German Negation: 2 Ways for Negation in German – Nicht & Kein (with Examples)

The 2008 comedy film “Yes Man” starring Jim Carrey is all about a man who decides to say “yes” to every opportunity that comes his way.

While the film is hilarious and inspiring, in reality, you can’t always say yes to everything.

Sometimes, you need to say no, especially when learning a new language like German. Learning German negations is important for expressing yourself accurately and avoiding misunderstandings.

YourGermanTeacher made a great video on differentiating the two most important little words you need for negations in German: nicht and kein. Check it out!

In this blog post, we’ll explore the two most common ways to negate in German: nicht and kein. But, we will also share other useful negative expressions.

1. How and when to use German negation?

Native German speakers use negation in their daily conversations and writing to express disagreement, denial, or to make statements more precise.

Effortless Answers

The two most popular words for negation in German are:
nicht
kein

Nicht” is an adverb used to negate verbs, adjectives, and entire sentences, while “kein” is an indefinite article that negates nouns.

2. Negation in German with Nicht

Nicht” is the most common German negation word, used to negate verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and entire sentences.

It functions as an adverb and is typically placed after the subject and before the verb in a sentence.

Here are some examples:

  • Das Buch ist nicht interessant. (The book is not interesting.)
  • Er kommt heute nicht. (He is not coming today.)

In German grammar, the placement of “nicht” can change the full meaning of expressions and sentences.

It usually follows the subject and comes before the verb or the part of the verb that it negates.

Let’s say, like this:

  • Ich habe das Buch nicht gelesen. (I have not read the book.)
  • Er wird nicht nach Hause kommen. (He will not come home.)

3. Negate with Kein

Kein” is an indefinite article used to negate nouns in German.

It agrees with the noun it negates in terms of gender, case, and number.

Here are some examples:

  • Ich habe keine Zeit. (I have no time.)
  • Es gibt keinen Apfel. (There is no apple.)
  • Wir haben keine Bücher. (We have no books.)

When using “kein,” it’s important to note that it replaces the indefinite article (“ein,” “eine,” “einen“) and agrees with the noun it negates.

Like this – pay attention on agreeing with the gender of the noun:

  • Ich habe kein Buch. (I have no book.)
  • Wir haben keine Katzen. (We have no cats.)

4. Learn German sentences to say no

There are many situations where you might need to politely decline an invitation or express your inability to do something in German.

Here are some polite expressions to say no in German:

German ExpressionEnglish Translation
Nein, tut mir leid.No, I’m sorry.
Ich kann leider nicht.I can’t, unfortunately.
Das geht nicht.That’s not possible.
Ich habe keine Zeit.I don’t have time.
Vielleicht ein anderes Mal.Maybe another time.

And sometimes, there comes a time when you have to be… impolite. Check these expressions, too!

GermanEnglish
Auf keinen Fall!No way!
Vergiss es!Forget it!
Lass mich in Ruhe.Leave me alone.
Keine Chance!No chance!
Das kannst du vergessen!You can forget about that!
Hör auf zu nerven!Stop bothering me!
Ich will nicht.I don’t want to.
Nicht mein Problem.Not my problem.
Unmöglich!Impossible!
Nicht dein Ernst?You can’t be serious?

Not impolite enough? Maybe it’s time to check German swear words!

Here’s a short dialogue between two friends, Anna and Max, where Anna declines Max’s invitation to an event:

Max: Hast du am Wochenende Zeit? Wir gehen ins Kino. (Max: Do you have time this weekend? We’re going to the movies.)
Anna: Tut mir leid, ich kann leider nicht. Ich muss für die Prüfung lernen. (Anna: I’m sorry, I can’t unfortunately. I have to study for the exam.)
Max: Schade. Vielleicht ein anderes Mal? (Max: That’s a pity. Maybe another time?)
Anna: Ja, gerne. (Anna: Yes, gladly.)

Did you see ‘ein anderes Mal‘? It’s a chunk native speakers use all the time. What are chunks? Well, they are natural building blocks of the language, and with the help of these chunks, you can learn the language in no time, without the hassle of spending hours on memorizing grammar tables and boring verb conjugations. Sign up now, and learn more about chunking with the German Conversation Based Chunking Guide!

5. Other useful negative expressions in German

Aside from the standard negations with “nicht” and “kein,” you can use other negative expressions in German to express different shades of negation.

Here are some common ones you can use in German conversations:

German ExpressionEnglish Translation
NiemalsNever
NirgendwoNowhere
NiemandNo one
NichtsNothing
KeinesfallsUnder no circumstances
Auf keinen FallNot at all
Überhaupt nichtNot at all
Gar nichtNot at all
Weder … nochNeither … nor

These negative expressions can be used in almost every context to add emphasis to your statements.

But what is it worth, if you don’t see them in action? That’s why we have examples for you:

  • Ich habe niemals gesagt, dass ich gehen werde. (I never said I would go.)
  • Nirgendwo ist es so schön wie hier. (Nowhere is it as beautiful as here.)
  • Niemand hat die Antwort gewusst. (No one knew the answer.)

Don’t worry if at first, all of this feels tricky – just stick by learning German every day, even if it’s just for 5 minutes, immerse yourself, and you’ll be well on your way!

6. Practice worksheet for negations in German

Fill in the blanks with the appropriate form of nicht or kein:

This is just part of the exercise we have for negations in German. Curious to learn more? We have Full Practice Worksheets in our library: click the button now and get access to all of our exercises!

7. Practice German grammar with Conversation Based Chunking

Learning German negation with chunks and Conversation Based Chunking can be an effective method for language learners.

Here’s a tip: instead of memorizing individual words and rigid grammar rules, this method focuses on learning the natural building blocks of the language, called “chunks.” These chunks are commonly occurring word combinations that native speakers use naturally in conversations.

Let’s say that instead of learning the separate components of “Ich kann leider nicht” (I can’t, unfortunately), a learner can learn this entire phrase as a single chunk. Conversation Based Chunking highlights the importance of using these chunks in realistic conversational contexts.

By focusing on high-frequency chunks related to negation, such as “nicht mehr” (no more), “kein Problem” (no problem), or “auf keinen Fall” (not at all), you can and will improve your ability to express negation in a more natural way.

Interested in more? Sign up and get the initial German Conversation Based Chunking Guide!

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