Where to Put “nicht”

Many students believe that „nicht“ is at the end of the sentence. However, this is almost always wrong. In this lesson, I'll show you where to put „nicht“.

With „nicht“ you negate Adverbs, Adjective, Pronouns, Proper Nouns, Indicative and Complements with a Preposition, Definite Article, Possessive Article, Verbs and complete sentences.

Negating an Adverb

  • „Ich wandere gern.“ – „Ich wandere nicht gern.“

Word Order: „Nicht“ needs to be in front of the Adverb that is negated.

Negating an Adjective

  • „Ich bin schlau.“ – „Ich bin nicht schlau.“

Word Order: „Nicht“ needs to be in front of the Adjective that is negated.

Negating a Pronouns

  • „Ich habe nicht dich angerufen, sondern Uwe.“

Word Order: „Nicht“ needs to be in front of the Pronoun that is negated.

Negating a Proper Noun

  • „Das ist nicht Susi. Das ist Anne!“

Word Order: „Nicht“ needs to be in front of the Pronoun Noun that is negated.

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Negative Adjuncts and Complements with Preposition

  • „Ich komme nicht zu deiner Party.“
  • „Ich bin nicht bei Frank.“
  • „Er kommt nicht vor 20 Uhr nach Hause.“

Word order: „Nicht“ needs to be in front of the Preposition.

Negating Nouns with Definite Articles or Possessive Pronouns

  • „Er hat nicht seinen Schlüssel, sondern ihren.“
  • „Er hat nicht das Auto, sondern das Fahrrad bezahlt.“

Word order: Nicht“ needs to be in front of the Article or Possessive Pronoun. (rare and almost combined with sondern).

Negating entire Sentences / Verbs

The conjugated main verb is negated, the whole sentence / action / situation is negated.

Example:

  • „Ich kaufe das Auto nicht.“

Word order: „Nicht“ is at the end of the sentence because the verb has to be in P2.

Comparison: „Ich kaufe nicht das Auto.“

Meaning: I am not buying that car! (But maybe another one!).

With more than one verb in the sentence

Word order: If there is a 2nd verb in the sentence, Modal Verbs, Helping Verb... „nicht“ must be placed in front of the Main verb since that's the one we want to negate.

We can place „nicht“ in front of the verb because it is not the one in P2.

  • „Ich möchte das Auto nicht kaufen.“
  • „Ich habe das Auto nicht gekauft.“

Recommendation: nein, nicht or kein?

For detailed explanations of when to use nein, kein or nicht , I recommend my lesson: Negation.

Summary

  • „Nicht“ is in front of the part of the sentence we want to negate.
  • If there is a Preposition, put „nicht“ in front of the Preposition.
  • „Nicht“ comes at the end of the sentence ONLY if we negate the verb in P2.

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