Negative auxiliaries

I find the way in which people tend to treat the French language in English books and films bewildering.
Today, I finished The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown, which is set in France for the most part, and this is what one of the characters says at one point: "Ne nous dérangez pas sous aucun prétexte" ("Do not never disturb us", roughly). This is grammatically incorrect, as you can’t have the negative auxiliaries "pas" and "aucun" in the same sentence. "Ne nous dérangez pas" is fine and so is "Ne nous dérangez sous aucun prétexte". This is a world best-seller, read by millions of people, couldn’t they have hired a French linguist to check the French in the book?
In a similar vein, I remember watching The American President and being horrified when the French president, who appears in the film, started talking. Here we had the man elected to represent France, and yet he was speaking French with the thickest American accent imaginable. Is it so hard to find French-speaking second-grade actors in Hollywood?

By | 2016-10-18T15:51:45+00:00 September 30th, 2004|Technical corner|2 Comments

About the Author:

I am Céline Graciet, a freelance English to French translator. Since 2003 I’ve been writing on all sorts of areas linked to translation and the life of a translator.


  1. language hat October 3, 2004 at 5:38 pm

    This is true. The reverse of the coin is that “Americans” in foreign films are usually foreigners speaking English with thick accents. I’ve never understood it. Is it that hard to find actors of the appropriate nationality?

  2. jim October 4, 2004 at 9:52 pm

    LH– I remember the chuckling when I saw Fassbinder’s The Marriage of Maria Brown and a black GI starts to speak with a thick Jamaican accent. Very droll. But something that really annoys me about Hollywood films is when “foreigner” characters are portrayed speaking English in thick accents of their native language, even when they are speaking with one another. To save on subtitles, no doubt.

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