10 Different Ways To Say No In German: Use Common Lexical Chunks Like a Native (Examples)

There are some situations in life where you have to say no. This is the harsh truth.

For example, you have to decline an invitation, or you have to refuse an offer. But how do you say no in German? How do you politely, formally or informally say no?

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!

First, check this video from Learn German with Anja, where she shares some of the most important things you should know in German:

And now, let’s check 10 alternatives and some of the most important chunks!

Nein, dankeNo, thank youPolite/Neutral
KeineswegsBy no meansFormal
Auf keinen FallNo wayNeutral
Absolut nichtAbsolutely notNeutral
Kommt nicht in FrageOut of the questionNeutral/Formal
Nicht wirklichNot reallyNeutral
Unter keinen UmständenUnder no circumstancesFormal

1. Nein (Meaning: Simply No in German)

Effortless Answers

This is the standard, straightforward way to say no in German.

The use case for this little word is universal across all parts of Germany and all German-speaking countries.

In conversation, it might sound like this:

Lisa: Möchtest du noch etwas Kaffee? (Would you like some more coffee?)
Hans: Nein, danke. (No, thank you.)

2. Nö (Meaning: Informal way of saying no)

Nö is used in casual conversations, and it’s common in northern Germany. Also, just keep in mind that this word is a tricky one: in Saxonian German slang, nö can also mean the complete opposite of no: yes!

So, if you’re visiting that part of Germany, pay attention!

You could hear it in everyday speech like this:

Karin: Gehst du heute Abend zur Party? (Are you going to the party tonight?)
Fritz: Nö, ich habe keine Lust. (Nope, I don’t feel like it.)

3. Nee (Meaning: Informal way of rejecting, similar to nah)

Very casual, often used among friends. More commonly found in the north and west of Germany.

This is how it might come up in a dialogue:

Anna: Hast du das Buch gelesen? (Did you read the book?)
Tom: Nee, noch nicht. (Nah, not yet.)

4. Nein, danke (Meaning: No, thank you)

This is a polite refusal. Universal, especially in polite company. No more fuss, straight to the point.

In polite conversation, it would sound like this:

Markus: Möchtest du einen Keks? (Would you like a cookie?)
Sabine: Nein, danke. (No, thank you.)

5. Keineswegs (Meaning: By no means)

Strong denial, usually used in formal contexts. Universal across all German-speaking areas.

In formal interaction, you might hear:

Herr Müller: Haben Sie das Dokument vergessen? (Did you forget the document?)
Frau Schmidt: Keineswegs, es ist hier. (By no means, it is here.)

6. Auf keinen Fall (Meaning: No way)

Another strong refusal, it can be used in both formal and informal settings. And everyone will understand it.

In an everyday situation, it could sound like:

Clara: Soll ich für dich einkaufen? (Should I do the shopping for you?)
Leo: Auf keinen Fall, ich mache das selbst. (No way, I’ll do it myself.)

7. Absolut nicht (Meaning: Absolutely not)

A strong and emphatic refusal.

In a candid moment, you might hear:

Elena: Glaubst du, er wird kommen? (Do you think he will come?)
Paul: Absolut nicht. (Absolutely not.)

8. Kommt nicht in Frage (Meaning: Out of the question)

You can use this chunk to say something is categorically not possible. It is slightly formal.

In a discussion, it might be used like this:

Julia: Können wir den Termin verschieben? (Can we reschedule the appointment?)
Max: Das kommt nicht in Frage. (That’s out of the question.)

9. Nicht wirklich (Meaning: Not really)

Nicht wirklich is a mild rejection or denial that is universally used in German-speaking countries.

In casual conversation, it could sound like this:

Steffi: War der Film gut? (Was the movie good?)
Alex: Nicht wirklich. (Not really.)

10. Unter keinen Umständen (Meaning: Under no circumstances)

This one is a very strong fromal refusal.

In a strong declaration, you would hear:

Dr. Weber: Werden wir das Projekt verzögern? (Will we delay the project?)
Dr. Roth: Unter keinen Umständen! (Under no circumstances!)

Important German phrases and German words to say negation

Of course, this isn’t everything. The German language has tons of German synonyms that you can use in everyday contexts.

You have already seen the real-life German sentences and German conversations for using no in German, but there are other important German phrases that basically mean the same thing. There are slight differences, and it’s also really important to pay attention to your pronunciation in German.

Here’s a table with more important German expressions to refuse or decline offers and invitations:

Nein, dankeNo, thank you
Leider neinUnfortunately, no
Tut mir leid, aber neinI’m sorry, but no
Ich habe keine LustI don’t feel like it
Vielleicht ein anderes MalMaybe another time
Ich kann leider nichtI unfortunately cannot
Das passt mir nichtThat doesn’t work for me
Das kommt für mich nicht in FrageThat’s not an option for me
Ich habe schon etwas anderes vorI already have other plans
Das ist nichts für michThat’s not for me
Danke, aber ich muss ablehnenThanks, but I have to decline
Ich bin beschäftigtI’m busy
Es tut mir leid, aber ich muss absagenI’m sorry, but I have to cancel
Ich bin nicht daran interessiertI’m not interested
Ich möchte lieber nichtI would rather not
Das ist mir zu vielThat’s too much for me
Ich bin zu müdeI’m too tired
Ich habe keine ZeitI have no time
Nicht heuteNot today
Ich fühle mich nicht danachI don’t feel like it

And an example for these expressions, too:

Paul: Kommst du morgen zu meiner Geburtstagsfeier? (Are you coming to my birthday party tomorrow?)
Sophie: Tut mir leid, aber nein. Ich habe schon etwas anderes vor. (I’m sorry, but no. I already have other plans.)

Practice saying no in German with our exercises

Practice declining offers with no in German with our exercises! Fill in the blanks with the correct phrases!

And if you want to learn more, you can do more. You just have to sign up and you’ll get access to our Full Practice Worksheet Library.

Learn German and different ways to say no in German with Conversation Based Chunking

The Conversation Based Chunking method focuses on learning any language through common phrases and expressions within contextual conversations.

You can actually start to learn and use the different ways to say no in German by identifying each phrase as a lexical chunks. Use these chunks in conversations. Ensure you understand the small nuances and meanings of every one of these phrases, like “Nein”, “Nö”, or even “Keineswegs”.

Practice these chunks in different conversational contexts by creating real-life scenarios where you would naturally use these phrases: like declining an invitation to a party or refusing a business German offer.

You can strengthen your memory right now, because we can offer you a Conversation Based Chunking Guide in German. For FREE!

In this guide, you’ll find my favorite resources to learn German, and also get access to our Full Practice Worksheet Library. (And there’s so much that it’s really best if you sign up, and see for yourself!)

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