https://www.duolingo.com/Kai_E.

Grammar: "niet" and "geen"

Kai_E.
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Negation

In Dutch, you use the words "niet" and "geen" when negating things.


”geen”

"geen" is used to negate a noun that, if not negated, would be preceded by "een".

  • Is dat een koe? - Nee, dat is geen koe.
    • (Is that a cow? - No, that is not a cow.)

It can also negate nouns that aren't preceded by any article, like some nouns in the plural and uncountable nouns.

  • Hebben jullie boeken? - Nee, we hebben geen boeken. + (Do you have books? - No, we don't have books.)

”niet”

"niet" is essentially used in all other situations:

  • to negate verbs, thoughts, adjectives and any other sentence elements that aren't nouns:
    • Ik ren niet. - I do not run.
    • Ik niet. - Not me.
    • Hij is niet zo oud. - He is not that old.
  • to negate nouns preceded by a definite article or possessive pronoun:
    • Nee, dat is niet mijn boek. - No, that is not my book.
    • Nee, hij was niet de burgemeester. - No, he was not the mayor.

Where does "niet" go in a sentence?

It depends on what you are negating. If you're trying to negate something particular like an adverb or adjective, then it's best to put "niet" right before it.

  • Mijn rok is niet geel. - My skirt is not yellow.
  • Ik eet niet altijd vis. - I do not always eat fish.

In most other cases, "niet" comes after the "middle part" of the sentence - where you usually have the time, manner and place.

  • Ik heb hem gisteren (time) niet gezien. - I did not see him yesterday.
  • Ik heb door het lawaai (manner) niet kunnen slapen. - I could not sleep due to the noise.

Put "niet" here, and you will likely be right.

Despite the "place" usually being in the middle part of a sentence, "niet" usually comes before it when it indicates a direction.

  • Wij gaan niet naar huis. - We are not going home.

However, if you put "niet" in front of the time, manner and place, then you are stressing that it was not then that I did it (but later), that it was not there that I did it (but here), or I didn't do it like that (but like this).

  • Hij gaat niet vandaag naar de maan, maar morgen. - He is not going to the moon today, but tomorrow.
  • Wij gaan niet met jullie, maar met hen. - We are not going with you, but with them.

Exercises

Here are some exercises that may help you with negation in Dutch:


Return to grammar overview!

4 years ago

37 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/pmm123
pmm123
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Thanks, this seems very similar to German "kein" vs. "nicht." And thank you and the team for creating such a great course. I really like and appreciate the grammar tips you've included within the lessons. Very, very helpful!

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/rayray_2561

I was thinking kein vs nicht as well

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SebastianChw
SebastianChw
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When negating the sentence 'Het raam is 10 meters hoog', I used niet, which seemed a natural thing to do. However, the exercises pointed that the correct solution is 'Het raam is geen 10 meters hoog."

Is there another rule applying here?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Kai_E.
Kai_E.
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In Dutch you typically use "geen" to negate things with units, whether it be "geen 10 kilo", "geen €5" or "geen twee minuten".

You also don't need to use the plural of the unit. So in your example it should also be "10 meter hoog" not "10 meters hoog".

Hope that helps.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SebastianChw
SebastianChw
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I really wasn't aware of this. Thanks so much, it really clears up the negation to be used in these cases!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ArtBurnap
ArtBurnap
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The use of geen with units is a surprise, because I'm rather sure this is not done in German. I have a question though about whether or where the units can/should be in the plural. Although you point out that it should be '10 meter hoog' and not '...meters...,' you also gave us the example of 'geen twee minuten,' in which the unit is plural. So my guess is that the unit is not made plural when it directly modifies something (here, hoog), but is plural when it does not. If so, we have a somewhat similar rule in English, but that only applies if the unit expression modifies a noun that it is placed before, not afterwards, as a predicate. Thus:

This building is 10 meters tall. (Plural in predicate.) This is a 10 meter tall building. (Not plural when used adnominally.)

Or perhaps, unlike English, the constraint applies in Dutch even in the predicate?

11 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ernst557459

The use of singular or plural for units of time is a bit tricky in Dutch: the plural is used for 'de' words and the singular for 'het' words

Ik vertrek over 2 minuten: I'll leave in 2 minutes.

Likewise: ... over 2 seconden. ... over 2 weken ... over 2 maanden

but ... over 2 uur ... over 2 jaar

Note that in spoken Dutch, many speakers would say 2 seconde, because of the tendency to drop the final 'n'. But never in writing.

1 week ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Gelaarsd_Schaap

Kai_E.,

I just came along this question (about 'geen' vs. 'niet een') and I thought about posting a link to this thread, however there is no explanation with regard to the actual question here. I think some explanation on 'geen' \& 'niet een' should be included.

Greetings,
het Gelaarsd Schaap.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/LyAnHeng

I am confused about where "niet" belongs. In the lessons, they put "niet" at the back. I.e. "Ik eet het brood niet." Can we also say, "Ik eet niet het brood"? Which one is correct? Or can they be used interchangeably?

1 week ago

https://www.duolingo.com/sandra027
sandra027
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I have the same question. "niet" sometimes is in the middle, others is in the end of the sentence... (?)

1 week ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Martijn350416

I am native Dutch and I'd say both are good. The emphasis changes a bit. I'd normally put "niet" at the end of the sentence. If I put it directly after the verb, I want to continue with an alternative as well: "Ik eet niet het brood, maar wel de kaas." (I don't eat the bread, but I will eat the cheese)

1 week ago

https://www.duolingo.com/_C_Brown_
_C_Brown_
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Thanks!

1 week ago

https://www.duolingo.com/sandra027
sandra027
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Dank u, Martijn!

6 days ago

https://www.duolingo.com/LyAnHeng

Dank u wel, Martijn!

5 days ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JamesTWils
JamesTWils
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This is all very fine and good. What I do not understand is when to use "geen...of" and when to use "noch...noch." Any suggestions for that?

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/KayP1603
KayP1603
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"Noch.. noch" is Dutch for "neither...nor". It is used to summate negations. "Ik eet noch peren, noch appels, noch druiven, noch ..... etc." -> "I eat neither pears, nor apples, nor grapes, nor ... etc." This is barely used anymore and considered old fashioned in everyday speach. However, you might still find it in written text and official speach.

"Geen...of" (literally: "not a...or") is what you will hear people say in conversations "dit is geen stoel of tafel" -> "this is neither a chair, nor a table". The example in the second paragraph would nowadays be translated as "Ik eet geen peren (of) appels of druiven".

There is not a real difference, but mind that chosing either construction does affect a sentence. You could say: "noch de jonges, noch de meisjes zijn blij" -> "neither the boys, nor the girls are happy". But it would become "geen (van de) jongens of meisjes zijn blij" -> "no(ne of) boys or girls are happy". As in English both sentences have a similar meaning, which is slightly changed by using or omitting the articles.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/webazos
webazos
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A trick that I use is that you use "geen" when you can use "no" in english

With the examples that you used:

  • Nee, dat is geen koe.
  • No, that is no cow

  • Hebben jullie boeken? - Nee, we hebben geen boeken. + (Do you have books? - No, we have no books.)

On the other side, you cannot use it for I do no run , or "i no run". Or no me -> "not me".

Am I wrong? English is not my mother tongue , but using this trick (so I am not 100% sure) but that is what it looked like to me.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ywikander

Your understanding in English is correct. That said, it would be unusual to say 'we have no books' or 'that is no cow'. 'We don't have any books' or 'that isn't a cow'. Nonetheless, one COULD say it that way and it wouldn't be grossly incorrect like 'I no run' or 'no me'. So basically your logic is sound.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/webazos
webazos
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Hi, thanks for your confirmation. And yes, I am aware that those phrases are not the "cleanest English", however I think it is not that unusual to find that kind of expressions in TV series on spoken English, (maybe because it is shorter)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/runhaags
runhaags
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I've been using the same trick, and English is my native language. I agree with ywikander that it doesn't always sound the most natural but I haven't run into any problems thinking this way with niet vs. geen. Another way to think about it is that geen focuses on the noun (or lack thereof) while niet focuses on the verb (or lack thereof), if that makes sense.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ehsan_Mehmed
Ehsan_Mehmed
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so, ik spreek geen nederlands and ik spreek nederlands niet are the same?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Gelaarsd_Schaap

Only "Ik spreek geen Nederlands" is correct - or, for that matter, used.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/PassionSunKiss

Regarding the examples above, could you say: "Ik niet altijd eet vis" rather than "Ik eet niet altijd vis" for "I do not always eat fish"...Or "Ik heb niet gezien hem gisteren" instead of "Ik heb hem gisteren niet gezien"? I'm confused because there seem to be so many different ways to say 1 sentence.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/runhaags
runhaags
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I'm not a native Dutch speaker, but I am pretty sure that both of the alternate sentences you proposed are grammatically incorrect. For the first, "Ik niet altijd eet vis" is incorrect because you can't separate the subject from the conjugated verb. For the second, "Ik heb niet gezien hem gisteren" is incorrect because in compound tenses, as well as constructions with more than one verb, every verb after the first goes at the very end of the clause. I think there are also rules about where time modifiers ("gisteren") have to go, but I don't know them. This link is helpful: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/3733010. If any native Dutch speakers want to add or correct me, please do. Hope this was helpful!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Martijn350416

I am dutch and would always say "Ik eet niet altijd vis" (Subject, verb, time, object) or maybe in an exceptional situation "Niet altijd eet ik vis", (time, verb, subject, object) which has to do with the location of the verb and emphasizes the time. Indeed "Ik niet altijd eet vis" would not be correct, though the meaning would be clear.

"Ik heb niet gezien hem gisteren" would never be used, but I must admit that I don't know why or the grammar rules behind it. The only reason I can think of, is that dutch people like to split the verbs (heb gezien) from each other. "Ik heb hem niet gezien gisteren", "Gisteren heb ik hem niet gezien" and "Ik heb hem gisteren niet gezien" are all very common.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/travel_nat

Just to clarify the second example; Ik heb hem niet gezien, first of all the second verb (gezien) has to go to the end of the sentence, that's a rule. Second, there's a rule that says that niet comes after a direct object in a sentence. Hem is a specific person and thus a direct object in our example. Ik heb de man niet gezien vs ik heb geen man gezien if the man is not specific. Hope that helps, succes allemaal!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/colesautter
colesautter
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As far as "geen" vs. "niet", what about: I have no books now, and I don't have the books today, "Ik hab geen boeken nu, en ik heb niet de boeken vandaag". Does this work?

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Martijn350416

If you remove the small typo (hab -> heb) it would be absolutely correct.

To me it feels a bit more common to say: "Ik heb nu geen boeken en ik heb de boeken vandaag niet." but that just has to do with the point you like to emphasize and the context.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/colesautter
colesautter
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Great! This is exactly what I was hoping my thinking was based on; use niet to negate verbs/actions, and use "geen" to negate adjectives/nouns... does that sound right?

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Martijn350416

Absolutely!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/AriastityM

What if I want to negate a verb in a sentence where there is a description of time/place? For example, if I want to negate the verb 'ga' in the sentence 'Ik ga naar de markt' (i.e. I am not going to the market and I'm not going anywhere), should I place 'niet' after 'naar de markt'?

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/xMerrie
xMerrie
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You should place it after 'gaan': "Ik ga niet naar de markt".

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/N0xxys

I have a book that says "Nee, ik weet de weg niet.". In your examples, I see "Nee, hij was niet de burgemeester.". What is the difference? Which is right? Are both possible?

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/xMerrie
xMerrie
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Both are correct. The placement of niet can be a bit difficult, as you can see in tips. ;)

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/David18383

Both are correct. But also correct would be "Nee, ik weet niet de weg". There's no difference and there is not really a difference in emphasise.

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Karl_H
Karl_H
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Oh, so it's just like how we use "kein" and "nicht" in german, nice!

8 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Usagiboy7
Usagiboy7
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MISS YOU KAI!

Also, ty for this! I'm finally learning Dutch. :D

3 months ago
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