Dialogue

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Lesson Transcript

Michael: What's the right way to say "no" in German?
Anja: And what's the difference between nein, nicht and kein?
Michael: At GermanPod101.com, we hear these questions often.
In the following situation, Ben Lee, a college student, finds his friend, Hanna Hanselmann, standing outside the door of the conference room, where they're supposed to meet for their group project. The door is locked, however, and Hanna says,
"I don't have the key."
Hanna Hanselmann: Ich habe den Schlüssel nicht.
Hanna Hanselmann: Ich habe den Schlüssel nicht.
Ben Lee: Ich habe auch keinen Schlüssel.
Michael: Once more with the English translation.
Hanna Hanselmann: Ich habe den Schlüssel nicht.
Michael: I don't have the key.
Ben Lee: Ich habe auch keinen Schlüssel.
Michael: I also have no key.
Many students can get confused when trying to work out the differences between
Anja: nein, nicht
Michael: and
Anja: kein.
Michael: In German, the word you'll use will change depending on what part of speech it's related to.
Michael: Let's take a closer look at both responses.
Do you remember how Hanna says,
"I don't have the key."
[Pause 4 seconds]
Hanna Hanselmann: Ich habe den Schlüssel nicht.
Michael: Here, Hanna uses the word
Anja: nicht
Michael: meaning "not" to negate the verb "have" or
Anja: Haben.
Michael: You can think of
Anja: nicht
Michael: As the most basic way to use negation in German sentences. It's very close to the English "not" and can negate the meaning of a verb, an adverb, or an adjective. For example,
Anja: Er ist nicht schüchtern.
Michael: means "He is not shy." In this sentence,
Anja: nicht
Michael: Is negating the word for "shy,"
Anja: Schüchtern,
Michael: which is an adjective. It can also be used to negate a noun with a definite article. For example, to say "It is not the dog," you would use
Anja: nicht der Hund.
Michael: to say the "not the dog" part.
Michael: Now let's take a look at
Anja: kein.
Do you remember how Ben says,
"I also have no key."
[pause 4 seconds]
BEN: Ich habe auch keinen Schlüssel.
Michael: Here Ben used the word
Anja: keinen
Michael: which is a declined form of
Anja: kein
Michael: and literally means "no." It's used to negate nouns that have an indefinite article or no article at all. In these cases,
Anja: kein
Michael: replaces
Anja: nicht.
Michael: For example, the sentence "It is a dog,"
Anja: Es ist ein Hund.
Michael: will be negated by replacing the word "ein" with "kein."
Anja: Es ist kein Hund.
Michael: literally means "It is not a dog."
The last way to say "no" in German is
Anja: Nein.
Michael: This one simply means "no" and is used in the same way as the English "no," as in "No, thank you."
Anja: Nein, danke.
Michael: or as the basic answer to all simple yes-no questions such as "Do you live in Berlin?"
Anja: Nein, ich wohne in Hamburg.
Michael: "No, I live in Hamburg."
Michael: In short,
Anja: nein
Michael: is the basic equivalent of the English "no," and is used similarly.
Anja: Nicht
Michael: is close to the English "not," and is used to negate a verb, a noun with a definite article, an adverb, or an adjective.
Anja: Kein
Michael: is only used to negate nouns accompanied by indefinite articles or sometimes by no articles at all.
Michael: Now let's look at some examples. Our first example is
Anja: Ich bin nicht hungrig (enunciated).
Ich bin nicht hungrig.
Michael: "I am not hungry." Here
Anja: Nicht
Michael: negates the adjective
Anja: hungrig
Michael: meaning "hungry."
Michael: However, in German we can say "I am not hungry" in one more way, using a noun with an indefinite article.
Anja: Ich habe keinen Hunger. (enunciated).
Ich habe keinen Hunger.
Michael: This sentence literally means "I have no hunger." Here, the noun
Anja: Hunger
Michael: meaning "hunger" is negated using the word
Anja: kein.
Michael: Let's look at some more examples.
Anja: Nicht lustig (enunciated).
Nicht lustig.
Michael: "Not funny." This uses the,
Anja: nicht
Michael: to negate the adjective "funny."
Anja: Ich kenne die Antwort nicht (enunciated).
Ich kenne die Antwort nicht.
Michael: "I don't know the answer." This uses the
Anja: nicht
Michael: because we're negating
Anja: die Antwort,
Michael: "the answer," a noun with a definite article.
Michael: Let's review. Respond to the prompts by speaking aloud. Then repeat after the German speaker, focusing on pronunciation.
Do you remember how Hanna says,
"I don't have the key."
[Beep. Pause 5 seconds.]
Anja: Ich habe den Schlüssel nicht.
Michael: Listen again and repeat.
Anja: Ich habe den Schlüssel nicht.
[Beep. Pause 5 seconds.]
Ich habe den Schlüssel nicht.
Michael: And do you remember how BEN LEE says,
"I also have no key."
[Beep. Pause 5 seconds.]
Anja: Ich habe auch keinen Schlüssel.
Michael: Listen again and repeat.
Anja: Ich habe auch keinen Schlüssel.
[Beep. Pause 5 seconds.]
Ich habe auch keinen Schlüssel.
Michael: To say,
Anja: nein,
Michael: on its own is often considered rude. If someone asks if you've ever been somewhere, as in,
Anja: Warst du schon mal in Rom?
Michael: "Have you ever been to Rome?" Simply saying the word "no" in response might signal to the person that the conversation has ended. And so it might be better to say,
Anja: Nein, noch nie.
Michael: which literally means, "No, never."
Michael: Great job. Now you know different ways to say "no" in German. That's all there is to it!
Be sure to download the lesson notes for this lesson at GermanPod101.com — and move onto the next lesson!

5 Comments

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GermanPod101.com Verified
Monday at 06:30 PM
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What German learning question do you have?

GermanPod101.com Verified
Tuesday at 08:44 PM
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Hallo robert groulx,


Danke schön for posting. We are very happy to have you here. Let us know if you have any questions.


Mit freundlichen Grüßen,

Levente

Team GermanPod101.com

robert groulx
Tuesday at 02:31 AM
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thank you for the vocabulary list


favorite phrase is Ich habe auch keinen Schlüssel.


robert

GermanPod101.com Verified
Thursday at 07:44 AM
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Hi Darrell,


Thank you for posting.👍


Yes, the word "kein" needs to match the noun it is used with.

The rules applying are the same as those for possessive pronouns.

Example:

Es ist kein Hund.

Es ist keine Katze.


If you have any further questions, please let us know.


Kind regards,

Reinhard

Team GermanPod101.com

Darrell
Sunday at 10:58 AM
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In a sentence like "Es ist kein Hund", does the form of kein need to match the gender of the noun? Which case needs to be used (subject / nominativ or direct object / accusativ)? ... Danke