"Sie müssen es nicht essen."

Translation:They do not have to eat it.

March 4, 2013

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No question that modals can be tough, but very useful in conversation. An interesting thing to remember is the relative strength of statements in regards to whether the statement is positive or negative. Zum Beispiel (for example) Dürfen positive is a soft statement. Darf ich jetzt spielen? (May I play now?) Soft. Dürfen negative is strong. Du darfst nicht rauchen. (You are not allowed to smoke.) Strong. Müssen positive is strong. Wir müssen unsere Tiere füttern. (We have to feed our animals.) Strong. Müssen negative is soft. Sie muss nicht schwimmen. (She does not have to swim.) Soft.


I have found it useful to translate müssen as "required to" or "have to". Then it's correct for positive or negative use. If you translate "müssen" as "must"(which of course is tempting because it looks so similar) that only works in the positive form.


An excellent tip. Thank you.


So how do you say 'She must not swim' Strong? (eg A parent to a teacher if the child has a cold. )


"Sie muss nicht schwimmen." is too weak and sounds as if she has the option of swimming. Saying "Meine Tochter darf nicht schwimmen." means 'My daughter must not swim' which is the strong statement you want to convey.


Thanks for that. I think I've got it now....finally. I'm copying tis into my notes.


Me too. Thanks, karlectron!


Thank you, very well explained indeed! I had a quick question: where do "soll" and "nicht soll" fall in this hierarchy? From other comments it looks like they are both strong, "I should" and "I am not supposed to" respectively, but I'd love your opinion.


Philip, not being a native speaker, please take my opinion with that understanding. However, I often use "solte," meaning "really should." I've noticed that the other modals, such as "muss," "konnen" drop into their past tense to indicate "gotta" or "really." By the time they drop into their subjunctive, the voice is strained a bit more to indicate that. I belong to a conversational group, and that's all they do is talk, most of them more fluent than I. For "sollen" try out "Ich soll gehen," vs. "Ich sollte gehen," vs. "Ich sollte gegangen sein." The difference is slight, but in English we'd say softly, "I should go;" with a little more force, "I really should go;" and being a little upset, "I should have gone." Where "nicht" fits in I feel that it simply negates the sentence with the same amount of verbal force as the other sentences.


Thank you! Have my Lingot!


Let me take a printscreen of this comment!! Thank you very much!


Thank you for explaining this so succinctly, karlectron. Btw, how exactly would "beispiel" translate?


"Beispiel" (note the capital "B") is a noun and means "example".


Duo accepts two translations that mean different things: "they do not have to eat it" and "they must not eat it".

They must not eat it = Sie dürfen es nicht essen, no?


Yes, you're right. 'must not' is wrong.


Are you sure about this? As a beginner non-native German speaker it seems there are three different possibilities to describe the situation, if not the sentence: müssen nicht= must not (eg because it's poisoned) dürfen nicht = not allowed to (eg because you have to wait for others) ????? = do not have to eat (because it's your personal choice)

But maybe I've got the wrong sense of müssen, probably because it sounds so like must in English


Yes I'm sure. "Must not" = "dürfen nicht".


Then how do you distinguish "must not eat it" from "may not eat it"? Sie sollen es nicht essen?


Duolingo did not accept 'They must not eat it' for me; it was marked as wrong.


And Duo is correctly doing so. The negation of modal verbs works differently in English and German. Though the (positive) "müssen" corresponds to "must", "nicht müssen" does not mean "must not" (that would be "nicht dürfen"), but "need not".


Ah. I see. Thank you.


How would you say 'I have to not eat it' in German?


That would be "Ich darf es nicht essen."


I checked with an online translator and the first translation is "have to." I've always used it to mean "must," and I see now that I was wrong.


Its So frustrating that the word "sie" can mean both she and They!!


Just keep your eye on the verb, and it will get easier!


One could as well say 'It's so frustrating that the word "you" can mean "du", "Sie" and also "ihr" ' :-)


One could say and DOES say that--often!!


Could another native german speaker step in and explain why 'muessen es nicht' is 'do not have to' instead of 'must not' ?


I am not a native German speaker but Dutch, but the system is Dutch is roughlu the same as in German. So, müssen = must and dürfen = may (also can in contemporary English).

So far, so good, but the problem is with the "not". In English the not belongs to the following part: You must not eat = you must (not eat). So there is an obligation to not eat. Same with may.

In German and Dutch the not belongs to the modal verb. Sie müssen es nicht essen = Sie (müssen nicht) es essen. I.e. There is not an obligation (müssen nicht) to eat. Or in other words it is the negative of Sie müssen es essen. The latter is an obligation to eat so the former is not an obligation to eat or they are allowed not to eat. In English expressed by may: They may (not eat it).

In the same way: Sie dürfen es nicht essen = negation of (Sie dürfen es essen) = they are not allowed to eat it. In English: they must (not eat it).


A common mistake is to interpret Muessen as "Must" in English. If you, instead interpret Muessen as "have to," it will make sense. So when you negate "have to," it turns into "don't have to." As far as Duerfen, think of it as "allowed to"


This was very helpful!


Does it make sense to think of "muessen" as "required to"? Z. B.: "Sie muessen schwimmen."..."They are required to swim."....."Sie muessen nicht schwimmen."..."They are not required to swim."...?


Sounds like she's saying "Sie mussen Essen nicht essen."


"Sie müssen DAS Essen nicht essen." Without the "das" it sounds like the person shouldn't eat at all! You probably realized this after you posted, but it is comical. Thanks.


I thought it sounded like "Sie mussen Essen nicht essen." when played at normal speed. I had to slow it down to hear that she was saying "Es". As for your comment, it is common for doctors to say that you must not eat food before a medical procedure. That is how I understood it, anyway.


How am I supposed to know that the answer is not, "They must not eat it," when that is literally what is written?


Krys, you are perfectly correct, IMO. I'd say "Sie solten es nicht essen" to soften it a bit, meaning "should not eat it," whereas I'd say "Sie müsten es nicht essen!" to place more emphasis, as "really not at all" eat it. Duo is a language class, not mathematics, so often there is not one correct "solution." Have a Lingot.


Much appreciated, SaulSnatsky.


Why is "You must not eat it" incorrect?? Wouldn't that also be the formal you version of "you must"?


negation of modal verbs works differently in English and German. The positive "you must"/"du musst" defines a definite obligation. But whereas in German the negation "du musst nicht" only states the lack of such an obligation (= "you don't have to"), which is better translated as "you need not", in English the negation "you must not" defines that there is an obligation not to do it, which in German is expressed as "du darfst nicht".


What's wrong with "They're not supposed to eat it?"


That would be Sie sollen es nicht essen.

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I guess "shouldn't" should fit here :) "You shouldn't eat it"


No, it shouldn't :)

  • "they shouldn't eat it" = "Sie sollten es nicht essen"


So what does it mean then when you say: "sie dürfen es nicht essen" ? And "Sie brauchen es nicht essen"?


What is negated by /not/? German: the modal verb; English: the action verb.

English: "You are allowed to refuse it..."

German:"You are not allowed to eat it.".


English: "You are required to refuse it.:"

German:""You are not required to eat it.


Note: You meant Sie (you) instead of sie (she or they).


There is an enormous response to this use of "müssen." I think it is because we jumble up "must," "may," and "should" in English. Throw in "might" just for more confusion. Try not to get hung up on this unless you are a language teacher or linguist. I must...or should?...or "oughta?" get going...now. Go with Duo for this and move on to something else. You must/should/might/could do yourself a favor.


"They must not eat it or they will die." Will a native speaker of German please translate this for me? Thanks.


"Sie dürfen das/es nicht essen oder sie werden sterben".


In the perfect tense, is there a general rule for when to use gemusst and when to use mussen?


"gemusst" is the past participle, so it is used to build Perfekt ("Sie haben gemusst").
But in this sentence there is no Perfekt. It is Präsens (present tense). So it is "Sie müssen"). Note the "ü"!


I just read through all of the comments and from what I can summarize, the difference here is:

Ich darf nicht = I must not

Ich muss nicht = I don't have to

Is that right?

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