.
The final n is almost silent, except that the on pair makes a nasal sound in French. So it sounds like noh with a slight nasal vibration at the end.
Different ways to say “no” or refuse something in French
I’ll cover more variations that you can use to say “no” in French — some are ideal for formal situations and others are ideal for informal circumstances.
Take a look at the list below.
Nan is the French equivalent of saying “nope” or “nah” in English. It’s sort of a casual “no” that you’ll not really hear in office settings or with colleagues.
You wouldn’t really use it when speaking with your boss.
However, if you’re with your friends or family and someone asks you a simple question like “do you like cheese?”, you might casually respond with nan.
Aimes-tu le fromage ?
Nan, c’est mauvais.
2. Pas question
In some situations, you’ll need to use a definitive, absolute “no”.
If you have children, and your child asks if they can have a glass of wine, you can respond with pas question as it’s one of those definitive “nos”.
Puis-je avoir un verre de vin ?
Pas question. Tu n’as que treize ans.
3. Pas du tout
In formal, polite situations, you’re going to need this phrase to express that you haven’t been inconvenienced when being asked to do something for someone.
Pas du tout means “not at all” or “no problem at all”.
For example, if you are moving in to a new building and you meet a neighbour, they might respond with pas du tout if you ask them for assistance with luggage.
Merci d’avoir aidé avec ces sacs.
Pas du tout !
4. Mais non
You won’t hear mais non very often in French speaking countries as it’s a strong “no”.
It literally means “but no” in English, and you should use it on rare occasions, when you’re annoyed or frustrated.
If someone calls you to offer you a mobile phone contract and they have been calling you the whole week with the same offer, you could use mais no in this situation and say something like sans agressivité, mais non merci.
5. Non, merci
This is a polite way to decline something.
If you’re in a French restaurant and the waiter or waitress offers you dessert, you might respond with non, merci and then ask for the bill.
Voulez-vous un dessert ?
Non, merci. Puis-je avoir la facture ?
6. Absolument pas
Just like the phrase pas question, you can use absolument pas as a strong way to say “no” in French.
It translates to English as “no way” or “absolutely not” and can be used in formal situations.
You might hear it in political discussions or between strangers who are having a heated discussion about something they disagree on.
7. Pas vraiment
If you’re asked by your friend if you’d like to go to see a movie, and you don’t really feel up to it, you can respond with pas vraiment.
Pas vraiment translates to English as “not really”, and softens the “no” a little bit.
In other circumstances, you might hear some French speakers using pas vraiment to explain that they are not feeling very well or are in a bit of a bad mood.
This response tends to come when someone asks how you are.
Bonjour Helena ! Ça va ?
Start using these phrases for “no” to decline or deny something in French
It’s important as a French student that you recognize the subtleties of the French language, and learn when a formal “no” is required and which situations require an informal “no” or variation.
Get yourself a French tutor or conversation partner to practise these (see italki).
Listen to videos and communicate daily with native speakers. You’ll begin to recognise just by the tone of the speaker whether they are speaking in a formal context or an informal context.
Experiment with French variations for “no” as much as possible, since they’re important phrases that you’ll need to use in your dialogues with French native speakers often.
Did I miss anything?