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  5. "Zij eet niet."

"Zij eet niet."

Translation:She does not eat.

July 17, 2014



I am right in saying that in Dutch to turn a verb negative you put the word niet after it?


It's just like Early Modern English: "She eats not."


That's what I input but apparently it's incorrect according the lesson.


That's because in Modern English it's not grammatical. In English you must use the do periphrasis, in Dutch you must not use it.


In English though, there's an exception (of course) for the verb "to be".

You say "She is not." instead of what one might expect: "She doesn't be."

Just had to point this out.


More precisely, do periphrasis is obligatory for full verbs but ungrammatical for auxiliaries (be, have) and modals (can, shall, will).


And also for the verb 'can'


Why can this not be "They don't eat"?


Look at the conjugation of the verb. For "they" the verb would be conjugated "eten".

Zij is equal to she and they, but the verb will let you know what is implied.


This exchange of comments is exactly what went through my head as I read this sentence. Duolingo is great; it gets you thinking about why the language is how it is.


Thank you so much! (I feel dumb now. Ah, beginnings)


When is "niet" used and when is "geen" used? What is the difference?


Geen corresponds to English no when it is used (approximately) in the sense of not a, as in no chance = not a chance. Your confusion may stem from the fact that negation with geen is much more popular than negation with no in English. Often, a subject or object is negated with geen when it would be more logical to negate the verb. This phenomenon also occurs in English, though not as often. (E.g. "I had no idea" but "I haven't got a clue".)


They eat nothing is also wrong? Ok


Zij eet niet. = She doesn't eat.

Zij eten niet. = They don't eat.

Zij eet niets. = She eats nothing.

Zij eten niets. = They eat nothing.


Wouldn't the more frequent context and meaning for this be, "She's not eating"? Since Dutch doesn't employ present progressive as frequently as English?


Why does neit come after eet?


That's actually just like in English, except that in English most verbs can no longer be negated directly and do periphrasis must be used. But do and the auxiliaries have and be are still negated the same way: "I do not eat", "I have not eaten", "I am not at the table".

In case you want to know a technical reason, I am trying to come up with one, though this is ad hoc and may not be fully correct. In normal Dutch sentences the verb is always the second sentence element. The first sentence element is always the topic, i.e. either the subject or whatever you want to stress. Therefore, if we consider the negation as a separate sentence element that can't serve as the topic, it can only come after the verb, in third position.

(PS: Or maybe niet is part of the verb group. Since the remainder of the verb group - i.e. evertything but the negated verb itself - comes at the end of the main clause, the effect is the same in most cases. I guess in more complicated sentences one can see which of the two explanations is the (more) correct one, but I haven't looked into that yet.)

In certain other situations, e.g. when negating an infinitive (which in Dutch is often used in situations when English uses a present participle), niet does in fact come before the verb: niet eten = not eating.


So I guess this works similarly to the German "nicht"? Or does it have to come at the end of a sentence?


Niet = nicht. (German dialects have similarly given up the ch sound in this word, so dialectal nicht is usually net or nit.) Except for a few details where Dutch is more progressive, Dutch and German word order rules are identical.


Can't I say Zij niet eet?


No. The word orders of all Germanic languages are complicated because they are in the process of changing from SOV (subject-object-verb) to SVO (subject-verb-object) for normal main clauses. English has completed this process, though for non-standard main clauses such as questions you can still see complicated things such as "Why did you do that?" or "Never did I expect that": The verb phrase somehow wraps around the subject of the sentence. To put it simply, Dutch still does something similar even for normal main clauses, and wraps "niet eten" around the object in the same way.

Dutch and in fact most Germanic languages are still fully in the V2 stage (an intermediate stage between SOV and SVO) even for normal main clauses. Here by a normal main clause I mean one that consists of subject, verb group and object, is not a question, and has no particular stress. (Or has the stress on the subject.) In this case, V2 word order is as follows:

  • subject - conjugated verb [a single word!] - object - remainder of the verb group.

In English, the conjugated verb is the one that gets third person singular -s when in present tense. In Dutch it's the one that gets third person singular -t (and sometimes also second person singular -t) in present tense. Very often the verb group consists only of this one word, and then V2 word order is identical with SVO word order.

But when the verb phrase consists of more than one word, then in Dutch we get complicated word orders like in "Why did you do that?" or "Never did I expect that" even in normal main clauses.

Now to our concrete example. It's clearer if we add an object, e.g. het brood = the bread.

  • Subject: zij = she
  • Verb group: niet eten = eat not
  • Object: het brood = the bread.

The conjugated verb is eet. Therefore we must assemble the sentence as follows:

  • Subject: zij
  • Conjugated verb: eet
  • Object: het brood
  • Remainder of the verb group: niet.

Altogether we get: "Zij eet het brood niet."

Without an object it works exactly the same way, except that the place of the object is empty:

  • Subject: zij = she
  • Verb group: niet eten = eat not
  • Object: -.

The conjugated verb is eet. Therefore we must assemble the sentence as follows:

  • Subject: zij
  • Conjugated verb: eet
  • Object: -
  • Remainder of the verb group: niet.

Altogether we get: "Zij eet niet."

When there is some unusual stress, other word orders are also possible. If I want to say that someone else eats the bread instead of her, I could negate zij (niet zij) instead of eten (niet eten), resulting in: "Niet zij eet [het brood]." But this is quite unusual and sounds a bit strange.

Moreover, when there is an object and she eats something else instead of it, we can negate the object instead of the verb (i.e.: niet het brood instead of niet eten): "Zij eet niet het brood." (Meaning: "She doesn't eat the bread" - but something else.) In our present example this isn't really an option because there is no object. We could pretend that niet negates the empty object. This doesn't really make sense, but the result would again be "Zij eet niet."


Wow, Thank you very much for all this, I appreciate it ^_^


Why is this not, "she did not eat", instead of "she does not eat"? How can I say the earlier sentence?


English has do periphrasis, so when shifting "she does not eat" into past tense, it becomes "she did not eat". Without this peculiar feature of English, it would be "she eats not", shifted back to "she ate not". This is how Shakespeare still spoke, and it's also how Dutch still works: The past tense form of "zij eet niet" is "zij at niet".

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