The negation of a noun in German

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The negation of a noun in German


  • When do we deny with NONE?
  • None or what?
  • In German there are two ways to negate the noun
  • Denial of proper names
  • Denial with Kein or nicht

One of the most common problems German learners encounter is with denial. However, it is not so difficult. In this post you will learn something about the negation with the negative article NO and its rejected forms.

When do we deny with NONE?

Nouns with the definite article A / E are negated with the negative article NONE or NONE, as in this example …

  • Janine hat eine Katze.

(Janine has a cat).

So, in principle, it is very easy. If we have a noun with an indefinite article, we simply put a -k- in front of the indefinite article in the negation with “keine”. From “ein” (a) we make “kein” (none) and from “eine” (none) we make “keine” (none).

For example, if the indefinite article is in accusative, we convert “eine” (none) into the negative article “keine” (none).

But we also deny nouns without an article with “keine” “keine” (NONE), (NONE) and so on.

These nouns can be used without an indefinite article if an indefinite article in plural form cannot be counted or is not possible. So sometimes we call this the “zero article” . In these examples you can see the negation of nouns without articles …

  • Katharina kauft Zucker.

Katharina buys sugar.

  • Matthias kauft keinen Zucker.

Matthias doesn’t buy sugar.

The noun “zucker” (sugar) is undefined and cannot be counted. Then you have no article. If we deny it, we take here the negative article “KEINEN” (NONE) (accusative).

  • Sabine kauft Bananen

(Sabine buys bananas).

  • Patrick kauft keine Bananen.

(Patrick doesn’t buy bananas).

Here we see the noun “bananas” in the plural. Sabine doesn’t buy any special bananas / specific, so she doesn’t need a specific item here. In the plural there is no indefinite article. If we deny this plural (bananas) without an article, we will NOT take the negative article.


 If we have an adjective before the noun (with an indefinite article or without an article), we also use KEIN, KEINE . (NONE, NONE), … for denial.

NONE or what?

We DO NOT call the article the negative article. NOT is also an ITEM.

As with all articles, you always have to think about the declination with the negative article (NONE, NONE…)! But that is also very easy if you know the table of undefined articles (EIN, EINE, …)

The indefinite article

male female neutral plural
nominative ein eine ein eine
acoustic einen eine ein eine
dative einem einer einem einen
genitive eines einer eines einer

If we have a noun with an indefinite article , we simply put a -k- in front of the indefinite article in the negation with ‘keine’. From “a” we make “none” and from “one” we make “none”. For example, if the indefinite article is in accusative, we convert “none” into the negative article “none”.

In German there are two ways to negate the noun: the article kein and the adverb nicht.

The negation with kein:

male female Neutral plural
Nominative kein keine kein keine
accusative keinen keine kein keine
dative keinem keiner keinem keinen
Genitive keines keiner keines keiner

The declension of the negative article kein corresponds to that of the indeterminate article , with the exception that it does include plural forms.

Negation of nouns preceded by any article:

  • Ich bin Student. – Ich bin kein Student.

(I am / I am not a student)

  • Ich habe Hunger. – Ich habe keinen Hunger.

(I am / I am not hungry)

Negation of nouns preceded by an indeterminate article:

  • Sie ist eine sehr gute Professorin. – Sie ist keine gute Professorin .

(Is / is not a good teacher)

  • Ich möchte ein Stück Kuchen. – Ich möchte kein Stück Kuchen.

(I want / I don’t want a piece of cake)

  • Arbeitet ihr an einem neuen Projekt? – Arbeitet ihr an keinem neuen Projekt?

(Are you / aren’t you working on a new project?)

  • It is gibt eine andere Möglichkeit. – It is gibt keine andere Möglichkeit.

(There is / there is no other possibility)

In these cases , nicht can also be used when expressing a contraposition:

  • Ich trinke nur Saft. – Ich trinke keinen / nicht Saft, sondern Tee.

(I only drink juice / I don’t drink juice, but tea)

  • Ich habe ein Bier bestellt. – Ich habe kein Bier / nicht ein Bier, sondern ein Glas Wein bestellt .

(I have ordered a beer / I have not ordered a beer, but a glass of wine)

Denial with nicht

Negation of nouns preceded by a definite article or a possessive determiner:

  • Ich möchte den Salat. – Ich möchte nicht den Salat, sondern die Suppe.

(I want the salad / I don’t want the salad, but the soup)

  • Ich habe dein Buch gefunden. – Ich habe nicht dein Buch gefunden, sondern dein Heft.

(I have found your book / I have not found your book, but your notebook)

Denial of proper names:

  •  Das ist Marías Mutter. – Das ist nicht Marías Mutter. Das ist ihre Tante.

(That’s Maria’s mother / That’s not Maria’s mother. She’s her aunt)

  • Ich liebe Lisas Tochter. – Ich liebe nicht Lisas Tochter, sondern Maria.

(I want Lisa’s daughter / I don’t want Lisa’s daughter, but Maria)

Denial with kein or nicht

Negation of nouns that are part of a fixed expression:

  • Abschied nehmen. – Von dir kann ich keinen / nicht Abschied nehmen.

(I can’t say goodbye to you)

  • Rücksicht nehmen. – Er hat keine / nicht Rücksicht genommen.

(Hasn’t had consideration)

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