Duolingo is the most popular way to learn languages in the world. Best of all, it's 100% free!

https://www.duolingo.com/Le-trois

Negating Sentences

I am having issues where we place the 'niet' when negating sentences. As an example, lets compare 'I do not know it' with 'He does not know if it is red'.

'I do not know it' is Ik weet het niet. We place the niet after the 'thing we do not know'

But in the latter sentence: 'Hij weet niet of het rood is', we place the niet 'before the thing he does not know'.

Can anyone offer me some guidance? I have tried using Dutch grammar sites to understand the word order, but it has just confused me further. Any help would be great!

3 years ago

4 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/Lavinae
Lavinae
Mod
  • 25
  • 25
  • 20
  • 13
  • 12
  • 12
  • 11
  • 11
  • 9
  • 8
  • 7
  • 7
  • 7
  • 3
  • 2

Hi Le-trois!

The first sentence only consists of a main clause, whereas the second contains a subclause, initated by 'of' (= whether).


"Ik weet het niet"

The word order of this sentence is: subject + conjugated verb + object + 'not'.

In Dutch, this sentence structure - with 'not at the very end - is regularly used to provide some emphasis on 'not' (as the last word) and often used in dramatic or emotional contexts.


"Hij weet niet of het rood is"

Hij weet niet // OF // het rood is.

The second sentence has a subclause, and in subclauses the word order can be different.

Remember that a Dutch main clause is: subject + verb + the rest of the sentence.
The word order of your second sentence is: subject + verb + negation + subclause.

In subclauses joined together by conjunctions like "omdat", "dat" but also "of", the verbs are moved towards the end of the sentence (with the main verb at the very end).
The sentence you get is therefore:
Subject + negated conjugated verb + Subclause (= subject + adjective + verb).

Other examples with 'of':
1. “De vrouw vraagt of je morgen haar broer kunt bellen.” = “The woman asks if you can call her brother tomorrow.” Subclause (= subject + adverb + object + verbs)
2. “Zij weet niet of de vrouw morgen wel kan komen.” = “She does not know whether the woman can really come tomorrow.” Subclause (= subject + adverb + adverb + verbs).

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Le-trois

Thank you for the detailed reply Lavinae :)

So if the sentence was "He does not know it is red", (i.e without the IF) does this mean that there is only one clause?

As such, the Dutch translation would become: "Hij kent het is rood niet".

Would this be correct?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Lavinae
Lavinae
Mod
  • 25
  • 25
  • 20
  • 13
  • 12
  • 12
  • 11
  • 11
  • 9
  • 8
  • 7
  • 7
  • 7
  • 3
  • 2

You're welcome :)

Actually, 'that' also precedes a subclause, so you'll get the exact same word order.

He does not know that it is red = "Hij weet niet dat het rood is."
So again subject + verb + negation + subclause (created by 'that', which is a connector, connecting the main and subclause). The subclause is then: subject + adjective + verb.

By the way, we use 'kennen' when we are talking about knowing people. When we are talking about things or concepts, we use 'weten'. :)

If you want to practice this case of word order or the idea of subclauses in general, practising this skill of the Dutch course tree could prove to be useful. The words you learn there are also the connectors that lead to subclauses and knowing these will help you anticipate the word order we're talking about.

Dutch word order is tricky. ;)

What could've worked is: "Hij kent de rode man niet."
This sentence does not have a subclause and its word order is subject + verb + object + rest of the sentence, the rest being the negation.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MariondG
MariondG
  • 19
  • 17
  • 17
  • 16
  • 15
  • 14
  • 13
  • 11
  • 10
  • 9
  • 9
  • 6
  • 4
  • 1291

I think it is "Hij weet niet ..." except in the case of a very short sentence, like in your example. I would actually translate "Ik weet het niet" by "I don't know".

3 years ago