"The children do not hear birds."
Translation:De kinderen horen geen vogels.
The only difference between "De kinderen horen de vogels niet" and "De kinderen horen geen vogels" is that the former is about some specific birds, whereas the latter is about birds in general. The difference between these sentences in English would be the inclusion or exclusion of "the": "The children do not hear the birds." vs "The children do not hear birds."
I am confused by this, because I thought that "niet" was a negation of the verb, and "geen" was a negative form of een, referring to a noun. So when I see the construction in English "do not hear" my brain says that should be "niet." A better English translation for the "geen" version of this sentence seems to me to be, "The children hear no birds." Translating it as "do not hear" seems to muddy the distinction between geen and niet, and especially when asking us to come up with the right Dutch, makes it totally arbitrary whether I should use geen or niet. Am I wrong in thinking that niet negates a verb and geen negates a noun?
I like your two example sentences, though -- I think that does get across something similar, in that in the "niet" sentence the implication is that there are birds, but the children don't hear them, whereas in the second sentence the implication is that the children hear, but not birds. But in your examples, the Dutch has a definite article, "de," and that seems to me more where the distinction lies, and I still don't see why it would be "geen" rather than "niet" -- there may be some further distinction that I'm missing.
Is there something about the English sentence that should tip me off to know I'm supposed to use geen here? Since there's no article by "birds" at all, the use of geen does not occur to me, since "geen" is a negation+article. Even if the English COULD be rendered with geen (it seems like it should work fine as a translation) there's nothing that I've learned so far that would tip me off to the fact that this SHOULD be a "geen" sentence as opposed to a "niet" one. Why would it incorrect in Dutch to translate "The children do not hear birds" as "De kinderen horen vogels niet"?
Like many others this one confuses me. I'm trying to see why I should use "geen" rather than "niet" here.
The best I can come up with is that we only use "niet" to negate the verb when its associated noun is definite and if it has no article or an indefinite one then we use "geen"?