"I am not a boy."
Translation:Ich bin kein Junge.
No, "boy" (Junge) is masculine. But you have to use the nominative case after the verb "sein" (to be), not the accusative case. That's why it's "kein" (masc. nominative) and not "keinen" (masc. accusative).
See also: "Predicate nouns" (= use of the nominative case after the verb "sein") http://www.vistawide.com/german/grammar/german_cases_nominative.htm
Forms of "kein": http://goo.gl/BRVhK
Interesting factoid: "kein" can be used to question the validity of someone's profession of their ability at something. We do the same thing in English, z.B., "He's no doctor." The speaker doesn't mean the person is literally not a doctor, just that they are not good at what they do, or perhaps don't practice medicine ethically. "He's no artist." He does get paid to paint; you just don't think much of his style or subject matter.
That is a nice rule but in a case like this you could argue I'm negating the verb "bin", not the noun "Junge". The rule does seem useful with the following examples. "Ich liebe nicht Gretel." or better: "Ich liebe Gretel nicht". Then: "Ich liebe keine Gretel." And, of course, here they clearly mean two different things.
Anyway, thanks for that rule. I learned most of the German I know by ear, no by rules. I'd like to learn more rules.
"Keinen" is used for masculine nouns in the accusative case. "Junge" is a masculine noun, but after the verbs "sein" (to be) and "werden" (to become), you do not use the accusative case, but the nominative case. That's why it's "kein Junge" (nominative case) and not "keinen Jungen" (accusative case).
See here ("predicate noun"):
Except in this case, and any case where a sentence is saying "not a/an X", because that's when you're negating the verb.
If you say "I am not a boy", you are negating the verb "to be". If you say "I am no boy", or even "I am a not-boy", you are negating the noun "boy".
When you say something like "That is not a cat", you are saying what it isn't, hence you are negating the verb. But when you say "That is no cat", you are saying what it is, and negating the noun.
English negates verbs typically by following the verb with "not", or preceding it with "does not" (which is really just a negation of the auxiliary verb "to do"). There are actually very few cases where "not" is used to do something other than negating a verb; compound nouns such as "not-boy" above are the only exception I can think of at the moment.
I'm trying to figure out these negations. "nicht" is used to negate verbs and "kein" (in its various forms) is used to negate nouns; is that correct?
I think what's confusing me is that sometimes the negation is switched in translation, and sometimes it is not. For instance, here, we're negating the noun Junge, so the sentence is really a positive statement, "I am a not-boy", which is actually quite different from "I am not a boy", which is a negation of the verb. "I am not a boy" should be "Ich bin ein Junge nicht", if we weren't switching what gets negated in the translation, that is.
So, what I'm really saying is, is there any way to tell when to translate something literally versus switching whether it's the noun or the verb that gets negated? Obviously, practice and familiarity, but are the any clues about what tends to get negated?
Yes, that rule is correct. Consider it like this—
Are you negating a verb (she doesn’t swim, read, come from Kiel, etc.)? Use nicht: Sie schwimmt nicht; sie liest nicht. Sie kommt nicht aus Kiel.
Or are you saying that you have, or you eat, none of something (we have no coffee, no money, etc.)? Use kein + noun: Er trinkt kein Kaffee. Wir haben kein Geld.
Or are you saying that thing X is not thing Y? Use kein + noun. Ich bin kein Junge. Das ist keine Rose.
Where you’re getting tangled, I think, is that the verb sein (bin, bist, ist, sind, seid) isn’t REALLY a verb in the way it functions with
nouns in the predicate. It’s more like an = sign. It’s not an action verb.
The other thing that is getting you confused is this idea of “switching” something. That’s not how it actually works. English and German are different languages with different rules, and different ways to say things. And you can’t usually map translated sentences word for word one to the other. Instead, it’s better to think of it as, “this is how this language expresses this idea.” (Literal translations that work are pretty rare, actually, except in very simple sentences like *I have a blue jacket.”).
As a rule, if you are saying that someone has none of something, eats no X, or A is not B, use kein.
Aha— one other thing comes to mind: English of earlier periods used a structure much more like German in this respect. Think of “Jack Sprat would eat no fat, his wife would eat no lean”. Exactly the same as German structure. But in modern English, especially in the USA, we express that concept as “doesn’t eat fat” rather than “eats no fat.”