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N'est-ce pas

French expressions analyzed and explained

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Expression: n'est-ce pas ?

Pronunciation: [nes pa]

Meaning: isn't it? aren't you?

Literal translation: is it not?

Register: formal

Notes: The French expression n'est-ce pas is what grammarians call a "tag question" or "question tag" - a word or short phrase tagged on to the end of a statement, turning it into a yes or no question (albeit one the speaker is pretty sure s/he knows the answer to).

In English, tag questions often consist of the verb from the statement combined with "not." In French, however, the verb is irrelevant; the tag question is just n'est-ce pas.

The English tag questions "right?" and "no?" are similar in usage, though not register: they are informal, whereas n'est-ce pas ? is formal or, in informal speech, ironic. The informal French tag question equivalent is non ?

   Vous êtes prêt, n'est-ce pas ?
   You're ready, aren't you?

   Elle est belle, n'est-ce pas ?
   She's beautiful, isn't she?

   Nous devons partir bientôt, n'est-ce pas ?
   We have to leave soon, don't we?

   Il a fait ses devoirs, n'est-ce pas ?
   He did his homework, didn't he?

   Ils peuvent nous accompagner, n'est-ce pas ?
   They can come with us, can't they?


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