1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Dutch
  4. >
  5. "It is neither fish nor meat."

"It is neither fish nor meat."

Translation:Het is vis noch vlees.

July 19, 2014

31 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/BRyeO12

Why isn't this "Het is noch vis, noch vlees"?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Lenkvist

I am not sure Duolingo is correct. This expression should be "Het is vlees noch vis". It is an idiomatic expression meaning that you can't do much with it because it's nothing in particular.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/mrbennet

"Neither fish nor fowl" would be the idiomatic English equivalent. I wasn't game to risk a heart trying it though.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jamesjiao

It's a perfect translation.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SebastianChw

Apparently there is something similar in English, as well: neither fish, flesh, nor good red herring


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/2200Lucia60

Hi Bennet. Is there also an equivalent American idiomatic phrase construction too? I suppose they don't say it in the same British way. Just wondering... Lu


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/mrbennet

That's a good question. I don't know of one.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Racheleke

It accepted "het is noch vis noch vlees" when I did it just now, so maybe they changed it, but my Flemish husband said he was taught that this wasn't grammatically correct.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/dmfarley

This example sentence with citation seems to say it's perfectly acceptable.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jamesjiao

Pescetarians would disagree with you.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/alnehsaurus

Pescatarians are silly. (Sorry any pescatarians :P)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jennesy

How come "het is geen vis of vlees" is incorrect?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/marcuslangford

Because of is "or" not "nor"


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/CJ.Dennis

Does this only work because it is idiomatic? In a sentence that uses "noch" twice, can you substitute "geen" for the first "noch"? "Het is geen vis noch vlees"?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/El2theK

You can simply leave the first "noch" out, since the "noch" negates the whole sentence. "Het is vis noch vlees"


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Tr33b3ard

I don't understand how the first 'noch' can be left out. Is there a similar phrase in English that would help me? Usually both a 'neither' and a 'nor' are required.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/El2theK

It is Dutch. Dutch has different grammar rules etc. to English and sometimes you simply have to forget about the English rules when learning another language. Here is a Dutch website for reference: https://onzetaal.nl/taaladvies/advies/noch

Noch is used when things are added up, like in this sentence and it negates all the things that have been added up. Repeating noch creates more emphasis on the negation and depending on how big the list is it can make it clearer that it is a negation. To use an extreme example:

It is correct to say:

  • Ik eet vlees, vis, bananen, appels, sinaasappels, suiker noch groente.

Which means that you don't eat any of those products, but the problem obviously is that the one reading/listening only finds out very late in the sentence that you don't.

To make it clearer and to put more emphasis on it you could therefore also use.

  • Ik eet noch vlees, noch vis, noch bananen, noch appels, noch sinaasappels, noch suiker, noch groente.

Or one can simply rephrase the sentence using Ik eet geen....


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Tr33b3ard

Thank you very much for the explanation. This is what I needed! Seems that with use of the word 'noch' in a sentence, the 'neither' at the beginning is implied (and negates the rest of the items in the list). It is helpful to be aware of these differences between Dutch and English so that I can listen a little more carefully


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/El2theK

In speech it is not something you will come across often, especially not at the end of a long sentence. It is more something you will find reading books etc.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jamoncillo0

This is similar to saying "I'd love to go out with you to the park, the cinema, for coffee....NOT!" so it actually negates the whole sentence. Not exactly the same but could work for people trying to understand or find a similarity to English


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Kristynka

Could we also use Ik eet noch vlees, vis, bananen, appels, sinaasappels, suiker, (noch) groente? Thanks a lot!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/El2theK

No, if you use noch you would put it at the end of the list of things you are negating, as per previous example, or at each thing you are negating, not at the start, or at random places in the list.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/_rxlinguist

Perfect! Thank you so much!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/HansOoster

Excellent explanation! A+. Thank you.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/CJ.Dennis

I agree. Duo has been teaching other phrases as "noch X noch Y". This is the only one I've seen with "X noch Y".


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/El2theK

That Duolingo in other cases used the double noch is probably to make it easier for people learning the language from English what noch means without immediately getting confused about why 1 noch can still mean the same thing.

Then why is the double noch construction not used here? Well "Het is vlees noch vis" is a standard expression in Dutch.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/CJ.Dennis

I would prefer consistency. In French you would say "I didn't eat nothing" because they have negative agreement whereas in English you have to say "I didn't eat anything" or "I ate nothing" because we have double negatives. This concept is introduced without simplification and is accepted by the student as "just the way they do it in French".

If a single "noch" is more common it should be taught like that from the start. If single and double "noch" are both very common it should be taught that way.

The problem is that you initially think "That makes sense, it's like English" but when you are shown the other way you think "Why is it like that? That doesn't make sense. That's hard." You don't want to encourage resistance of "difficult" grammar by splitting concepts like this.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/El2theK

In French, yes ne on its own can mean not just as pas, but that does not mean that ne...pas or ne...rien is a double negative. But anyway this is the Dutch course.

Is a single noch used more often than multiple nochs? Probably depends on the person and what you are reading since it is not used too often in speech.

Would it be better to be consistent? At the moment there are 3 sentences in this course that use noch. Two of which use a double noch, and one (this one) that uses a single noch in the Dutch -> English translation. In all of these sentences both constructions (English-> Dutch) are accepted.

With 3 sentences that teach noch in which both concepts are taught I think you can hardly accuse the course of being inconsistent. When learning you get sentences in a random order etc. so it is possible that you only got the double noch sentences a few times before getting this sentence. Though that is unfortunately how the system works and for good reasons.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ngelaBello1

How is this possible? This machine will not accept nor the 2nd or the 3rd answer.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/El2theK

Multiple answers can be correct and all have to be selected.

Learn Dutch in just 5 minutes a day. For free.