1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: German
  4. >
  5. The difference in 3 negative …


The difference in 3 negative sentences -

Er isst nicht schwarzen Kartoffeln.

Er isst schwarzen Kartoffeln nicht.

Based on the answer to another question here, I think I get the difference between these two and the expectation of "sondern..."after the first.

But how is this sentence translated differently from the other two?

Er isst keine schwarzen Kartoffeln.

tysm in advance

August 11, 2012



This is difficult to explain. If you use "kein/e" it is often meant in a more general way. If you want to say "he doesn't eat potatoes (in general)" you would always say "er isst keine Kartoffeln" for example. You wouldn't say "er isst Kartoffeln nicht" - you only use "nicht" in this context if there is an adjective in front of your object (like in your example) or if you refer to 'certain' potatoes, for example: "Er isst seine Kartoffeln nicht." = "He doesn't eat HIS potatoes." I'm sorry if this was too confusing. Greetings from Germany. :)


nicht negates the verb, keine the noun.

er isst (keine kartoffeln) - he eats (no potatoes)

er (isst nicht) kartoffeln - he (does not eat) potatoes


Thanks so much shosanna! The used of kien vs nicht makes intuitive sense, just hard to deliver for a non-speaker. It helps so much to have someone repeat the rules in different forms.

BTW, back at you from Germany (Berlin here) , trying to wrestle this language into submission!


Yes, thanks for this explanation, it makes it very clear. Now, do you mind explaining the difference, if there is one, between the first two sentences, "Er isst nicht schwarzen Kartoffeln" and "Er isst schwarzen Kartoffeln nicht."? Ich war vier tagen in Berlin in 2009, es war toll.


"Er isst nicht schwarzen Kartoffeln" -> No german would ever use this sentence. Germans would always use "keine"!

But perhaps you would use it in the following case:

John: "Er isst schwarze Kartoffeln" Lisa: "(Nein,) er isst nicht schwarze Kartofeln, sondern weiße (Kartoffeln)."

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