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Lesson Transcript

Hi everybody! Anja here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common German questions.
The question for this lesson is: What’s the difference between nein, nicht and kein?
Nein means “no” and is used in the same way as the English “no,” such as Nein, danke, “No thank you.” Or, Wohnst du in Berlin? - Nein, ich wohne in Hamburg. “Do you live in Berlin? - No, I live in Hamburg.”
Nicht means “not” and is used to make a sentence negative. Ich wohne nicht in Berlin. - Ich auch nicht mean “I don’t live in Berlin. - Me neither.” respectively
Kein is also used to make a sentence negative. However, it's only used before nouns with an indefinite article, such as “a” or “an” in English, or no article at all. In these cases, kein replaces the need for nicht. For example, Ich habe einen Hund. - Ich habe keinen Hund which means, “I have a dog,” and “I don’t have a dog,” respectively. The second sentence literally means, “I have no dog.”
Let’s do some more examples so you can learn how to use nein, nicht, and kein more effectively.
Nein on its own is often considered rude, so people add danke, in order to make the sentence Nein danke, which means, “No, thank you.” For example, Nein, danke, ich habe schon gegessen, meaning, “No thank you, I have already eaten.” If someone asks if you have ever been somewhere, such as, Warst du schon mal in Rom? “Have you ever been to Rome before?” simply saying the word nein might signal to the person you're talking to that the conversation has ended. So, it may be better to say, Nein, noch nie which literally means, “No, never (so far).”
With the word nicht, a common expression is noch nicht, which means “not yet.” It's often the answer to a question containing the word schon which means, “already,” or “yet.” For example, Hast du den Film schon gesehen? - Noch nicht. “Have you seen the movie yet? - Not yet.” However, it can also be used to show you're planning on doing something. For example, Warst du heute einkaufen? - Noch nicht, aber ich gehe gleich,” which means, “Have you gone shopping today? - Not yet, but I will go soon.”
An example with kein would be, Ich habe keine Lust which is a common expression meaning “I don’t want to.” or “I don’t feel like it.” It's often used to complain about having to go to work, school, or a similar commitment, such as in Ich habe wirklich keine Lust auf Arbeiten heute. which means, “I really don’t feel like working today.” It would be considered rude to use it as a direct reply to someone asking if you want to do something. In that case, it would be better to say, Ich fühle mich nicht nach Arbeiten heute, which also means, “I don’t feel like working today,” but implies that it’s because you don’t feel well.
If you feel like you’ve got it, and really want to challenge yourself, you can use all three in the same sentence with this phrase-- Nein, ich kann nicht, ich habe keine Zeit, which means “No, I can’t. I don’t have time.”
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments and I’ll try to answer them!
Tschüss, bis zum nächsten Mal! “Bye, see you next time!”