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Geen vs niet

I understand the semantic differences between the two, but I'm still having trouble of when to use which.

For example, one amusing practice sentence is "Dieren dragen geen klompen," but why is it translated as "Animals do not wear clogs"? If the reverse is given, "Animals do not wear clogs," why am I told it's wrong to write, "Dieren dragen niet klompen." What exactly is going on here that geen should be used over niet? From what I understand, geen negates the noun being described, whereas niet negates the entire verb phrase.

I feel as though there is something I'm not seeing. What exactly is the difference between "dragen geen klompen" and "dragen niet klompen" that one can be used but the other cannot for such a simple phrase as "does not wear clogs"?

January 16, 2015



I don't know if you've seen this page, but you can find some information here. If you still don't understand (of didn't understand that page in the first place, my bad), feel free to ask! :)


Thanks! Like I said, I get the idea behind the differences between the two, but I don't know why one should be used over the other in certain English expressions. Why isn't "dragen klompen niet" correct but "dragen geen klompen" is, if the English is "do not wear clogs"? In the English it seems I'm negating the whole verb phrase, not just "the clogs." Now if the English were, "I am not wearing clogs, but shoes" or "I wear no clogs," then it makes sense to me to use geen rather than niet. I'm confused why in English if the verb phrase is negated, you still sometimes want to use geen rather than niet in Dutch. That page doesn't really explain that, unless it went right over my head.


Geen is for negated plural nouns or nouns that are uncountable or when there is the case of an indefinite article. In this case of the sentence, clogs are plural because the subject animals is plural therefore you use geen rather than niet. As in one of the links below, niet is reserved for verbs to be negated whilst geen is usually for nouns :)

If you're finding it difficult to grasp, the following links should help: this and this as well as this and lastly, this


This is exactly what I've been looking for in an explanation, thank you! From the sounds of it, if the sentence includes an indefinite direct object at all, you use geen, regardless of what the English would be. Is that right? So it's because I'm saying "clogs" that requires the use of geen, regardless of what the English translation would be.

I'm really trying to get this, so let me see if I'm correct with a couple sentences:

"Ik heb geen hond" - "I don't have a dog." but "Ik heb de hond niet" - "I don't have the dog." (from what I gather, also, is that niet should come after the specific direct object, but correct me if I'm wrong)

Is this correct?


You are welcome! Those examples you provided sound correct to me when I say them out loud to myself (I'm still learning also, so sometimes even the difference is fuzzy to me). The whole geen vs niet is tricky to get used to at first, but once you start getting into the rhythm and recognising the patterns of which belongs to niet and which belongs to geen you don't think about it as much.

I found another explanation from UniLang that may confirm it for you:


Now we're going to talk about negation, because you might want to say: "That is NOT a house", "and that is NO dog". In Dutch there are two words for "no": "geen" and "niet". "geen" is used when talking about nouns. It's a kind of adjective. "niet" is used with verbs. It's a kind of adverb. For example, when denying quantity of a specific noun you use "geen", as in "ik heb geen hond" ("I have no dog"). "niet" can be used to deny a verb. "Ik kijk niet" ("I am not looking"). It then appears after the verb and the direct object (at the end of the sentence). "geen" always appears directly after the verb and before the direct object. A little trick to remember whether to use "geen" or "niet": "geen" applies to having "none" of something; "niet" can never be substituted by "none".

Source: here

I hope that helps you :)


You are completely right! Thank you for the explanation, since I did not really know how to explain the concept.. xD Have some lingots! ~

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