1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: German
  4. >
  5. "Das ist kein Buch, sondern e…

"Das ist kein Buch, sondern ein Mantel."

Translation:That is not a book, but a coat.

October 9, 2015



How on earth does one mistake a book for a coat?


It is a way for Duo to demonstrate the while aber means but or except, sondern is something else that means but in the sense of contradiction.

This sentence definitely shows a contradiction so it definitely needs sondern instead of aber for English word but. A less clearly stated contradiction would mean the need for sondern instead of aber would not be so clear.

If you want to remember the difference between aber/but and sondern/but, this well constructed Duo example is perfect for the job.


Thanks for clearing the grammar up, thats really helpful.


I understand English speakers are learning that they have to use sondern in such situations in German, but native English speakers aren't going to say "That's not a book, but a coat." They're going to say "That's not a book. It's a coat." Sondern has no direct counterpart in English. But and rather make for hopelessly awkward attempts. For the purposes of learning to use sondern in German, I can see using them, but the more elegant solution, "This is not this. It's that." should be a correct answer, since that's what native English speakers do, not the but and rather stuff.


You are right the "sondern" has no direct English counterpart, which is exactly why using a naturalistic English translation would fail to fully teach the difference between "aber" and "sondern". I feel like the naturalistic translation makes more sense in other lessons, but not in the one that is specifically geared toward teaching conjunctions.


Books have covers. "Mantel" can mean "cover" as well as "jacket". Cf., "dust jacket". (Which, not surprisingly, does have more direct German translations: "Schutzumschlag oder Buchhülle")


Yes, I wrote 'cover' and was marked wrong. Had I written 'jacket' (the same as cover, I think), it should have been correct. Please accept cover in future, as I think that is what is meant.


Persönlich, ich würde "cover" akzeptieren, aber ich bin nicht ein Moderator.

Vielleicht habst du beabsichtigt, dies in der "Bericht" Abschnitt.


Sorry, Zengator! I just replied to yours as it was expressing the same sentiments. I hoped the Moderator would pick it up.


Dont try speaking complicated german in a lesson in the beginners section, us newbies cant understand!


This sentence is not restricted to any "beginners' section", nor was my reply directed to beginners, but rather to Rostellan, who is by no means a beginner.


I often read the comments, because they offer valuable insight. Having read the coat/cover comments I tried 'cover' since it seemed to make more sense in this context. Two years after your post and it's still not accepted. Thank you for your comment anyway.


Ohhh...it's punny.


To be fair there have been many a rough night at the german beer festival when I have tried to put on a book and read my coat!


That explains a lot


My imagination told me it was a situation like this "What is it that she wants for her birthday? Is it a book?" "No, she changed her mind. It's not a book, it's a coat instead" BUT that might just be because it's my sister's birthday next week and I am stressing out about a present XD


I think that is a good explanation


Hardback books often have a slip-on paper jacket that has all the artwork, blurbs, author picture, and so on. So it´s saying you`re only looking at the jacket not the book itself.


I love this comment. All the responses trying to explain why Duo has the sentence here don't want to let people laugh at things.


One doesn’t. The purpose is to learn the pattern. For that, any two dissimilar nouns will do.


Perhaps the coat is folded up into a bundle


Maybe it's folded neatly into a square in a pile next to some books. Could be mistaken for one.


Don't you mean a coat for a book?


In the drop-down menu, you'll fine a "Jacket" option. It works for me.


High quality marihuana.


In a box from Amazon...?


Only a total moron would write such a reduculous sentence.


Similar to someone who would write "reduculous"?


Genau, was ich selbst gedacht habe...!


They did in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Alt text


Go home Duolingo, you're drunk.


Why is "Das" translated as "That" and cant't be "This" ?


"This" is also ok.


But yet it don't accept it for me, I think this should be flagged and fixed.


I suppose while the circumstances are rather rare that one would point out That is not a book but a coat there are probably a lot fewer occasions where people feel compelled to hold up a coat and patiently explain to someone This is not a book but a coat.

On the other hand I guess there might be a class of students unfamiliar with the objects in question having not seen either of them before. Or maybe their native language is so alien to German that it is hard for them to hear the different tones between the two words.


The man who mistook his wife for a hat, yeah


Here the answer ends with "...Buch, sondern ein Mantel", but in another question the answer ends with "...Rock, sondern einen Mantel". Why? Shouldn't the ein/eine/einen follow the next word?


I'm not exactly sure what your question is, but I'll answer based on what I think is confusing you.

One uses the accusative einen before masculine nouns when it's the object of a sentence, as you know. I assume you're getting confused about what to use after sondern. It has to do with the verb before the comma:

  • Das ist ein Mantel.
  • Das ist kein Buch, sondern ein Mantel.

So, it is simply carried over to whatever comes after the sondern. Your other sentence must've had an accusative object, for example:

  • Ich sehe einen Mantel.
  • Ich sehe keinen Rock, sondern einen Mantel.
  • Ich sehe kein Buch, sondern einen Mantel.

The reason why the verb for "to be", sein, never takes einen is because there can be no object. For example, in "he is my friend", what is the receiver of "is"? Exactly, there is none. There is a receiver in "he dislikes my friend", though (there is no X = X nature). The only other verbs that have no object (in other words, a nominative object) are werden and bleiben, as far as I know.


So the bottom line is: we must keep the same form used before the comma, not the normal form for that gender/case. Thank you for the explanation!



It is easier to think of what the verb to be means.

Something is something, positive or negative. They are the same thing within the context of that sentence. Within the context of that sentence they can be reversed. Each one is not the other. They have the same case because within that sentence they are the same thing.

Yes, there are a of words floating around in the sentence. One of those words creates a negation. There are some punctuation marks. But what counts is the verb to be. Coat and book would be presented in the same case with or without the extra stuff.

Clearly one of the somethings must be the subject of the sentence. But the other something is the same thing within that sentence. Within the sentence a coat is not a book and a book is not a coat. Therefore, both somethings are rendered in the nominative case.

That is not true for other verbs.


In the other example, she is wearing the coat, so coat is accusative. In this example, the thing is the coat, so it is nominative.


"That is not a book, but rather a coat" This is what I wrote, but it highlighted the "a" as being wrong, when "ein" is clearly present, and it is in the given answer. Am I missing something?


I wrote 'but rather' and it marked it as wrong


I think that Duo doesn't want the "rather" in the sentence.


That's odd, because in my ears it sounds better with rather, at least in everyday language.


But it isn't the perfectly literal translation. I kind of agree with you though, but I personally think it sounds fine either way.


For me, it is ok


Well, Mantel can also mean jacket, so perhaps someone just stood a dust jacket on a bookshelf without the book inside (sort of how some video stores would put empty cases on the shelf—you had to take the empty case to the checkout to get the VHS tape).


'The man who mistook his wife for a hat' by neurologist Oliver Sacks contains a story where this actually happened.


Das ist kein Mond, sondern ein Raumstation


What is the meaning of this sentence .. pls im not a native english speaker and wondering ?!


It's a nonsense sentence designed to show how one uses the word "sondern".

This is not a book. It's actually a coat.

It's ridiculous because most people could not confuse the two things.

This is what happens when you make sentence comparing two random nouns.

At least, because it is ludicrous, it is memorable.


Books have covers. "Mantel" can mean "cover" as well as "jacket". Cf., "dust jacket". (Which, not surprisingly, does have more direct German translations: "Schutzumschlag oder Buchhülle")


No special meaning. Just takes some effort to imagine a situation where you would not be able to easily tell them apart. For example, they are inside boxes.

It is just an exercise.


it is probably a play on a blind person


it doesn't make sense. it's a weird translation. sometimes german sentences don't make sense when they are translated into english.


Sentences of any language don't make sense when translated into English.


I'm imagining a scenario where I'm shopping for clothes in Germany and the store clerk says this to me after I stand there and deliberate too long on a purchase.


Not only do you present one of the only realistic reasons to hear this sentence, but it's hilarious. Danke schön!


What a a stupid sentence. It may be trying to reach grammar, but we should also be learning reasonable contradictions ie. That is not book, but a magazine. That is not a shirt, but a jumper, things like that. This is just throwing words together, not building a lexicon. They might as well have said, that is not a building but a kangaroo.


I don't mean to pick bones with you ower this, but book "cover" sometiemes translated as "jacket". I believe it is one of the optionsoptions in the drop-down menu...


This and that both can be correct in this sentence.


is this subordinating or coordinating?


Coordinating. But in an odd way: here sondern not only acts as a conjunction, but also stands as a placeholder/substitute for the Nominativ and the verb.


Why will it not accept "dass". It means "that" as well,right?


das = demonstrative article/pronoun pointing to something real or figurative. Das ist gut - that is good.

dass = grammatical function usually a conjunction. In English, I tell you so that/dass you will know.

that = pointer thingy

that = grammar thingy

ditto for das/dass


Ah! Interesting. Thank you for clarifying!


Aber = But Doch = But (On the contrary)

Somdern = But .... What specialty with "sondern"?


Yes all could be translated as "but"

Doch: "nevertheless"

Aber: "however"

Sondern: "but ____ instead"


Can we not use aber here?


I'm only learning but I got the impression that if you use aber you would have to include "es ist ein" (someone correct me if I'm wrong??).

It would be like: That is not a peach... but, it IS an apricot.

With sondern it's more like: That is not a peach; it's an apricot.


The way I understand it, sondern is for mutually exclusive events. At 8pm we aren't going to a concert, but rather to dinner. Two things that aren't happening at the same time (we won't go into the "but..." situations of having dinner at a concert!)


the english translation is not natural. "it's" rather than "but" would be far more acceptable but it's disallowed.


It's is not a translation of sondern.

What you are actually saying is that the German sentence is wrong. You would prefer a German sentence that doesn't include sondern.

Sondern is not just another word for English but. Sondern is...... not A but B. .... Not a book but a coat (inside the box, ship, boxcar; the meaning of a phrase in German; whatever)

Sondern carries the notion of replacement of contradiction. Something is something instead of something else. English it's does not carry that meaning although it doesn't deny it.


shouldn't "that is not a book, rather a coat" be accepted, as it has pretty much the same meaning?


It should, but this is DL you're dealing with. And DL tends to be a strict constructionist and not great on recognizing latitude.


I really hope these random sentences pay off one day...


Die Eule is not so much teaching sentences--we are not becoming human phrasebooks--as using sentences to teach vocabulary and grammar.

That said, there are some phrases which are taught as vocabulary, such as Es tut mir Leid or Danke, guten Tag.

For the most part, though, it helps to forget whether one would use the offered sentences oneself, or hear them in conversation, or even read them in a book or see in a movie. Just understand why the sentence means what it does and why it's structured the way it is.


I agree, but sometimes the phrase is so unlikely as to make you feel you have not understood it properly. Conversely, it may be so weird, it sticks in your mind.


True. It would be counterproductive to offer sentences like "Der Teller liest den grünen Klang." (The plate reads the green sound.) But to the best of my recollection, even the oddest ones can make sense without too much contortion.


Zengator, thank you. I keep saying that too.


I thought with conjunctions there was always a verb at the end of the sentence ? Or is only with certain types of conjunctions?

Apparently not.


Only with certain types of conjunctions: subordinating conjunctions.

sondern is a coordinating conjunction. Another coordinating conjunction is und -- for example, Ich esse Brot und du trinkst Wasser. "I am eating bread and you are drinking water". (We don't say Ich esse Brot und du *Wasser trinkst.)


Shouldnt it be einen mantel


The "object" of the be verb (sein) is Nominativ. Same for other "linking verbs".


It will not accept my answer when I put dass, it shows the answer as das. Then marks it wrong.


What is the entire sentence you try?


why wouldn't it be einen mantel


Because Mantel is a noun that has to be capitalised, and einen would be the accusative case.

After "to be", a predicate comes in the nominative case in German, not the accusative case.


helpful for when you... need to learn German... and mix these


i think it should to be einen Mantel instead ein Mantel


And why would you think that?

Notice that the verb in this sentence (ist/sein) is the main linking (or "copular") verb, and in sentences using such verbs both the subject and the predicate are Nominativ, thus ein, nicht einen.


I used "rather" for "sondern". It's perfectly clear and acceptable - possibly better English - to leave out "but"


Wie verwechselt man die beiden?


why there is difference with the "ein" and "einen" in these sentences: "sie tragt keinen rock, sondern einen mantel" "das ist kein buch, sondern ein mantel"



Please pay attention to the umlauts and the capitalisation -- it's Sie trägt keinen Rock, sondern einen Mantel. and Das ist kein Buch, sondern ein Mantel.

tragen (to carry, to wear) is a transitive verb -- one that takes a direct object. The object stands in the accusative case. So you have keinen Rock, einen Mantel in the accusative case.

But sein (to be) is not a transitive verb that takes an object -- you can say "the skirt is worn by her" but you can't say "the book is been by this" for "this is a book". Instead, "to be" is a copula (linking verb) that links a subject to a predicate that says something about the subject -- "this is a book" is similar to "this = a book". Such a predicate is in the nominative case in German (almost always). So you have kein Buch, ein Mantel in the nominative case.


It was very cold that night, so instead of putting on my lightweight book, I donned my warm winter coat. I think this lesson would work better substituting Jacke for Buch. Teaches the same concept but wouldn't be such nonsense.


Except that then there would be a lengthy debate over whether there is any real distinction between einer Jacke und einem Mantel.


You're right. Nowadays there are lengthy debates over everything. Including whether the debate was "lively" or not.


Hi! "Das ist kein Buch, sondern ein Mantel" / "Sie trägt keinen Rock, sondern einen Mantel" : why "EIN Mantel" in the first sentence, and "EINEN" in the second? Should't it be "einen" in both cases? ...



tragen "wear" is a normal transitive verb, which takes a direct object in the accusative case -- the thing that "undergoes" or "suffers" the action of the verb, i.e. the thing that is worn.

sein "to be", on the other hand, is not an action -- it's more like the spoken equivalence of an equals sign. "this is a book" as "this = book". The thing after "is" is not the object of a verb (the book is not "been" by "this"); it's a predicate that describes the subject. Such predicates are in the nominative case in German.

Thus you have das ist ein Mantel with ein Mantel in the nominative case.


Duo is inconsistent about 'rather', 'but rather' and 'but' unless I am missing something!


I'm confused. It's "einen Mantel" when in the sentence with the skirt, but "ein Mantel" when in the sentence with the book. Huh?


This sentence has ist as the main verb, and so the predicate on the right-hand side is in the nominative case.

The other sentence presumably had a transitive verb in it (one such as hat that takes a direct object) and so the object on the right-hand side is in the accusative case.

Das ist ein Mantel. Sie hat einen Mantel.


Why is the construction ich habe kein Buch sondern ein Mantel, but ich trägt nicht einen Rock sondern einen Mantel? Why is it sometimes ein mantel and at other times einen mantel?


Why is the construction ich habe kein Buch sondern ein Mantel

It isn't. It has to be ich habe einen Mantel, not ein Mantel.

And so Ich habe kein Buch, sondern einen Mantel just like Ich trage keinen Rock, sondern einen Mantel.

Accusative case in both sentences, as the direct object of haben and tragen.

But this sentence is Das ist kein Buch, sondern ein Mantel -- the verb in the sentence is sein "to be", which does not take a direct object. It's a linking verb that links a subject to a predicate, which in German is (almost always) in the nominative case.

So you need nominative ein Mantel here, rather than accusative einen Mantel.


Thank you! Das ist viele klar


Why not einen Mantel?


Because einen Mantel would be accusative case, but there is nothing here that would require the accusative case.

sein (to be) is not a transitive verb that takes a direct object in the accusative case. (One test is that you can't turn "That is a coat" into "A coat is been by that".)

It's a copula or linking verb that links a subject to a predicate -- and such predicates are (almost always) in the nominative case in German.

Thus you need nominative kein Mantel.


Why sometimes it's ein Mantel but sometimes it's einen Mantel


If Nominativ: ein Mantel.

If Akkusativ: einen Mantel.

If Dativ: einem Mantel.

If Genitiv: eines Mantel.


In the genitive, it's eines Mantels.


Why not einen Mantel?


After a linking verb (is/sein), the object is still Nominativ, not Akkusativ.

  1. sie tragt keinen rock, sondern einen mantel.
  2. das ist kein buch , sondern ein mantel

Can someone explain to me how einen is used, i the above two sentences, both the sentences have accusative case .... Thanks in advance for much need help.


both the sentences have accusative case

No, they don't.

Use nominative after "to be", not accusative.

Thus Das ist ein Mantel or Du bist ein Junge -- not einen Mantel, einen Jungen.

"to be" is not a transitive verb that takes a direct object in the accusative case. (Hint: you can't form the passive voice by turning the "object" into a subject: "A boy is been by you" or "A coat is been by this" makes no sense.)


why "that is not book" wrong?


Not sure how exactly to explain it, but in English, you do need the 'a' before book. It isn't proper grammar without it.


In British English, you could say “That is no book.”.


Same with Canadian English, and therefore presumably American English. I'm not a professional has a more "direct" or "plain" feel to it than I'm no professional which is more "emphatic". I can't really explain it properly.


Using no in the way suggested, in English, is intended to explicitly reject the validity of any circumstances, implication or appearance that might mislead the listener.

That is no book (despite what it looks like or whatever anyone might say about it)


Why we dont sey that is (not) book !!


By my understanding, "kein" acts as "no" in phrases like "that's no moon..." (so the indefinite article, "a", is not needed as it would be with "not").

I would say that in English I would naturally phrase this with a gap (perhaps punctuated with either ... or — or ; or just a new sentence) instead of using "rather than" or "instead" as you would use "sondern".

"That's not a book. It's a coat!"

"That's no book... it's a coat!"

"That's no moon... it's a space station!" https://youtu.be/EVekNsgUqn4


Why is it "sondern" and not "aber"?


They're both conjunctions. But "sondern" implies a contrasting situation where "but RATHER" is intended. One of the best examples you'll ever find for the correct use of "sondern" is Shakespear's "I come (rather) to bury Caesar, not praise him." In other words, "I come not to praise Caesar but (rather) to bury him." "Aber" has the sense of "however." "still," "nevertheless". ("You can inspect my briefcase, but (however) you won't find anything incriminating in it."


Why does "kien" and "ein" assume the masculine in "Sie tragt kienen Rock, sondern einen Mantel." but not in this sentence?


See TrioLinguist's answer to Igor797501's question above.


is comma separated by a whitespace, then mistakenly recognized as a wrong word?


Why is "That is not a book, rather a coat" marked as incorrect?


Could you say ''das ist ein Buch nicht'' ?


Nope. Das ist nicht ein Buch, sondern... or Das ist kein Buch... but you can't split the ein and the nicht. The English equivalent (I don't know your native language) would be "that is a book not".


Why is it not 'einen' Mantel? Der Mantel is masculine.


That's true, but it's not in the accusative case so it's ein Mantel. See my reply to Igor797501 elsewhere on this page.


Why "This is not a book, rather a coat" is not correct?


Probably because the construction isn't parallel. Had you inserted "...(it is) rather a coat", DL could not, in all conscience, have marked it wrong.


So to be clear, would a native German speaker ever actually refer to a dust-jacket as "ein Mantel"?


That would be a Schutzumschlag, Buchumschlag or just Umschlag. Maybe in figurative language you could say something like sie will den Büchern ein neues Kleid schneidern, but generally, just use Umschlag.


Can I use aber instead of sondern? What is the difference?


It wasn't until I got to the second sleeve, I realized this book was a coat.


Does sondern work for both "rather" and "but rather"?


Ist dass ein Mantel in der Tasche, oder sind sie nur glücklich mich zu sehen?


The real question is what's the difference between sondern, and aber. If they both translate to "but" how do we know which to know when?


As MelinaArins suggested, please take a look at erebus53's answer to SayantanAdhikari's question above.


What is the difference btw Aber, Doch and Sondern


erebus53 answered that question about a year ago. Of course, because of the vast number of people who can't help but post inane repetitions of the same inane comments, it takes a while if you just scroll through. However searching for doch will find it quickly enough.


Why can't I say, "but rather"?


When you make a statement 'That is not a book...' a person speaking english would not follow with 'but'..... That is not a book, it is a coat... would be the more likely retort.


That is not a proper sentence, but it could be if punctuated properly.

"That is not a book; it is a coat."

What you have written, Diana670165, is called a "comma-splice".

Regardless, I speak English 99% of the time, and I absolutely would say "that is not a, but it is b." There is nothing at all wrong with it. Still, it doesn't capture the full meaning of sondern unless "instead" is also included: "that is not a, but instead it is b". NB: it is key that the first clause contain a negative.


What's an easy explanation for why "aber" isn't ised? Thanks.


The easy explanation is that when it's a "not A but B" (= A is wrong and B is the correct one), you use sondern.


And how exactly are we going to use this sentence, um, EVER?


You probably won't. No more than I will ever use "ich bin schwanger".

However, you probably will use every word in the sentence, in different order, with other words as well. By understanding how they fit together in this sentence--especially sondern--you will build an ability to create your own sentences to express thoughts that YOU want as (not after) you learn a new language.

Or you could try to commit a phrasebook to memory.


Duo: sondern means but instead Me: but instead Duo: no, it means but, or but rather


"but rather" was rejected


"That is not a book, but it's a coat" was rejected.



I think this is the most useful sentence Duolingo has thought up yet! If I said this I would be insulting someone. Good job, Duo. LOL. HAHAHA.


What is German term for a book's dust cover? This sentence only makes sense to me if "der Mantel" can refer to a book's jacket.


A common mistake


Sorry, but that is a ridiculous and unhelpful sentence for an English speaker.


The idea is not to give you sentences to memorize that you can use like a phrase book. The purpose is to teach and practice a pattern: das ist kein X, sondern ein Y.


As far as I know, in the graphic production industry for books, the “Mantel” is called “cover”, not a coat. Please, correct me if I am wrong.


Sometimes a book cover is referred to as a "book jacket" as well.


Interesting, thanks.


there is no die before the buch


kein = k + ein = not a

Die is not permitted when already using the indefinite article ein in its negative form.


They're so different in shape and size, smell and place. Who the hell mistakes these?


That’s not the point. The point is to learn the pattern— “Das ist kein X, sondern ein Y.” Any two nouns will work; it doesn’t matter which ones.


The English translation is syntactically incorrect.

"That's not a book, but it is a coat" should be the correct answer.


What the heck is this supposed to mean? I mean who mistakes a book fr a coat? There MUST be a more logical sentence!!!


Hey, lots of things arrive in boxes from Amazon... not all of them are books. ;-)


The English translation given by Duolingo is phrased in a way that is unnatural for an English person. We would say 'That is a coat rather than a book'


In proper English this would be an incomplete sentence. It would read (if correct); "That is not a book, but it is a coat". It's a stupid way to make me learn, due to the fact that it's not a correct sentence and, to me, makes absolutely zero sense.


I wonder if he can find his way to the optician.


Why is the translation "but it is a coat" wrong?

Learn German in just 5 minutes a day. For free.
Get started