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Confused with the position of "nicht" and "kein"


As far as I have learnt, nicht is always put at the end of a sentance. BUT here "The man is not sad."--Translation: Der Mann ist nicht traurig. nicht is not put at that location.I searched and found this:"Not" in German

"Nicht" has to be right before the word you want to negate unless you want to negate the verb, which is often the case. In that case "nicht" must be in the very last free position.

So if I want to negate a verb like this in English:

I can eat glass, it doesn't hurt me.

Anyone using simplified Chinese Ubuntu? LOL我能吞下玻璃而不伤害身体。

I found that the German translation is like this:(From the Project I Can Eat Glass) Ich kann Glas essen, das tut mir nicht weh.

I know that here we want to negate hurt. However nicht is not put at the end of the sentence. Confused.


Is kein used only to negate a noun?

I am an ESL from China mainland and hope that I have demonstrated my questions understandable...Thanks!

August 14, 2017



Negating a sentence: Unless the sentence ends with a verb, "nicht" is put at the end of the negated sentence.

"Ich sehe dich nicht." "Du störst nicht." "Er wusste es nicht."

Negating a verb: "nicht" is put in front of the negated verb.

"Ich kann dich nicht sehen." "Du würdest nicht stören." "Er kann es nicht wissen."

Negating an adverb: "nicht" is put in front of the negated adverb.

"Ich sehe dich nicht gut." "Du würdest nicht sehr stören." "Er wusste es nicht besser."

Negating a noun: "nicht" is put in front of the negated noun if it is preceded by a definite article or a possessive pronoun.

"Er ist nicht der Arzt." "Dies ist nicht mein schönes Haus." "Dies ist nicht meine hübsche Frau."

"Kein" is used when the noun has an indefinite article or nor article at all.

"Er ist kein Arzt." "Dies ist kein schönes Haus." "Das ist kein Kaffee."

So, you have to know what exactly you are negating. Examples:

"Ich treffe heute das Mädchen am Park nicht." (I'm not meeting the girl at the park today.)

"Ich treffe heute das Mädchen nicht am Park." (It's not at the park that I am meeting the girl today.)

"Ich treffe heute nicht das Mädchen am Park." (It's not the girl at the park that I am meeting today.)

"Ich treffe nicht heute das Mädchen am Park." (It's not today that I am meeting the girl at the park.)

"Nicht ich treffe heute das Mädchen am Park." (It's not me who is meeting the girl at the park today.)


Wow! Great answer :)


Regarding the "I can eat glass" example: the reason this is so is because "weh" is not a noun here, but rather part of a verb. You might think that this is "Weh" as in "pain", but notice that in the actual example, "weh" is not capitalized. This means it is not a noun, since all nouns are capitalized in German. If it were a noun, then you would use the phrase "kein Weh", but what's actually happening here is that the phrase is using the word "wehtun" (a verb meaning "to cause pain") as a separable verb. Rammstein had a song called "Ich tu dir weh", meaning "I cause you pain", and the opposite is "Ich tu dir nicht weh", meaning "I do not cause you pain".


I understand now. I DID mistake weh for the noun "pain". One more question: In the German "I eat glass" example weh is not the actual predicate,so I do not have to put it at the end of the sentence. Am I right?


In this case, "weh" is part of a separable verb, so it suffers from that classic problem with separable verbs in German where you usually have to put the cut-off "weh" part at the end.

If you think about "phrasal verbs" in English (the English equivalent of German's separable verbs), they are a bit more flexible. For example, think about the verb "pick up" in English. It is correct to say "I pick the glass up", but you can also say "I pick up the glass". Both are okay. I don't think German is as flexible in this regard; you generally have to put the cut-off beginning of the verb at the end of the sentence. The only real way I can think of where you would NOT put it at the end is if you use a modal verb (like in the sentence "Ich muss wehtun") or if the verb comes at the end of a Nebensatz (for example: "Er denkt, dass ich wehtue").

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