Negatives in German: learn to say ‘No’

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  • April 1, 2022
  • German Language
Negatives in German: learn to say ‘No’

Negatives in German: learn to say ‘No’ –

Are you one of those people who is afraid to say no? Is dealing with denials often difficult for you? So, at the very least in terms of language development, we’ll train you how to say it without offending others.

In German, the term ‘nein’ is the most widely used word for no. It is also crucial to understand the proper methods and variants for negating things amongst all the positives. Because German negatives come in a variety of forms, it is critical for newbies to comprehend and distinguish between them, as well as to adapt to the proper use of No. Apart from ‘nein’ we also have various expressions to convey negation like nee, no, auf keinen Fall, gar nicht, leider, nie, niemals and so on. It’s important to evaluate the context in which they’ll be used.

Here We’re looking at how to employ the negations nicht and kein among the different ways to negate propositions. ‘Not’ is the English counterpart of nicht. The alternatives for kein vary depending on the context, such as not, no, none, neither, and so on. Beginners frequently struggle to understand the distinction between the two and make mistakes when employing negations in statements. However, there are certain guidelines for using these versions, making it easier.


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Ways to use Nicht:

Nicht is generally used to negate whole clauses. The position of nicht in the clause is explained as follows.


1.It follows objects and adverbs: where it is usually placed at the end of the sentence.

Ich verkaufe dir das Buch nicht. ( I won’t sell you the book.)

Der Briefträger kommt heute nicht. ( The postman doesn’t come today)

Exception: it precedes the adverbs of manner:

Das stück gefiel mir nicht besonders. ( I didn’t like this play very much)


2. In clauses with a second verb element at the end, nicht precedes that element. This occurs for example  with compound tenses, modal verbs and separable verbs:

Wir haben die tuer nicht geoeffnet. ( we didn’t open the door)

Sie möchte ihn jetzt nicht sehen. ( she doesn’t want to see him now)

Ruf sie nicht an! ( don’t call her.)


3.Nicht precedes all other elements in the clause, including prepositional phrases and genitive objects:

 Geh nicht in die Küche! ( don’t go into the Kitchen.)

 Er wurde nicht des Mordes angeklagt. ( He was not accused of murder.


4. Alternatively, nicht may be used to negate a particular element in the clause. It then precedes that element.

Sie kommen nicht morgen früh. (They are not coming tomorrow morning (but another time)

Wir stellen nicht ihn ein, sondern jemand anderen.  (we won’t employ him but someone else) 

Nicht… sondern (not..but) is a common combination.

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Ways to use Kein:

Kein is the negation used for the  indefinite article ein. 

1.Kein is the usual negation for nouns and is placed before the noun also it is declined according to its Gender. (also adjectives, if any.)

Das ist kein guter Wein. (That’s not a good wine.)

Eva möchte keine Chips. ( Eva doesn’t want any crisps.)


2.Kein negates verb and noun combinations such as:

Angst/ Durst/ Hunger haben ( to be afraid/ thirsty / hungry)

Geld haben ( to have money)

Atem holen ( to take a breath)

Freude haben an ( to take pleasure in)

Sich Mühe geben ( to make an effort)

Sie hat keine Angst. ( She’s not afraid.)

Er hat keinen Hunger. ( He’s not hungry)


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Ways to use either Kein or Nicht.

In the following contexts either kein or nicht may be used. There is a slight difference of meaning , since nicht negates the clause as a whole, whereas kein negates the following noun and so puts more emphasis on it.


1. With sein and werden:

Er ist kein/ nicht Direktor ( He is not a director)

Er wird kein / nicht Direktor ( He won’t be a director)


2.However the indefinite article ein is negated by kein:

Ist Sie eine gute Pilotin ? ( Is she a good Pilot?)

Nein, sie ist keine gute Pilotin. ( No, she’s not a good Pilot)


3. With some expressions that use nehmen:

Platz nehmen (to take a seat)

Rache nehmen ( to take a revenge)

Rücksicht nehmen ( to show consideration)

Er moechte keinen / nicht Platz nehmen. ( he doesn’t want to take a seat.)


4.With prepositional phrases:

Sie arbeitet in keiner / nicht in einer Kneipe. ( She doesn’t work in a pub)


5.With some common idiomatic expressions:


Du sprichst kein/nicht Englisch? (You don’t speak English?)

Er spielt kein/ nicht Squash ( He doesn’t play Squash.)

However nicht is preferred if the noun is seen as closely connected with the verb.

Sie fährt nicht Auto. ( She doesn’t drive.)

These tips will undoubtedly assist you in distinguishing between the words nicht and kein. If you appreciate all the positives, you’ll eventually like the negations in German as well.


Shivani Deshpande

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